Photo by Emily Case

By Jason McCoy

Little is known about my family’s history and arrival to the United States, which is compounded by the contradictions my father, Larry Croghan, has discovered in the stories told by my grandfather, Jim Croghan.

My legal name is Jason McCoy because I was adopted by my stepfather, Sam McCoy, but biologically, I am a Croghan, so this story will follow the Croghans’ immigration from Ireland.

That story begins when my great-great-grandfather emigrated in the mid-1800s from County Kerry, located on the mountainous coastline of southwest Ireland. My Croghan ancestors most likely immigrated to the United States during the famine years of 1845–1850, which greatly affected the people of County Kerry. During the Great Famine, County Kerry lost 30 percent of its population because of death and emigration, according to

Many of those left made their way to the northeastern United States. After their arrival, my ancestors settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa — my birthplace.

While that is all that is known of my family’s history, the difficulties of Irish immigrants did not end with the Great Famine. Many challenges awaited them upon their arrival to America.

Just as refugees and immigrants in America today are subjected to prejudice and discrimination, the Irish refugees in the 19th Century endured similar treatment. The Irish immigrants were discriminated against because of their Catholic religious beliefs and were suspected of stealing jobs from Americans, were accused of being rapists and being criminals and were considered a strain on the welfare budget.

Although Irish immigrants were denied employment and experienced other discriminatory treatment in America, they contributed to building America’s infrastructure and many fought for America in its wars. They eventually assimilated and pursued the American dream.

As a college-educated real estate business owner, I am an example how far the Irish people have progressed in America. As I continue to pursue my American dream, I will do so with a better understanding of the sacrifices made that allow me to experience the privileges that I have today.