Genealogical Inspirations: St. Patrick’s Day And Michael John Flanagan

My grandparents (on the left), in Little John’s, the bar they owned in Pico Rivera, California, 1970s. Grandpa lived for St. Paddy’s Day every year. And I still miss my Grandpa and Grandma every day.

For my entire life, I have associated St. Paddy’s Day with my grandfather, Michael John Flanagan. The surname “Flanagan” ought to clue you into this association.

Every St. Paddy’s Day, during my childhood, I remember Grandpa dressing up as a leprechaun, green tights and all. He had no problem walking out in public in his leprechaun attire — Grandpa relished the shock factor. The tradition started when he owned a a bar, but Gramps kept up the gig long after he left the bar business — I’m pretty sure just to annoy Grandma. While Grandma didn’t mind Grandpa donning Irish attire for the bar, she wasn’t as amused as his kids and grandkids were when he kept the gig up for the long-term (Grandpa had no shame, and loved to embarrass his loved ones).

Gramps (left) and one of his Little John’s employees making corned beef and cabbage.

I remember going to the grocery store with them as a child on St. Paddy’s Day, with Grandpa in regular clothes (Grandma insisted). Grams and I went into the store, leaving Grandpa in the car. Big mistake. While the two of us were shopping, Grandpa stripped off his street clothes in the car (apparently, he had his leprechaun costume on under his street clothes), walked into the store, and snuck up behind me and Grandma, dressed as a leprechaun. Everyone in the store, including me, got a really good laugh — Grandma didn’t find it quite so funny.

Grandpa lived and breathed anything Irish, and I’m pretty sure that St. Paddy’s day trumped even Thanksgiving and Christmas as his favorite holiday. You see, Grandpa was orphaned at a very young age, was split up from his siblings, grew up poor, and spent his entire adult life making up for this lack of family. He didn’t know much about his parents — just that they were Irish. So Grandpa clung fiercely to that heritage with pride.

One of the only real regrets in my life is that I did not take an interest in genealogy while Grandpa was still alive. How ironic that Michael John Flanagan would have a granddaughter who could help answer some of the questions that plagued his life, but not until after his death. Each time I find a clue in my grandpa’s past, I wish that I had taken the time while he was still alive to interview him and help him find his answers.

This regret is part of what drives me to research and piece together the pieces of my family history. I wasn’t able to help Grandpa, but I can still help his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren discover their Flanagan ancestry.

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