When I was younger especially, I took a great interest in tracking down my family’s history. I was sincerely trying to piece together a narrative, but ultimately failed as very few of my Gallagher family seemed to know anyone beyond my grandfather. Either way, the jury is still out whether or not it will be possible to actually track the strand of my family name. It is a relatively common one (it is literally the most common surname in County Donegal).
My wife on the other hand is a Hyun, a not so common name by Korean standards. I seem to gravitate towards her history as it is so well documented and full of yangban comings and goings. Her family is deeply tied to the introduction of Catholicism in Korea and there are martyrs in the family to prove it.
As a librarian/information science/teacher kind of guy, I am also very pleased at the amount of materials that exist online in digital form for those wanting to track down their family name/history. It is quite staggering, actually.
I start where I suspect my family history starts in the United States.
Ellis Island-wonderful site full of photos and passenger manifests. I can search for the hundreds and hundreds of Michael Gallaghers that passed through these halls on their way to a different life. I love that there was one Hyun to have passed through Ellis Island from Seoul. I would love to know that man’s story, wandering the streets of lower Manhattan looking for work or a place to stay. The story practically writes itself.
Library of Congress has some wonderful teaching resources for those introducing immigration in America. Very vivid photography, newspaper accounts, sheet music, a pretty diverse collection.
New York Public Library has an amazing array of materials about the history of New York City, including many dealing with immigration. Breathtaking photography and really worth a look.