A Family History of Travel

Finding family was what had inspired her to take this trip, and it was what drove every emotion she encountered along the way. A strong value was placed on family in her culture, and it had been instilled in her and her siblings since they were young. Despite being fairly disconnected from her extended family tree branches, she was extremely close to her immediate family – they were her best friends, her biggest suporters, and her best travel companions.

One could appplaud her mother and father for instilling such old-fashioned values in her, and not losing sight of the support system that so many before them had relied upon to literally keep them alive. Nowadays ‘family’ has a looser definition as groups of people are formed to provide support according to life circumstances. Your family can now include your best friends or that teacher who had such a  huge influence on your life. There is less reinforcement that your family are those who are blood-related to you or connected by marriage. Your family now means those who support you and are a consistent staple in your life, versus those who share the same genes as you.

It was with this outdated value in mind, that she had set out to learn more about her ancestors. Her father had been the trail blazer when it came to unearthing the family roots. He had thankfully done the forefront of research that she needed to initiate the trip, with the aid of the spreading American craze, Ancestory.com. He had done the grunt work which she did not have the patience or interest in completing, and she picked up where he had unintentionally left off. Her Spring Break in Ireland was intended for more than just overpaying for pints in Dublin, she wanted to immerse herself in the land of her people and feel the tug of her roots call her to discover more. Despite never setting foot in Ireland previously, she felt at home there more than any other European soil she had encountered thus far. By no means were her parents from Ireland directly, nor did she even have half Irish blood coursing through her veins, however her father had loved his Irish roots and encouraged them in his children, even the Asian one. Bohannan was a name with history, and he made sure that his children knew that. The history is yet to be discovered completely, however there is a story there if you look for it – so she went looking.

Heading to the National Archives in Ireland, she could feel her heart racing in anticipation and excitement. Her travel companions were not nearly as enthused as she was to be waiting in yet another line to go look at old books with lots of names listed. They were wandering around idly, much more interested in what food we would be eating later and the march of colorful doors down the streets. Meanwhile, she repeated the name that her father had discovered to be the root of their family tree, “O’Hanna”. This had been adapted over time to the family name that they now held today, but her father had done the painstaking research to see where the name had changed. Ellis island was the culprit, and without that key piece of information, she would have had no hope in finding her family’s name in the overwhelmingly large archives. The line moved slowly but surely, and she advanced towards discovering even more about the people she had come from.

As anticipated, the archives were not nearly as easy to navigate as a search engine on the computer. This uncovering of information and history was a process, and one that required being handled with care. Gloves were donned and each page was turned with exquisite care. She felt as if she were literally stepping back into time with each turn of the page, as if she were digging further and further into a tomb of well-preserved information. It was thrilling and nerve-wracking all at the same time. What if she didn’t find the information she was looking for, and this trip brings her no step closer to her roots? What if she finds that the research her father had done was wrong and she had to start all over again? Her anxiety built as she continued to turn page after page, looking for a hint of her name and origin. She could feel her fears coming to life, until one of her travel companions returned with the book that she was looking for – a book of family names and origins. She felt like a child on Christmas morning, too excited to open the book, yet wanting to rip it open in a fury. She controlled her shaking hands, and flipped carefully through the H’s. And that’s where she was reunited with her family history, and was able to take a step closer to where her ancestors had come from. Located right in the split of the page – the O’Hanna family clan and their origins in Scotland.  She smiled to herself and her father, who she knew was accompanying her on this trip, and excitedly copied the information down to share with her siblings so that they too could feel more grounded and connected to the people and history that they had been birthed from.


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