I’m related to Irish kings, but it’s not as cool as it sounds


Over the weekend, I got roasted in Santa Barbara. Though I applied SPF 30 sunscreen all over, my shoulders, feet, and forehead took a major hit from the sun, and now I look like a lobster. Many people have joked before that I’m the palest person they’ve ever seen, and no matter how fair your skin may be, you’ll always be tanner than me.

I come from a long line of tall, pasty Irish folks, as I learned when I researched my family tree a couple weeks ago. After my uncle mentioned we’re related to Ivar of Limerick, the “last Norse king of the city-state of Limerick and penultimate King of the Foreigners of Munster,” I decided to do some digging of my own. Via Wikipedia through the National Library of Ireland:

“Ivar is claimed to be survived by noble descendants in Ireland, the O’Donovan family. His daughter, whose name has probably not survived, is said to have married his ally Donnubán, their eponymous ancestor, although alternatively she may actually have been the daughter of Ivar’s son Olaf, a possibility allowed by the pedigrees. But in any case a daughter of this princess and Donnubán is believed to have married Ivar of Waterford and had by him several children.”

My family name was originally O’Donovan, but my great great grandparents shortened it to Donovan after leaving Ireland for the northeast. Not like we sounded less Irish as a result, but I do love being at the top of the alphabet. You can tell the second you see any of my family members that we were never meant to live in warm, sunny places. In theory, I shouldn’t have been born in California or gone to college in Tucson — my complexion cannot handle the UV rays, but I refuse to acknowledge this about myself. I wear sunscreen, cover myself up whenever possible, and always carry hats and sunglasses.

Ivar of Limerick isn’t the only king in my family. The Donovans also have ties to Ivar of Waterford, the “Norse king of Waterford from at least 969 until his death in the year 1000, and also reigned as King of Dublin, possibly from 989 to 993, and certainly again for less than a year between 994 and 995, returning after his expulsion from the city in 993 by Sigtrygg Silkbeard, who would expel him for good the next time.”

I told my uncle it’s fascinating that we’re related to kings, but he assured me there were dozens of small kingdoms in Ireland back in the day. Being King of Dublin is a pretty big deal, though, so I’m still intrigued by Ivar of Waterford’s background. My grandmother’s maiden name is Murphy, which is the most common surname in Ireland, so I’ll save that history session for another day. As my uncle said, I need to focus more on the family members I know and keep the past in the past, but there’s definitely a big takeaway here: someone with my background and skin tone should never stop applying sunscreen.

laura and nikki


Hawaii, here I come … with unlimited amounts of SPF 70.


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