History is personal. This is a quick narrative of my family’s immigration to America from west of Ireland. This is the product of about 15 minutes worth of online research. This means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it speaks to why we have names, and not numbers attached to our first names. There is a narrative in each of those families and it generally isn’t triumphant or heroic or dramatic even; it just is and that is good enough reason to remember for me.
My family name is Gallagher and it is about as common as can be in the west of Ireland, particularly the county of Donegal. I had known my grandfather, but knew little of his father, let alone further back than that. For years, the history seemed to hit a dead end there. I finally came around to doing a little online research via ancestry.com (not sure why I resisted, really; these services exist for a reason). In 15 minutes or so, I had traced everything back to Ireland. This morning, on Skype with my father and mother, we also traced her mother and father’s families (the Allens and Erglers, respectively) and also my father’s mother’s family (the Taiclets) back to Austria and France.
This information doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme, nor does it even inform my character at this stage in my life. But I take a quiet satisfaction in seeing it through to the young Patrick Gallagher, aged 16, who boarded a ship in Londonderry, Ireland and made his way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, most likely scared out of his wits. That journey, and all the subsequent ones since by my great grandfather, grandfather, and father, has led me here. Writing this from an apartment in Seoul, having seen a lot of the world, without a ‘home’ to speak of, with my wife as companion (in a good way). I now have a story of a journey underpinning that Gallagher of a last name and now, with this antecedent, I see no reason to slow down.
The ship’s manifest from the Argentinus, the ship that carried my great great grandfather Patrick Gallagher (aged 16) and his brother (aged 18), both listed as laborers, from Londonderry to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.