Californian Student Discovers Cork Link

Lizzie Helmer. (Photo: Facebook)

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
June / July 2017

A Californian student attending University College Cork had a prominent role in the centenary commemoration of the first time the U.S. Navy ever landed in Ireland, after making the discovery that her great-grandfather commanded the flotilla that arrived in Cork Harbor. Lizzie Helmer, a 20-year-old journalism student of Chico State University, was informed by her uncle just one week before arriving in Ireland in January that it was her ancestor, Commander Joseph Taussig, who headed the U.S. Atlantic fleet based in Cobh when Ireland was then still part of the U.K. This decisive act marked the physical entry of the United States into World War I.

“I was set on coming to study in Ireland for a long time, but I wasn’t aware at all. It’s kind of amazing how it worked out,” she told the Irish Examiner. On May 4, Helmer unveiled a commemorative plaque in front of dignitaries at the former British Admiralty House, now a Catholic convent property.

“I’m not much of a believer in fate, but it’s hard to otherwise explain how I ended up in Cork 100 years after my great-grandfather,” she told Irish America. “It was so surreal to know that I was in the same building where he would have stood a century ago. It’s great that I have genetic roots here, but it’s almost more special to me that I have a connection through Commander Taussig.” Helmer hopes to soon obtain an Irish passport through her mother’s County Mayo heritage. ♦

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