Barbara Anne Kearney

as teacher and academic; genealogist, genealogy writer and ancestral memoirist

~  More than a decade ago I stumbled upon the work and writing of social observer and thinker, Mary Catherine Bateson.  Her perspective on life and living as essentially--fundamentally-- a process of "composition", is a powerful and redolent metaphor in both my personal and professional life.

It is Bateson's view that despite life's many twists and turns, there are "pulls and tugs' that create a constellation of pursuits and efforts that truly define us. And, like artists, we choose the various "mediums"  in which we compose our lives. 

As a professor of english and composition, as someone with with a strong drive for creative self-expression, and as one who embraces an imaginative and artful approach to life, this page offers insight into the wellsprings of my being, and identifies the elements of my passions and pursuits.


I am New England born and raised (Rhode Island)

But my imagination has been shaped by the deeply felt pasts of my Irish immigrant ancestors-- those of the sea-swept Sligo coast of Ireland, and as a result of the Irish Diaspora, those who wrote the first chapters of their emigrant lives in the sometimes bleak, sometimes colorful, coal mining region in and around Scranton, Pennsylvania

From my father, I inherited a solidness that is embodied by his cheerful, optimistic, close-knit extended family, a family that nurtures me still.  I like to think I inherited my mother's "good taste", vivaciousness, and knowing a value when I stumble across one.

I have a restlessness that stokes a wanderlust.  I get a lift from contemplating, planning or getting ready for a jaunt- whether to a local or a far flung destination. I have undertaken some semi-adventuresome travel -  houseboating both in France and on Lake Powell, Arizona and traveling solo in 2007 to that improbable, glorious watery city of Venice. 

In fact, you might say I have a thing for water.  I have always lived no further than 70 miles inland so as to stay close to my lifelong love, the sea.

In August 2012,  I made a tiny beach cottage in North Truro, my own. Cape Cod Bay is footsteps away from my front door.  Less than a mile hike across the Great Dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore-- a glimpse of which I can see from the cottage 's tiny back window-  is the humbling, cleansing North Atlantic.  At last, a new chapter about to be writ- about life staked out not on solid ground at all, but on a narrrow sliver of shifting, inconsequential sand. 

Living here is just like I always imagined it would be. (For more of the story on the love affair, go to the TRUNest webpage)


Growing up I was quite conscious that my own parents, of modest means and neither in possession of college degrees, sacrificed to provide me with educational opportunities.  I  also now appreciate how they also struggled in other ways-- to point me in the right direction for a career, to offer guidance about gaining access to social and economic realms they themselves were not a part of.  This upbringing, along with awareness of being a 'coal miner's great grand daughter,' contributed to my emerging in my mid-twenties as something of a 'class warrior'.

I have been an English professor of composition (writing) at a community college in the greater Boston area for the last 20-plus years (Massachusetts Bay Community College, Wellesley, MA)
Open admissions institutions, working class, recent immigrants, and other students who have been previously failed by "the system" and in either desperate- or appreciative- need of a "fresh start"-- these have have been the essential and meaningful ingredients of my teaching career. 

I have taught a range of courses beginning my career with ESL (English as a Second Language). I have also taught Freshman Composition, Reading and Writing Autobiography and Honors Writing, but my career has focused on engaging and 'bringing along' so-called developmental writers and readers. Beyond merely writing compositions for a grade, gaining control over a level of written literacy can be key for those without privilege or advantage. to composing better lives. ( More about my teaching, visit portrait of academia)

Multi-media, curriculum and faculty development

Over the last 7 years, I have stepped into various leadership and collaborative roles-- ePortfolio, instructional and curriculum re-design, faculty development, and multi-media projects.

Social service
Indochinese refugee resettlement program (1980-1982);  adult basic education (1978-1980)


Composing our ancestors lives
The Irish-American diaspora has shaped the imaginations of millions, as evidenced by the passion of its countless descendants who are the compulsive family researchers, addicts, and genealogy "nuts". My website Skies over Cloonkeelaun -- an ongoing project-- follows the arc of the unfolding maternal story of origins,  as well as photos and travelogue writing from two pilgrimage trips to the ancestral townlands in Sligo.

kin you imagine
kin you imagine demonstrates more of the artfulness of the genealogical endeavor --the role of imagination, the lyric moments of discovery and insight,  the "arc" of the unfolding family narrative, and, I would argue, re-invention of one of the most poignant of literary forms, the 'elegy'.   "Kin" gathers up the imaginative 'fallout' associated with the practice of family history and genealogy: opinion pieces and essays on the practice itself from the "inside out", photography, digital storytelling, as well as excerpts from an ancestral memoir in progress. 

landscape of memory
Diamonds in the Dunes is a digital narrative exploring strong, enduring connections to a single curve of land that just happens to be on two continents.

I have recently joined the online storytelling community, Cowbird

My strong design impulses spill into several other areas
  • Interior design (especially small space design, small space living captured on Pinterest
  • I have also a strong interest in photography. This site features all original photos with more on my flickr page


Sligo (Ireland), 'place of shells'  
Scranton, place rich in anthracite coal
Outer Cape Cod, place where reality meets imagination, 
and pasts merge

                                            Coal in seashell 

                                         Coal in seashell 
                                    with travel and beach photos

       Suited up for wave riding (boarding, not surfing)

Pen and ink, by Donald Murray
Scranton as the "Electric City"

c 1958
because I think that everyone should have a photo
of themselves as a 'wee one' on their home page

my great grandfather