Wheeling Author Jack Bodkin’s New Novel Has Roots in His Own Irish Heritage
WHEELING — During the month of March, many people enjoy celebrating Irish heritage — even folks who have not a drop of Irish blood in them. But one Wheeling resident is celebrating his own Irish ancestry and has found a clever way to share it with others.
Jack Bodkin is a retired certified public accountant who has lived in Wheeling since 1977. A native of New York, Bodkin was born in Brooklyn in 1947. This past week, he published his first book, “Briarhill to Brooklyn: An Irish Family’s Journey to Freedom and Opportunity.”
“It’s a novel — to some degree an historical novel,” Bodkin said. “There are historical facts in it. It tells the story of my family’s migration from County Galway to Brooklyn in 1848, which was the height of the Irish Potato Famine.”
Following Bodkin’s retirement in 2013, he found time to do what many people long to do — dig into their family’s history. He furthered his family tree’s known history with online research, which helped reveal many branches that stemmed back to his family roots in Ireland.
“I was able to track down a good size family tree, although Irish records are tough to research,” Bodkin noted, explaining that much of his research was done online at ancestry.com with great success. He did, however, visit Ireland on three occasions and performed research there in the homeland.
Once he assembled much of his family’s story, he was happy to share it with his wife, Christine, and the rest of his family.
“Everyone looked at me with their eyes glazed over,” he said with a laugh.
The lack of excitement in their response led Bodkin to find a new approach to tell his family’s story in a way that garnered more attention and interest. He began writing a novel based on the historical facts he had put together from doing research into his family’s past.
After five years of work, “Briarhill to Brooklyn” tells the story of an Irish family that left their home country during trying times with the anticipation of finding hope for a better life in America. The Bodkins — led by two oldest brothers, Dominic and Martin — made their way to Brooklyn and soon after found themselves in the midst of the Civil War.
Ultimately, the story tells the tale of how the Bodkins settled in New York, worked and eventually grew into the large family from which the author hails.
For more information about “Briarhill to Brooklyn” or to purchase the book, visit briarhilltobrooklyn.com.