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Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota

by Jannet L. Walsh

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A creative nonfiction quest narrative, author Jannet L. Walsh carefully tells the stories that came from her extensive research into her Irish American heritage set in Minnesota and Ireland. Walsh’s family was among the first to settle in a series of Catholic colonies established in 1876 by Archbishop John Ireland in De Graff, Minnesota. Her ancestors—farmers, stewards of the soil, and faithful Christians—were chosen to be part of the rural community in Swift County. Descendants of these settlers continue to live and work in the rural farming community in Swift County.

TRAVEL / Europe / Ireland

ISBN: 978-1-956056-71-6 (print; softcover; perfect bound; 21 black-and-white family photographs)

LCCN: 2023934010

Released October 24, 2023 | Copyright 2023

206 pages

Author Biography

Jannet L. Walsh, Murdock, Minnesota-based photographer, author, educator, is a first-time published author of a creative nonfiction quest about her Minnesota and Irish heritage. Walsh received a 2022–2024 McKnight Foundation Grant for writing about her family’s Irish Canadian roots on Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada, in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. In this endeavor, Walsh combines Irish family detective skills with creative nonfiction narration. Readers imagine they are walking with her in rural Minnesota, in Ireland, and in Canada, in her “you are there” writing genre, inherited from her family’s oral tradition. Walsh has written on technology, travel, religion, and was a newspaper columnist on career, workforce, and business. Her writing appears in as a correspondent on topics related to the Irish Diaspora. Her photos and videos have been featured by CNN, CNN iReport, HLN, The New York Times Company, and the California Academy of Sciences. Walsh served as assistant professor of strategic communications and multimedia at St. Cloud State University. She holds a Master of Arts from Ohio University in photography, and Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Augsburg University. Higgledy Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota is her first published book.


“Jannet Walsh’s Higgledy-Piggledy Stones knits continents and centuries together. From her home base in rural Minnesota, Walsh uses research to take readers from the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin, to an 1862 Civil War battle in Arkansas, to Bishop John Ireland’s nineteenth-century efforts to resettle Irish Catholics in North America—safe from persecution and famine. Full of wide and wheeling revelations, this memoir pins moments across decades, and sews personal genealogy to world history. Punctuated with original poems, archival letters, and official documents, this engaging narrative is also a treatise on the value of remembering, recovering, and preserving. Walsh finds the extraordinary hiding in plain sight, affirming that history lives beside us in our own homes.”
James Cihlar, author of The Shadowgraph

“Jannet Walsh grasps each new life situation with pluck and adventure. This time, Walsh tracks down her family’s Irish roots by traveling to the native land. In her ventures and exploits she obtains valuable information from pub locals as well as clergy, historians, librarians, hotel clerks, and a welcoming family. In her ‘you are there’ memoir, readers travel with Walsh as she remembers and lives out family loyalties—while leaving no (blarney) stone unturned.
Cheryl Alberts Irwin, retired journalist, writer, and editor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Like her great-grandmother's handwritten cookbook, stowed away safely in the kitchen of a century-old family house on the edge of the world, Jannet Walsh has stewarded her family's stories across two continents and a hundred years. Though the particulars of the story of the Brennans, Foleys, and Walshes are specific to the Irish-American experience in rural Minnesota, the sweeping, entertaining, and touching way Walsh tells it points the way for any reader to consider how they engage with the legacy of one's family.”
Andy Sturdevant, author of Closing Time: Saloons, Taverns, Dives, and Watering Holes of the Twin Cities

“The remarkable journey of one Irish Catholic family from poverty, hunger and religious discrimination to well-respected, God-fearing citizens and toilers of the soil in a new land and community. The research is remarkable, and the stories of the journey, both in the United States and in Ireland, come vividly to life through extraordinary writing and historical and cultural understanding. A must read for all amateur genealogists and for all present-day descendants of the great people who left the Emerald Isle.”
Rev. Gary E. Mills, Th. D., director, Swift County Historical Society, Benson, Minnesota

“Jannet Walsh’s Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota is a journey told with poetry, grace, and love of her ancestors. It pays both homage to her family and the ancient places from whence we inherit our strength, faith, and spiritual ties with the Earth. Walsh follows in the footsteps of her family’s origins, investigating their travels from Ireland, to Canada, to America, where she retraces with acute perspective, their enduring courage and strength, creating a timeless mythology not only of her descendants but of humanity. From the obscure ancient Butter Roads of Ireland, to Holy wells, and fairy myths left from centuries of connecting to the land and nature, Walsh lets her passionate research guide her. We journey with her through the unmarked country side where glacial formed mountains, sacred places, and Irish folklore bridge her past with her present Minnesota origins. Higgledy-Piggledy Stones is an ethereal tour through time and a delight.”
—Tracy Ross
, poet and writer

Articles and Reviews


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