From knowing absolutely nothing at all about my paternal grandfather or his ancestry just two years ago — including being uncertain about what his first name even was — I’ve been able to rather quickly learn quite a bit. (And boy howdy! Lemme tell ya: back in the days before the Web, when we researched in civic offices and archives and by letters in the mail, the three or four generations that I’ve uncovered would have been enough to satisfy for a while. For me there are layers of tasty irony in this because on the one hand, the tree I share today seems so modest compared to the many branches elsewhere that reach back to the dim and distant recesses of the actual Dark Ages; it’s just a few generations, barely breaking into the 1700s! But on the other hand, the satisfaction is as deep as any I’ve enjoyed in my long genealogical adventures because of the basic fact that this wasn’t just a road block in my research, it was the deadest of dead ends, and at nearly 40 years old I’d juuuust about surrendered to my never knowing anything about my paternal line.
This handful of my people — one of my two grandfathers, his parents and grandparents, six of his eight great-grandparents and three of his gr-gr-grandparents — were hard-won with that extended wait-period, not to mention some emotionally harrowing (and ultimately utterly rewarding) ins and outs. At some point I’ll get into the whole tale of their discovery, but for now, suffice it to say that the breakthrough was obtaining my grandparent’s marriage certificate, which was practically only possible due to my grandmother’s maiden name being unique. From there, some military service records and the census of England thawed the informational ice, et viola! Hey, look! I’m a quarter Irish! (roughly… 😉
Final note for now: the lives that these newly discovered ancestors lived unfolded entire new worlds to me as I came to know something of the urban life of Liverpool 100 years ago, and of course, of the flow of people on the Green Isle. Having always assumed my dad’s father was “regular” ole “English”, my connection to Ireland was limited to my admittedly deep-bordering-on-fanatical love of James Joyce’s writings. Though I didn’t know any of these ancestors of mine, or live in cramped urban tenements or in verdant Irish woods or feel more than a general empathy for the impact of potato blight, suddenly their movements which led to my dad’s life journey are directly relevant to my being here at all. Not to mention the whole large portion of my DNA coming from the Irish gene pool.
Learning is fun!