Rummaging through a desk drawer recently, I came across a tattered manila folder full of genealogical documents, assorted photocopies and hand-written scribbles I made during a conversation with my late grandmother Lucille. It had become buried and forgotten — much like the memories of my family’s past. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to organize them into a family tree. I guess it’s partly because it’s a daunting project, and the busyness of life got in the way. But I’ve been enjoying the investigative process of tracing back the various branches of my family, getting to better know the lives of distant aunts and uncles and grandparents whose names I barely recognize, but all of whom had a role in making me the person I am today.
One of the more exciting discoveries I made is: I have Irish roots! I was thrilled to learn that I have relatives (5 to 6 generations ago) from the Gallagher (Donegal County) and Murphy clans (Wexford County). How cool is it to know this right before St. Patrick’s Day! There are many maps of Irish surnames out there (one was hanging near the entrance of my local Irish pub!), which plot the origins of the various clans around the Emerald Isle. Do you see your name anywhere on these maps? Is there Irish blood flowing through your veins? If you’re not sure, I encourage you to start exploring your own lineage and find out!
The ICA Commission on Map Design has a wonderfully detailed, hi res map of Geo-Genealogy of Irish Surnames, by Kenneth Field and Linda Beale (2009). Click here to view and download it! Slainte!