Jim Gaffigan’s Coal Region connections featured on “Finding Your Roots” on PBS

We were very excited to learn this week that “Finding Your Roots,” an excellent genealogy/history television program on PBS, had a lengthy segment exploring the family history of comedian Jim Gaffigan in Schuylkill County’s Irish-American immigrant community. 

The show, hosted by historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., explores the family stories of celebrities and public figures. In this episode, titled “No Irish Need Apply,” we learn about the Irish immigrant roots of comedians Jane Lynch and Jim Gaffigan. 

Watch the Episode Here

At 30 minutes into the episode, which you can watch online here, Gates begins to reveal Gaffigan’s connections to Schuylkill County. Gaffigan’s family settled in Schuylkill County during the Civil War era and were employed as mineworkers. There is a surprising twist that we won’t tell you about, but connects Gaffigan directly to one of the most fascinating and controversial elements of Schuylkill County’s history during the 19th century. 

Still - PBS Irish Need Not Apply
Gaffigan, left, learns about his Irish-American roots in the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania (PBS)

We were personally very excited to see the following image featured in the episode.

Big Lick 1

This photograph was taken by Isaac Kunkel in the late 1860s at the newly opened Big Lick Colliery (also referred to as the Lykens Valley East Colliery in the 1860s), just across the Schuylkill County border in Dauphin County near Williamstown. We featured the photograph in this story about Big Lick Colliery in the 1860s. 

It is held in the collections of the Williamstown Historical Society and they receive acknowledgement in the credits of the episode. Needless to say, this is the exact reason we love to write and research Coal Region history – to share these important local stories and connect them to our nation’s history and culture. 


Featured Image: PBS Promotional for the “Finding Your Roots” episode featured Jane Lynch and Jim Gaffigan. 


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2 thoughts on “Jim Gaffigan’s Coal Region connections featured on “Finding Your Roots” on PBS

  1. Jake
    Thank you for mentioning the upcoming episode of “Finding Your Roots”. I’ve enjoyed watching
    previous episodes but this one will be special. I look forward to reading the articles that you post, they are always so informative.
    Carol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jake,
    Thanks so much for this link. Excellent episode with great context for the social history of the coal country. Without giving away the surprise twist, I’ll just mention that after I watched it, I did some further research. My g-g-grandfather, William Byrnes/Burns, lived in Saint Clair in 1860 and was listed three dwellings away from Patrick Gaffigan. And William’s wife was…Mary Durkin.

    I really appreciate your blog and Facebook page. I’ve gotten so much important background information for my family history. My ancestors were from Byrnesville, Centralia, and Ashland.

    Kathi Hanson

    Liked by 1 person

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