Dr. Niav Gallagher

“I gave my father a unique seventieth birthday gift – his family history!”

Dr. Niav Gallagher, a medieval Irish and British historian in Trinity College Dublin, was trying to come up with the perfect present for her father’s seventieth birthday.

‘Dad was an Irish and Mathematics teacher but has always had a big love of history – something he has passed on to all four of his children,’ explains Niav. ‘At the time Dad was trying to put together his family tree himself. He was off meeting relatives, trying to get as much information as he could about the extended family and seeing what memories people had of the various aunts and uncles. But you can only go so far with people’s memories.’

‘Although I’m an historian, I’m not a local historian or a genealogist,’ explains Niav. ‘I had come across Eneclann before through work and knew that family history research was one of their areas of expertise, so I had the idea of commissioning them to research Dad’s family history for him as his seventieth birthday present,’ she says. ‘When I suggested it to him he said it would be absolutely fantastic.’

Niav’s Dad did not know a huge amount about his extended family prior to the research. ‘He had no recollection of his paternal grandfather and very little information regarding his father’s family,’ says Niav. He gave Eneclann the information he had gathered so far, so that they could then take on the research for him.

‘There were a few surprises uncovered,’ says Niav. ‘Eneclann’s researchers found out that there was an extended family living in Dad’s family house in Cornmarket Row, Limerick – a widowed aunt and her two daughters – we had known nothing about them really as Dad was too young to remember.’ The research team also revealed that the family had not always lived on the same street: ten years previously they had been living further from the city centre. ‘The family owned a clothing store,’ explains Niav, ‘and I think they probably moved to the centre of town to be closer to their business or possibly to find a bigger house to accommodate the larger family.’

Niav also discovered some interesting facts about her families’ names. ‘I would have always known one of my great aunts as Auntie Gertie, but it turns out her first name was Madeline,’ she laughs. ‘Another thing that sticks in my mind is a little boy that was stillborn, or died soon after, and the next son born was given the same name.’

Niav thinks that getting your family history traced is a great idea as a present. ‘The gift of the history of your family is certainly a unique seventieth birthday gift,’ she says. ‘While it was not something tangible, for someone like Dad it was the best gift we could have given him, and it’s now inspired him to have a family tree drawn up!’