I have occasionally wondered if the Crowns living in County Leitrim in the 1830s were originaly from some place outside of Ireland, like maybe England. But the ethnicity reports from our DNA tests tell the difference between Irish and English. The Crowns were definitely Irish.
Yet, I'm embarrassed to say that it has been much too easy to think of the Irish as though they were English. With my Schaefer ancestors, there was no question from the beginning that their German language was not English, and if I wanted to know about those ancestors I had to learn about the language, the written script, the translation of family-related terms, and so on. Thus, after much stubborn effort, I still can't speak German worth a hoot, but I can read old German church and civil records enough to determine names, dates, places, and relationships. After that, switching to the Irish ancestors must be a piece of cake because Irish records are written in English, a language officially adopted by America after revolting against the country that colonized them, go figure. Therefore, American English is the language I think in, and reading Irish records written after 1801 in British English must be a piece of cake. In Irish, the task would be wee buns.
To be clear, the surviving genealogical records found in Ireland are, for the most part, written in English, but the official language of Ireland is Gaeilge which is known as Irish, Gaelic, or Irish Gaelic in English. Gaeilge uses 18 letters of the Latin alphabet, omitting the following letters used in English: j, k, q, v, w, x, y, z. Notice the letter W, which would not have occurred in a Gaeilge surname. Thus, the surname Crown was certainly a name devised by an English record-keeper whose job it was to collect taxes for the Church of Ireland. This surname reset might have been a literal translation of the Irish word for Crown, coróin, or it might have been a phonetic translation of a name that sounded like or approximated the sound of Crown, something like Croghan. I tend to favor the latter possibility.
This moment of enlightenment for me about the Gaeilge language comes on the heels of finding a tenant family in County Leitrim whose surname spelling varied slightly over the course of 64 years of English records. What started in 1833 as Crown became Croan became Croal became Crowell. You can read about my research into a possible explanation for this spelling variation here.
Let me assert that my research insights would be utterly empty without several recent email exchanges with Irish relations. Such correspondence reinforces my idea that connecting with real people can teach us so much more than the records alone, especially where the records are scarce. I have read Irish history, which, like so many places, is complicated. But reading that history in English without realizing there might have been another version of that history if translated from Gaelig probably fooled me a little. It made me think I understood things that I couldn't because the replacement of the Irish native language obscured my ancestors culture as well as the reality of their lives. As an English speaker, I feel fairly humbled to be learning this lesson now.
With that said, having better awareness of our ancestors' native language gives so much greater meaning to our Irish legacy. To share the closing remarks from my Irish correspondent: Slán go Fóill, (Goodbye for the time-being!).