In the summer of 2016, after doing a little research on my family tree, I traveled to Dromahair, Ireland, to see the place where my great-grandfather, Martin Smith, was born and raised. He emigrated to the States as a young man; my nana said he got involved with the local IRB, and his parents sent him to America because they didn’t want him getting into trouble.
I don’t know if that’s true, as Nana has been gone since 2001, but he was born the same year as Michael Collins, in a period of reformation and revolution. Nana had written a few things on the back of a St. Patrick’s Day card one year about her father, my great-grandfather. I knew when he was born, I knew his mother’s name was Anne Gallagher, and his father was Michael Smith. But that’s all I knew. Just like the main character in What The Wind Knows, I went to Dromahair with the hopes of finding them. And I did.
My parents and my older sister took the trip with me, and the first time we saw Lough Gill, my chest burned, and my eyes teared. Every step of the way, it felt like we were being guided and led. Deirdre Fallon, a real-life librarian—libraries never let you down—in Dromahair directed us to the genealogical center in Ballinamore. We were then directed to Ballinagar, a cemetery behind a church in the middle of fields. When I asked how we would find it, I really was told to pray or pull over and ask someone, just like Anne was told to do in this book. I won’t ever forget how it felt to walk up that rise among the stones and find my family.