‘In Search of….Me’ (pt.2) by author Joseph J. O’Donnell

Joe O'Donnell   In this past issue I had started a quest to learn something about my ancestral name. Taking the advice of several friends I had decided to log on to Ancestry.com to give me help. Before doing so I set out to discover the birthdates of  my grandfather (also named Joseph) and my grandmother. This would help pinpoint them on the registers of travel that they would need to take for their trip to America.
I knew that they were both buried in New York City, which was their arrival point in this country. Upon learning of the whereabouts of their burial plot, I then obtained the date of birth for both of my grandparents. This done I was able to better research them on that site.  I did find info about their immigration to the United States via the local New York census and learned that my father and his sister Sadie were born in Scotland. What I did find confusing, at first, was that his sister’s name was actually Sarah. Upon further research I found that ‘Sadie’ was actually the diminutive form of the name Sarah, as discovered in the ‘Baby Name Search’ located on the internet. This then confirmed that I had the right family on the Ancestry.com site.

Now I had some positive ‘lead’ material to work with. According to the records my grandfather was listed as a boat builder. Upon arriving in New York he sought work at the Brooklyn navy Yard as a ship’s carpenter. In fact that was his field of work in Glasgow, Scotland. Glasgow from the 1700’s to the mid- 1900’s was the premier ship building port in Great Britain. In it’s early days tobacco, then cotton, first arrived in Britain via Glasgow. The city owed it’s growth to these trades and was first referred to as ‘King Tobacco’, then as ‘King Cotton’, by the English. Great rail and river transport from this point of origin was used to ship these materials all over Britain to manufacturing mills to be made into fine products for export. It was logical then that this city’s port facilities be used to build and maintain a commercial fleet of ships. It was also a main point of emigration for Irish civilians to come to for work.

Upon arriving in America my grandparents gave birth to three more siblings  to my father. Their names were Mary, Vincent, and Frank. All the children eventually moved out of New York and dispersed across the country. I had been told by my Aunt Mary that eight generations of O’Donnell’s were born in Glasgow and that one of my grandfather’s brothers owned three pubs in the city. Upon learning of my grandfather’s departure to America he had offered my father the chance to inherit his pubs if he would stay on in Scotland. My father’s uncle had no children and would therefore leave them to him if he agreed. My father declined the generous offer, and those same pubs kept the O’Donnell name until a few years ago. Apparently they were very popular establishments.

The history of the clan name is extensive and I hope to find all the links to myself and report them to my readers. Even Walt Disney created a movie about one of my ancestors in which we apparently played an important part in the quest for Irish Independence. In the next issue I intend to tell the story behind my name and the Celtic meaning of the name itself.

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