Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Excerpt: Of Irish-American bloodlines

Our particular branch of the Gatins family originated as the McGettigan clan, of Killybegs, a small, commercial fishing village in County Donegal, on the craggy and stormy, northwestern-most coast of Ireland. This territory was so barren and rough and wild that local people viewed some of its rocky features as a gate to Purgatory. Three McGettigan-Gatins brothers, James, John and Joseph (the latter, my great-great grandfather) came to the United States in the mid-1840s as part of the huge Diaspora that brought so many Irish families to the new world as the crippling potato famine decimated Ireland. John and Joseph moved to and remained in Atlanta, marrying two sisters who also immigrated from County Donegal, Ann and Bridget Cullen, respectively. James returned to Killybegs after their father died.

John and Joseph Gatins and their descendants seemed to quickly outgrow Irish antecedents to become part of the meteoric ascent that Atlanta, with a knack for self-promotion and self-aggrandizement, still evidences today. The extended family emerged from Celtic immigrant beginnings to hobnobbing with Atlanta society in Buckhead and with high international society at the Hotel Ritz in Paris in three generations.

The first Joseph Gatins in this particular line of new Irish-Americans arrived in Atlanta, probably via New York and/or Savannah, Georgia, by 1849. Once there, he worked for the next 50 years as a clerk and freight manager for the Central of Georgia Railroad, located in the Atlanta freight depot. He also was a founder of the Immaculate Conception Church, and often was referred to as one of Atlanta’s original “pioneers.”

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