09 October 2013


Below is a press release concerning Genetic Genealogy Ireland. Thank you, Dr. Gleeson, for keeping us updated on genetic genealogy. As more and more Irish become interested and get tested, families across the pond, and around the world, will connect!
Press Release: Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2013 is a 3-day series of presentations that runs at Back to Our Past at the RDS, Dublin, October 18-20, 2013. The lecture series is sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy), and runs in parallel to the usual traditional genealogy lectures sponsored by rootsireland.ie and organised by APGI (Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland).
93% of people would have a DNA test to find their ancestors
by Dr Maurice Gleeson
ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy)
A new survey reveals that 93% of people would be interested in having a DNA test done to help find their ancestors. The survey is being carried out as part of the run-up to Ireland's first conference on genetic genealogy at the Back to Our Past exhibition at the RDS in Dublin from October 18th to 20th. 

The overwhelming majority of people who responded to the survey (at www.ggi2013.blogspot.ie) gave a resounding yes when asked "would you be interested in doing a DNA test?". This suggests that the Irish public is more open to DNA testing than previously thought and many more people may undertake such testing in the future.

A peculiarly Irish problem
Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies worldwide, and the Irish are no exception as regards popular interest in this addictive past-time. Last year 20,000 people attended the Back to Our Past exhibition in the RDS, and this year it plays host to Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2013 - a 3-day series of lectures and presentations on how DNA can help people trace their ancestors.

Ireland has a particular problem when it comes to family history research due to the vast destruction of records in the Four Courts fire of 1922. Eight hundred years of Irish history was reduced to smoke and ash in the space of a few hours. As a result, many people will hit a "Brick Wall" on most of their ancestral lines around about 1800. Only the very lucky can trace back into the 1700's. But DNA testing can help break through these Brick Walls.

What do you want to find out?
You can get several things from a DNA test, depending on which test you take, and which company you test with. For example, your DNA can tell you about your deep ancestry, and reveal the route your ancestors took when modern humans left Africa about 60,000 years ago. Only 14% of respondents selected this option when asked "what would you want to find out from a DNA test?". And of these 9% were interested in the deep ancestry of their direct male line (i.e. the father's father's father's line) and only 5% in the deep ancestry of their direct female line. The gender gap exists in genealogy by virtue of the patrilineal descent of surnames in Western cultures and the fact that we are a male-oriented society. Men appear in historical records more often than women. 

Deep ancestry makes for some interesting cocktail party banter, but it does a lot more than that - it helps to root us all in Africa, the place of our ancestral birth. We are all ultimately Africans. And this cuts across notions of race and how at the end of the day we are all genetically human, no matter what the colour of our skin. In fact, as time goes on, notions of race will become far less important than one's actual genetic makeup. It is quite possible for two people of the same "race" to have more genetic differences than two people from "separate races". There is a lot more to human beings than skin colour. Genetically, what's under the skin is much more important.

Still on this topic, 17% of respondents suggested they would be most interested in discovering their ethnic makeup from a DNA test. This is a rather strange result as one would assume that most people in Ireland would be predominantly European or Caucasian by ethnicity, with very few people having African, Asian, or Native American Indian ancestral origins. Maybe there is a romantic notion that an African influence was introduced to Ireland by virtue of the Spanish Armada or trading with Spain, which after all was the first muslim country in Europe thanks to the Moors, who themselves were a mixed bag of Arab, Berber, and sub-Saharan African. Or perhaps Irish people are more interested in discovering what percentage of their DNA came from European ethnic subgroups - Viking, Norman, English, Scotch. As technology advances in this field, the biogeographical analyses that underlie these particular tests will become much more sensitive enabling more accurate assessments of ethnic admixture to be undertaken.

However, the majority of people (65%) are more interested in their recent ancestry with equal numbers wishing to explore their direct male line specifically (28%) and connect with cousins on all their ancestral lines (28%). Only 9% of people were interested in exploring the recent ancestry of their direct female line. As usual, our female ancestors get a raw deal. Along the female line, the surname changes with every generation, and it is easy to lose the traces of our female ancestral heritage. This seems particularly unfair given that the majority of genealogists are women.

So what test do you want to take?
The last question in the survey asks "what DNA test would be the most important for you?" and again a clear gender bias is obvious with 25% choosing the Y-DNA test (which measures the father's father's father's line) and only 8% choosing the mitochondrial DNA test (which measures the mother's mother's mother's line). 

However, the vast majority of people in the survey chose the autosomal DNA test (66%). This looks at all the chromosomes and therefore assesses all one's ancestral lines. In short, not just one's direct male and female lines, but those too and everything else in between. It also provides you with a breakdown of your ethnic makeup and can reveal information about physical traits and medical risk (depending on the testing company). So it kills several birds with the one stone.

And in terms of breaking down Brick Walls in your family tree, the autosomal DNA test holds out the most promise. This test will identify about 99% of first and second cousins, 90% of third cousins, 50% of fourth cousins and 10% of fifth cousins. Typically, about eight weeks after you have tested, you will get an email from the testing company instructing you to go to your own personal (private) webpage where they have uploaded your results together with a list of the people in their database who match you - your DNA cousins, so to speak. Given that the average age for the intrepid family historian is about 70 (i.e. born around 1940), and allowing 30 years per generation, most Irish genealogists will be interested in contacting DNA cousins who are estimated to be their third or fourth cousins, and who therefore share a common ancestor born about 1820 or 1790 respectively. This collaboration between genetic cousins may help break down Brick Walls in your family tree occurring around the 1800 timepoint. 

Many of these genetic cousins are likely to be American and some of them will have more extensive family trees than you do. After all, American records were not blown up in 1922. In fact, despite the US and Canada being relatively "young" countries historically, their genealogical records frequently go back much further than ours in Ireland. And this can provide a rich source of information when Irish records run out. Sometimes the way to go further back in Ireland is to jump across the Atlantic and trace those distant cousins who emigrated to the New World. Many of them will have recorded information about their parents that will help you push a particular ancestral line back an extra generation.

What does the future hold for our past?
Autosomal DNA testing is still at an early stage of development and the testing companies need to provide more tools and utilities for manipulating, analysing, and interpreting the data. There are many areas where automation is possible and this would help prevent people getting bogged down in their results. In time, as more people take this test and the tools for analysis improve, people will find this a very powerful method for identifying common ancestors.

Because of the joint patrilineal inheritance of surname and Y-chromosome (it is only passed from father to son), the Y-DNA test is helping to elucidate the history of Irish surnames and it won't be long before specific surnames are linked genetically to the ancient Irish genealogies. Much of the current ongoing Irish DNA research will be presented at the forthcoming conference at Back to Our Past in the RDS.

DNA testing is an additional useful tool for the genealogist's armamentarium. The results merit careful interpretation. Oftentimes DNA will not provide definitive answers, but it will frequently help focus your research and hint where to look next.

As a science, genetic genealogy is relatively young (the first tests only became commercially available about ten years ago) but the fact that so many people are interested in DNA testing augurs well for the future of genetic genealogy in Ireland.

Additional information
The survey results thus far are based on a maximum sample size of 152. The survey was widely advertised on Facebook and people were encouraged to complete the survey if they were Irish. Most of the 10,700 visitors to the GGI2013 website to date are from the US (36%), Ireland (27%), and the UK (20%). The survey can be found at www.ggi2013.blogspot.ie  

Maurice Gleeson is a medical doctor and genetic genealogist. He has used DNA testing to break down a Brick Wall in his Spierin line and to confirm a common Gleeson ancestor with a family in Australia. He runs the Spearin Surname Project and is co-administrator of the Irish Mitochondrial-DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA. He is an active member of the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG).

24 September 2013


Press Release from the APGI: 
The Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) are offering the following service at Back To Our Past in the RDS Dublin this October (18-20).
"Book a free session with an APGI Genealogist at Back To Our Past
The Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) are hosting a free advisory service at Back To Our Past in the RDS from 18th-20th October 2013.  You can book a 20 minute session with a professional accredited genealogist to get advice on researching your family tree.
To book your free session, fill in the booking form at:  http://www.apgi.ie/consultationform.html on the APGI website.

13 September 2013


Interested in how genetic genealogy can aid your Irish family history research? Able to be in Dublin in October? Don't miss GENETIC GENEALOGY IRELAND 2013 sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organized by the International Society of Genetic Genealogists. 
 Press Release: 
Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2013 is a 3-day series of lectures and presentations on DNA and its usefulness in Irish family tree research. The presentations are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA, organised by ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogists), and scheduled to run at the Back to Our Past exhibition at the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin from Oct 18-20. 
DNA and genealogy
More than one million people around the world have had their DNA tested as part of their family tree research and it has helped them break through "brick walls" where the paper trail of traditional records is either absent or has failed to help any further. This is particularly relevant to Irish research where there is a relative lack of documentary evidence prior to 1800. DNA testing has become increasingly affordable in recent years with basic tests available for as little as 40 euro.
Irish DNA Research
There has been a flurry of interest in DNA in Ireland over the last ten years and some incredible work has been undertaken by passionate Irish genealogists (many working independently and voluntarily) which is changing the way we think about ourselves. Many of these enthusiasts will be speaking at the conference on their own particular projects and how it has informed not only their own family tree research but how it sheds new light on a variety of Clan histories, Irish surnames, and their origins and evolution.
The international panel of speakers will discuss topics which include a basic introduction to DNA testing, early and later migrations into Ireland (Gael, Norman, Viking, Scotch, English), connecting with the Irish in America, and individual Clan and surname projects with names that cover the entire island. As well as talks on the Tribes of Galway, and the Munster Irish, Prof Dan Bradley will discuss his unit's work relating to the genetic signature of people in northwest Ireland and the correlation with Niall of the Nine Hostages. Details are available on the dedicated website - Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2013 at <ggi2013.blogspot.ie>. 
These DNA lectures will complement the programme of traditional genealogical presentations organised by APGI and sponsored by Rootsireland.ie (the Irish Family History Foundation).
DNA testing at BTOP
This is the fourth year of the Back to Our Past exhibition which last year attracted 20,000 visitors and over 250 exhibitors. This year FamilyTreeDNA have a stand at the exhibition and will be offering DNA testing at discounted prices. This is the first time that DNA testing will be offered directly to the Irish public at the exhibition. There will also be some limited Free DNA tests available and further information can be found here <www.ggi2013.blogspot.ie/p/sponsored-dna-tests.html>
So if you happen to find yourself in Dublin in October, come along and have a DNA test - it may connect you with long lost cousins you never knew you had. Entrance to the entire exhibition and conference only costs 5 euro if booked in advance online via the BTOP website at <www.backtoourpast.com/mysitecaddy/site3>.

10 September 2013


     The buzz all week in the Irish genealogy world is the Irish Genealogical Research Society's Marriages Index, which has hit the mark of over 25,000 records. This database, created by Rosalind McCutcheon, is unique in that it contains marriage records culled from other than the usual church and civil records.  Sources include family Bibles, Chancery records, military records, and newspapers, among many other sources, some very obscure. Contributions of marriage records are welcome.
     One complaint I hear from my audiences is that Irish marriage records are impossible to find. I myself have had a very difficult time finding marriage records in Ireland for my ancestors. This database is a welcome addition to our genealogical arsenal!
     Read about the database and search it at the Irish Genealogical Research Society's web site:

02 September 2013


     Keep current with the new additions to the FREE DATABASES of the Ireland genealogy projects:

KERRY Genealogy Archives - Church Records
Tralee Parish Register (from Memorials of the Dead in Ireland)

KILKENNY Genealogy Archives
Donaghmore Churchyard Memorials - PURCELL

LONGFORD Genealogy Archives
St. Columbcille RC Church, Aughnacliffe, Parts 1-3

ROSCOMMON Genealogy Archives - Land
Cloontmullan Canceled Books - 1920's

TYRONE Genealogy Archives
Donaghmore Memorial

WICKLOW Headstone Index
Curtlestown; St. Patricks Church Cemetery, Parts 1 & 2
WESTMEATH Genealogy Archives 
Kilcolumb Graveyard, Raharney, Westmeath

09 August 2013


Ireland Genealogy Projects updates:

GENERAL IRELAND Genealogy Archives - Emigration
"American" 9 Apr 1803 - to New York    
"Mohawk" 23 Apr 1803 - Going to Philadelphia    
"Ardent" 23 Apr 1803
DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Memorial Cards
Kelly & Kennedy
DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Cemetery
Christ Church Memorials V. VII, pg 298-310 

FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Tempo Church of Ireland Cemetery (Armstrong, Forde, McCollum) 
Rossory Parish Church Cemetery (Armstrong et al)
GALWAY Genealogy Archives - Headstones.
Tuam, St Mary's (CoI) Cathedral - 2 (Baron Oranmore & Browne)

MEATH Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Navan; Ardmulchan Church Cemetery

ROSCOMMON Genealogy Archives - Land
Canceled Books, Kilteevan E.D. ca. 1911-1920's
(Cloonlarge, Cloonmore & Cloonmurly townlands)

TIPPERARY Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Clonmel; St. Patrick's Cemetery - (DROHAN)
WICKLOW Headstone Index
Blessington; St. Mary's, Part 2
Curtlestown; St. Patricks Church Cemetery (more to come)

17 July 2013

BREAKING NEWS: General Register Office’s Dublin Research Room to Move

The following is a press release received from Steven Smyrl, the current president of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland and an executive officer of the Council for Irish Genealogical Organisations (see information regarding Mr. Smyrl and the organizations below the press release):
General Register Office’s Dublin Research Room to Move
The General Register Office’s Research Facility is set to move from its convenient and well-appointed premises at the Irish Life Centre, Talbot Street, to a dilapidated former Dole Office on Werburgh Street.
The lease on the GRO’s current facility - where the public can trace their ancestors through access to birth, death and marriage records - will expire at the end of August. Located on Talbot Street, the current facility is close to Connolly Station, LUAS, DART and many bus stops. For genealogists, it’s also next to the Valuation Office, where information about ancestors’ land holdings can be traced back to the 1850s.
By comparison, the proposed new home for the facility is on a side street in a run down and dilapidated former dole office, protected by high security fencing topped with barbed wire. Given that this is the year of The Gathering, it’s about as unwelcoming as it could possibly be. All the outward signs suggest an area riddled by crime and antisocial behaviour.
When asked about the move Steven Smyrl, President of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) and executive liaison officer for the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) said that “it is an appalling proposal, one which cannot have been given any real consideration otherwise it would never have got this far.
“If the government wants to demonstrate its belief that genealogy has a role to play in our economic recovery and if new premises must be found soon, then the underused Dublin Tourism Centre in St Andrew’s Street would be one ideal location. The city is full of unused office space without the need to dump Ireland’s ‘Mecca’ for roots tourism in an unsavoury side street.
“I call on Joan Burton, the Minister for Social Protection and who has responsibility for the GRO, to immediately step in and provide family historians, from both home and abroad, with a new facility equal to if not better than the current one at the Irish Life Centre.”
Thousands visit the facility each year and generally find the location of the current premises far better than their previous one in Joyce House, Lombard Street East. However, rather than having to fight for the facility to stay at its current location, family historians would like to hear that the GRO is listening to their needs and will finally allow public access its computerised database of birth, death and marriage records dating back to 1845. Currently, researchers must wade through individual annual hardcopy indexes and searches over many years can be very time consuming.
By contrast, the GRO in Belfast has full public access to its computerised records with enhanced index data and by the end of year will also allow access to historical records through the Internet. Its research room is based in a well-appointed facility in the centre of Belfast.
Information on Mr. Smyrl and the organizations:
The General Register Office registers all births, deaths, marriage and civil partnerships. Its records date back to 1845. The Head Office is in Roscommon town, but the Research Facility has always been based in Dublin. www.groireland.ie
The Council for Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) is a lobby group representing the genealogical community within Ireland and worldwide. It was established in 1992. It represents almost all of Ireland’s societies and organisations involved in genealogical research as well as a number of others based in the English-speaking world. www.cigo.ie
The Association of Professional Genealogist’s in Ireland (APGI) was founded in 1986. It acts as a regulating body to maintain high standards amongst its members and to protect the interests of clients. Its members are drawn from every part of Ireland and represent a wide variety of interests and expertise. The ongoing involvement of individual members in lecturing and publishing maintains its position at the forefront of genealogical developments in Ireland. www.apgi.ie
Steven Smyrl is the current President of APGI. He is one of the two brother team whose work was depicted in 2012 in the IFTA nominated RTE TV show Dead Money. www.masseyandking.com