The ancestral history of the Donegan family was recorded in Ireland in the Province of Leinster, which is comprised of twelve separate counties including the Counties of Louth and Meath.
The County of Louth, whose county town is Dundalk, is a small Irish county known for it's dairy herds and fishing. The County Meath, E. Ireland, in Leinster, with county town Trim is known for its farming and cattle. Near by is Tara Village and the Hill of Tara, which was until the 6th century, the seat of Irish kings. Historical ruins can still be found there and are supposedly the Coronation Stones of the ancient high kings (Smith, 1982).
In 1847, Michael Dunnigan decided to take his chances in faraway America. From census records, it was learned that he was able to take his pregnant wife, Elizabeth Markey Dunnigan, and their seven children on the long boat trip to America.
Peter was twenty and the oldest Dunnigan child; Michael was eighteen; John, fifteen; Patrick, twelve; Margaret, ten; Ann, eight; and Bridget, six, and Catherine two.
Upon landing in New Orleans, Louisiana, the family boarded a riverboat and continued on to Jefferson County, Missouri. During this trip on the Mississippi River, Meary Jane was born. The father, Michael, purchased a farm, which is now, part of the city of St. Louis. Four more children were born: Lawrence James, 1850; Hugh, in 1852; Thomas in 1854, and Elizabeth in 1856 (Donegon, Eve, 1994).
During the early years of settlement in Jefferson County, there was an area in the northwest part of the county called "Little Ireland". This area in Meremac Township had been settled by landowners with names like O'Conner, O'Brian, O'Rourke, Byrne, Crean and McKeevers, also M.F. Peter, and John Dunnigan, all Irish immigrants (Smith, 1982).
Two parish churches served the community - the Old Rock Church at Catowissa and the parish church at Byrensville. The mother church of both is and was Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church at House Springs, Missouri. Records for the old church at Byrensville and the churchyard cemetery known as St. Columbskill Cemetery was destroyed by fire many years ago. The early records for the Old Rock Church at Catowissa are held "in part" by the Church of St. Bridget at Pacific, Missouri (Smith, 1982).