After years of teaching my students about the many cultures and histories that tell the story of America, I suppose it was inevitable that eventually my curiosity would be drawn to my own family history. Well, that spark occurred in the first days of 2006 while I was on semester break from teaching at California State University at Monterey Bay. With time on my hands, I decided to "browse" a book that had been sitting on my shelf for the past four years, a book that was the only material possession that I had taken when we dispersed mom and dad's estate. It's titled 1846-1996: 150th Anniversary Erin Township, Washington County, Wisconsin

To say that this history of Erin and its early settlers, many of whom were our ancestors, gripped my interest would be an understatement. After reading the book cover-to-cover the first day, and re-reading selected sections the following day, I soon found myself sitting with pencil and paper drawing arrows from one extended family to another. It occurred to me that these were the first steps in at least part of our immigration story that would eventually lead down a road that would extend all the way to our childhood home in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. This book was only a start, and it contained many gaps in our family story, but it inspired me to see if I couldn't complete the story through other sources.

Of course, this road through the farm fields of Erin (and the pubs of Monches) would provide us with an accounting of mom's ancestors, but what about dad's roots? Did dad even have roots?! Given the significantly larger size of mom's immediate family compared to dad's one brother, her extensive network of relatives that we encountered with some regularity, and her tendency to be a good deal more expressive about things than dad was, growing up I always felt that mom's history was our history. Dad didn't seem to me to come from anywhere; he was just there, sort of like a passenger on the Shinners train. In light of this feeling, I became doubly intrigued with the idea of seeing if I could find some of the names and places that make up the second road to 'Tosa, dad's road. 

Modest Goals

This web site is my way of sharing with my son Trevin, with my brothers and sisters, and with their many children, the information that I've been able to gather over the past month. When I began this project, my goals were rather specific and fairly limited, and those limitations are reflected in this product and should be mentioned.

  • First, my intent has been to go as far back as I had to go in order to find our ancestors who had immigrated to the US from Europe, and to try to follow the road from that point forward. Thus, I provide no information on folks' lives before immigration.

  • Secondly, I have tried to limit the scope of my inquiry to our immediate blood relatives, and so I make little effort to track the lives of their brothers and sisters or most of their children.

  • Thirdly, I offer little information about mom and dad, and none about ourselves or our kids, as we already know about this as part of our living history. Rather, I leave the details of our lives to one day be discovered by our kids or by their kids, should they ever be inspired by curiosity.

  • Finally, I have limited my research only to what I have been able to do on my computer. There is a good deal in the paper trail left by our ancestors that has not been digitized or scanned, but which undoubtedly is still available in paper or on microfilm in Wisconsin and beyond. However, I am in California.


Most of the information that I have gathered and present on this web site has been found in the extensive databases provided on, or by Google searches of a much more random nature. In doing this research, however, I have been helped by resources of a more personal nature, and I would like to recognize those.I would begin by thanking Robin Buchmeier and Sally Stapleton for co-authoring the commemorative book for Erin's 150th anniversary that is cited above. Within this book, members of several Erin families contributed short pieces on their own family's history in the area. Among those, I would personally thank the people who contributed to the histories of the Garvey, the Whalen, and the Flynn families, including our very own first cousin, Maureen Shinners Mitchell. You all taught me that the road to 'Tosa began on many, many different farms in Erin that were owned by folks with many different names.

Also, I was helped by a couple of other related projects that are underway on the web site. is an interactive tool (click on image to the left) that allows users to research and build family trees, to input information from other sources into those trees, and to elect to make their work publicly available to others who might want to look at it. For this reason, I want to acknowledge and thank Liz Ault for work she has done on other branches of the Larkin family tree, and to express appreciation for the work of an unidentified person who has constructed some information on portions of the Shinners clan. Both of these projects gave me helpful leads and served to confirm some of my own work. 

Joe Larkin

Brother of Mary Pat, Tim, Ellen, and Dennis

Son of Frank and Mary Shinners Larkin