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In Search of Ancestors: Irish Genealogy
by Bridget Haggerty
My parents are long dead. Buried with them are the memories of their childhood in Ireland and, until recently, the names of most of my O'Flaherty/Kenny ancestors. In anticipation of a trip to Ireland, I began a serious search for them. We are very fortunate in that my husband is a computer consultant who works out of our home. This means that I have ready access to computers and the Internet. That is where I began.
The web sites on Ireland are almost endless, but what really caught my attention was this one: Irish Family History Foundation.
What I learned was that because Ireland has been inundated with inquiries from people of Irish descent about their ancestors, the Irish Family History Foundation has coordinated a network of government-approved genealogical research centers in both the Republic of Ireland and the North of Ireland. These centers are in the process of computerizing tens of millions of records of different types.
The main source of records are:
church records of baptisms
marriages and burials (starting dates vary from parish to parish)
civil records of births marriages and deaths
major sources relating to property (tithe records from circa 1830, valuation records from circa 1850)
NOTE: Many of the church records computerized at Irish Family History Foundation Centers are not available in public repositories or through other genealogical outlets.
Other sources have also been computerized including:
17th century property
pre-1600 annals and government records
locally held compiled censuses
locally held rental books
repatriated information and newspaper abstracts.
The process of computerizing records was begun in 1990 and currently, 500 people are working on completing this incredibly ambitious project. Several centers are now able to offer a Full Service to inquirers. A Full Service means access to all pre-1900 church and civil records, major property sources, the 1901 census and a variety of other sources. When sufficient records are available, inquirers can commission a Family History Report which details all the available information on several generations. Family History Reports also contain socio-economic and local historical information as well as information on the origin and meaning of the inquirer's surname and maps of the area in which one's ancestor's lived.
A Partial Service is offered by centers that have not yet completed the computerization of all the available records but can offer a search of those records computerized to date, as well as other information and assistance.
All centers will eventually offer Full Service with all research work being carried out by fully- trained genealogists who have a thorough knowledge of their sources, local history and geography.
To cover the costs of a search, standard fees are charged by each center:
Fees: Initial Searches (assesses the volume of records available on a particular family). Standard fee is approx US$50, at most centers but some vary from this amount. You will find this information on the form to fill in for an initial search.
Comprehensive Family History Report (where sufficient records are available) from approx US$150.
Single record searches are also available from several centers.
To get started on my own search, I began with my Dad's family in Galway. I clicked on Galway in the list of counties on the Foundation's homepage. There are two genealogical centers in Galway - one for the east and one for the west. I knew my dad was born in the Claddagh, so I clicked on the center for the west. A form was supplied which you are asked to fill in and mail. I was able to give the following information: my father's name, his father's name, his mother's maiden name and his approximate year of birth. For what I paid, I received a wealth of information which included where the gravesites of my paternal grandparents are located and which we visited during our trip to Ireland. Sadly, I also learned about an uncle who passed away just two years before our vacation, but I didn't know of his existence. I also didn't know that my dad's grandfather and his father before him were sailmakers. Or that my great-grandmother was Scottish and a Protestant!
The surprises didn't end with my dad's family. On my mother's side I learned that her mother's maiden name was Anderson, which implies a strong Viking connection. I also didn't know that my grandfather and his siblings had been born in a pub! Eventually, I hope to piece together a complete family tree to pass on to our children - warts and all.
If you're interested in tracing your family's roots and you are in another country (say, the USA or Australia) you must first know which of your ancestors actually 'took the boat' (emigrated). Once you have his or her name, I strongly recommend that you begin with the Irish Family History Foundation.
If you do not know your first generation ancestor, you must work your way back. There are many geneology web sites on the internet but most focus almost completely on the United States. They can be useful to find your family history in the US but they are very limited beyond that.
It is helpful to uncover the specific origin of your first generation name. This allows more precise searches in Ireland. It may be a small country, but the sheer number of records can make this a time consuming task (let alone money consuming). One source to check is the Ellis Island Records. The goal is to find the individual and the actual location of their home village. Note: Don't pay much attention to the point of embarkation. Although this may help in locating records in Ireland, most of the emigrants travelled to one of the ports from their homes elsewhere.
Once your search has reached Ireland, the following web site may also be of help:
Mayo-Ireland Bulletin Boards
Even this site will connect you to the Irish Family History Foundation.
One other note; The Foundation provides the same services for Northern Ireland counties as well.
There are literally hundreds of other sites and you'll find many of them listed on Google. Just click here and key in the word Irish Genealogy: Google.
One other internet search site is DMOZ. This one is a little different; the entries are maintained manually. That's right, real human beings select and enter the best sites. Novel? Try them at DMOZ.
Good luck with your search!
Thu, Dec 7, 2017
Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*
Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.
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The Faerie Isles - Celtic Harp Music
We own several of Carole Thompson's CD's and never tire of listening to them. This collection is particularly beautiful, from the opening strains of Bonny Portmore to the last note of O'Carolan's Farewell.