30 December 2010

2010 SHOUT-OUTS TO IRISH GENEALOGY VOLUNTEERS

     I was compiling a list of New Year's genealogical resolutions, then I gave up. I am not a good keeper of resolutions. I find that life tends to follow the saying "we make plans, and God laughs" which is not always a bad thing in my eyes, given my love of new and novel projects (such as this blog).
     I would rather compile a list of Genealogical Shout-Outs to those people and volunteer organizations who have kept me, and Irish family history research, "truckin'" this past year. These people work hard for the cause of Irish genealogy, so please take some time to visit their sites and thank them!  I run the risk of forgetting people to thank, so please alert me if I have passed anyone over, or if you have a Shout-Out of your own to make! HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!
RAISE A PINT WITH ME:

Raising a pint to thank everyone
(me, at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin)

 A TOAST TO

*My fellow genealogy bloggers, who have provided great support to me and to each other, and especially to the organization Geneabloggers. Without the guidance of Geneabloggers and fellow bloggers, I would never have started this blog. Check out the Geneabloggers web site to find other blogs!
*All the members and guests of the IRISH AMERICAN FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY for a year of exciting meetings, a great website (thanks to Mary-Jane), and wonderful camaraderie. https://sites.google.com/site/irishgengroup1/
*The tireless volunteers at the Irish Genealogical Project for bringing Irish records to our home computers (a special thank you for Chrisina Finn Hunt for keeping me informed). Check out the county pages, and don't forget to browse the archives!
*Irish genealogy website Connors Genealogy and its owner-administrator-researcher-extraordinaire Pat Connors for bringing Irish records to our computers
*The Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations, for representing the interests of Irish family historians and lobbying for increased access to records
*The public libraries in Ireland involved in the Ask About Ireland projects, particularly the Griffith's Valuation project, which brought us the Valuation FREE online, with all the bells and whistles such as maps and advanced  search engines
*The Rootsweb mailing list administrators and list subscribers. Although Rootsweb has been taken over by Ancestry, the administrators and list members still work on a volunteer basis to share their expertise and advice with other family historians. Special shout-outs to the Castlecomer and County Kilkenny lists, plus the Irish in Philadelphia list, for being so instrumental in my own research.
*Irish Genealogical Society International for its fine publication.
*Efrem and Chick, two of the best family history detectives I know, for helping me with my research and book this past year.
*Team Fox. Love you!

23 December 2010

VIDEO CHRISTMAS TRIBUTE TO MY IRISH AMERICAN FAMILY

This is a very short video montage of family Christmas celebrations in the 1950's featuring my Irish American ancestors and family members who are no longer with us to celebrate.
I wish my all my fellow family historians a very blessed Christmas!
video

17 December 2010

HOW DID YOUR ANCESTORS CELEBRATE? KEEPING HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

     It seems that each year, one more holiday tradition fades into memory in my family. My father's generation is now gone, depriving me of cherished holiday visits with the aunts. As my mother and her siblings age, the traditional Christmas Eve dinner has been replaced with more easily prepared dishes. My scores of cousins have shown very little interest in keeping the visiting and cooking traditions alive. I fear I am fighting a losing battle to pass on our family Christmas customs to new generations.

    So, this melancholy mood of mine got me thinking--what traditions did my ancestors in Ireland keep?  What traditions are still kept in the areas of Ireland where they lived?
     For all things Christmas and Irish, visit Russ Heggerty's website Irish Culture and Customs. See the link below for articles on the website describing Irish Christmas customs.
     Many of the general Christmas customs that we keep in the United States today had their roots in Ireland and England, some dating back to medieval times. Holly (and sometimes ivy) is still a favorite Christmas plant. Many of us place a candle (albeit electric, nowadays) in the window as they have done from times past in Ireland. I know a few Irish American families that, on Christmas Eve, still simmer a pot of stew while the family attends Mass, although now the stew is in the slow cooker and the Mass is at 5 p.m. instead of Midnight.
     But to find lesser known, local Irish customs, I turned to some of my favorite Rootsweb mailing lists. If you are not a subscriber to one of the many local and county genealogy mailing lists, consider joining one soon. The lists vary in tone and activity, but most are full of members who are generous sharing their time, knowledge, and expertise.
     Jack Langton, my favorite "go-to" man on the Castlecomer list (northeast region of Co. Kilkenny), alerted me to a peculiar custom--The Castlecomer Wellie Race. According to the official race web page, the Wellie Race began in 1978, when some of the local men decided to "run off the Christmas excess" on St. Stephen's Day (26th December). Their footwear of choice? Why, their favorite Wellingtons! Although my ancestors left Castlecomer long before the running of the wellies, one day I hope to attend the race in their memory.
     The Castlecomer people do keep the memory of their ancestors in more serious ways. Jack said that a Mass is celebrated in the cemetery each year. He noted that besides bringing everyone together to honor those who have passed on, the annual rite serves to keep the cemetery tended and in good condition. Any readers who are active in cemetery upkeep and preservation might want to take note of this idea.
     Rachel on the Co. Tyrone list shared with me a local west Tyrone practice from the 1800's. On the Ogilby estate, the tenants would celebrate festivals and holidays by lighting barrels of tar. I wonder if perhaps  my ancestors in Tyrone gazed at the winter stars by the light of bonfires and tar barrels?
     Rachel also reminded me of a long ago tradition in Tyrone, one that has been adopted in different form in Philadelphia--the mummers. In Philly, we hold a costume parade, with strutting and string bands, that lasts from sun up to sun down on New Years Day. The history of costumed performers going house to house with music and dance may go as far back as the Celts in Ireland. I would like to think, as I watch the Philadelphia Mummers each year, that the essence of the mummers' tradition ties my own Christmas memories to those of my Ireland-to-Philadelphia ancestors.
     I would love to hear from my readers--please post comments about your own Irish and Irish American Chirstmas, solstice, and New Year traditions.
     And, if you are reading this before midnight on Monday, December 20th, there is still time to vote for the Top 40 Blogs, see my post below. Vote for Help! The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancestors under the "Heritage Groups" category:
Vote for Top 40 Blogs Family Tree Magazine
It is such an honor to be nominated, and I want to thank my readers for being so supportive!
LINKS
IRISH CULTURE AND CUSTOMS WEBSITE
BRIDGET HAGGERTY'S ARTICLE ON IRISH MUMMERS
WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE ON THE HISTORY OF MUMMERS
PHILADELPHIA MUMMERS PARADE
FIND A MAILING LIST ON ROOTSWEB!

15 December 2010

FAERIE FOLK NOMINATED FOR TOP 40!


Thanks to everyone who nominated HELP! THE FAERIE FOLK HID MY ANCESTORS! for Family Tree Magazine's Top 40 Blogs. Voting is still open until Monday December 20th. Go to the link below, then scroll to "HERITAGE GROUPS" then vote for "HELP!THE FAERIE FOLK HID MY ANCESTORS!" if you like my blog! A big thank you to all my readers for keeping me writing this year!
LINK: Family Tree Top 40 Voting Until Dec. 20th

10 December 2010

HURT FEELINGS AND FAMILY FEUDS: ARE YOU COPING WITH CRITICISM OF YOUR HARD WORK?

    (Allow me a disclaimer before I begin: while this post focuses on negative reactions to our family history research efforts, I find that the overwhelming majority of people are very proud of, and grateful for, their family genealogist. I have received tremendous encouragement and gratitude from my extended family in my work, and this positive feedback is the fuel that keeps me researching. But the reality is that there seems to be a sour grape or two in every bunch, so here goes!)
     "That's not great grandmom Mary's baptismal record, it says 'Maria McGee' and the family ALWAYS spelled it 'Magee.' "
     "You wrote that Aunt Peg played bridge with the family, but she never came to bridge night!"
     "You forgot to include Aunt Peg when you wrote about bridge night. She loved playing bridge with the family!"
    I am going to discuss a complaint that I hear over and over again from fellow researchers:   family members criticizing or finding fault with one's tireless and difficult work on the family history, especially after one has so magnanimously (and often with great expense) shared that work with those same family members who, invariably, haven't lifted a finger to contribute time, energy, or funds to the pursuit or preservation of the family history.
     The critical relative has a warm fuzzy place in a family historian's heart, right next to the relative-who-hides-the-family-records-and-photos-in-their-closet.
     In all seriousness, hurt feelings and even family feuds are often a by-product of the family historian's work. I have found that some researchers can simply shake those raindrops off their shoulders, while others respond by withdrawing and becoming very protective of their work. But since part of our goal is to preserve our family history and to ensure that it is not lost for future generations, the issue of coping with criticism becomes a very real concern for the preservation of the family tree.
     I had to learn early on to shrug off comments about my research. My late father, may he rest in peace, used the word "alleged" when refering to any of my discoveries. "You allegedly found an alleged great grandfather," he would say (finger pointing and heavy vocal emphasis on "allegedly" of course). Proof to my sceptical dad would have been his grandfather's rising out of the grave and handing my dad a certified certificate from St. Peter--maybe even that would not be enough, I am sure Dad would have asked if St. Peter had been under oath. I took my dad's criticism as the "leg pulling" that it was. I also saw his skepticism as a challenge to be meticulous in my research and sources.
     Most of the complaints that I hear from others involve relatives that dispute dates and spellings of names--the latter being a BIGGIE. I still have difficultly convincing new family researchers themselves to accept the fact that their ancestors' names were spelled many ways. It can be impossible to convince relatives, especially those who have never gone bleary-eyed reading old Irish baptismal records on microfilm, that, no, the family did NOT always spell Kavanagh with a "K" instead of a "C."
     I often hear complaints from researchers whose relatives dispute events from living memory. "I don't remember Uncle Pat's being at any of our Christmas parties" or "Aunt Bridie played the fiddle, not Aunt Mae" are examples. We have to remember that events are both perceived and remembered differently by each individual present at the time. We all have different perspectives while watching the same event. This is where being a good family history detective helps. Any police officer or detective will tell you that eyewitness reports can differ widely. A ten year old boy will remember an event differently than would a thirty year old woman in the same room.
     Be aware that personalities play a crucial role in how we remember other people. In my mind, my grandfather was a larger than life figure, doting and protective. But, just mention his name to some other relatives, and expletives explode! He had a temper, he yelled, he was impatient. Yes, I saw that side of him, but it was not directed towards me, so I saw these faults as strengths and remember him fondly as a tiger of a man.
     The critcism problem arises when researchers share their work. One of my goals is to get my family's history in as many households as possible, so that it is preserved for generations to come.  I have spent hours of work and quite a bit of money putting my genealogy in many forms. I have made charts, books, and dvd's. I have written family stories, reports, and memoirs. In the process, I have exposed myself to comments and criticism. For the most part, I have learned to brush them off, but, being human, I must admit to sometimes being irked or hurt.
     It helps to realize that I am not the only family historian to suffer these slings and arrows. We need to regard criticism of our work as an occupational hazard.  I have found that there are ways to control the comments before they begin:
1. educate your relatives by offering an explanation of the difficulties of records research  (alternate spellings, varying birthdates, census errors)
2. remind relatives that recollections differ and that you have recorded how you (or how Aunt Emily or Uncle Bill) remember an event (encourage a critical cousin to record his memories and to add to the family history)
3. acknowledge that your book or memoir or tree might contain mistakes, but that you did your best to present correct information
4. nod, smile, and listen to a relative's comments, then simply ignore what he or she said (or, take the comment seriously if your relative might be correct or might have new information for you)
5. encourage the critic to become a partner in research. Most times, that's the last you hear from him or her about their comment. But, you might be lucky and acquire a new companion for your research trips.
   Usually the critical relative has their say and then chucks your work into the closet, where it awaits discovery by a future generation. And, isn't that one of your goals, anyway?  Pat yourself on the back even when others won't! You've done good!
   

02 December 2010

ONLINE RESEARCH NEWS

     The new year will bring many a smile to the faces of Irish family historians. Those of us whose ancestors hailed from Northern Ireland received good news this week from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland: the projected public opening of the new PRONI facility is scheduled for 30 March 2011, well ahead of schedule. In the email announcement, Culture Minister Nelson McCausland said that the new headquarters will be in a state-of-the-art facility and will provide the public with better access to records. Over 40 km of "unique, irreplaceable and ... priceless documents" are being moved to the new facility, which will be in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast.
     PRONI had more good news for "armchair" researchers. Now available online is a fully searchable index to the will calendar entries for the District Probate Registries of Armagh, Belfast, and Londonderry. The database covers the period 1858-1919 and 1922-1943. Those for 1921-22 will follow soon. In addition, the digitized images of entries from the copy will book from 1858-1900 are now available online. Reseachers can now view the full contents of those wills online. The collection contains 93,388 will images.
     Wait--there's more from PRONI! Over fifty years of wedding and family portraits are now available for viewing via the photo-sharing website, Flickr. The photos are from the Allison Photographic Studios in Armagh. There are now 200 digital images online, with more being added, until all 1530 images are posted.

  
   Not to be outdone, the National Library of Ireland announced its intention to digitize and make available online all of its Roman Catholic parish register microfilms. These are IMAGES, yes, IMAGES! This is a revolutionary leap in online genealogy research. Currently, researchers must visit the Library in Dublin or obtain the films from the Latter-day Saints if they want to see actual images of the registers. Since we Irish family historians rely so heavily on church records, especially for those years before civil registration began in 1864, this online collection will be a dream come true. The collection covers 1200 parishes on 520 reels.

 LINKS

PRONI photos on Flickr
PRONI Will Calendars

25 November 2010

NATIONAL DAY OF LISTENING, FRIDAY 11/26TH

     I want to wish everyone a very happy and loving Thanksgiving. I know that many family historians are busy in the kitchen today, which is, in itself, a way of keeping the family history alive. We transmit memories along with our recipes and our holiday customs. But, don't miss the chance to do two other important tasks: share family stories and record memories of this day. In our quest to record the past, we family historians often forget the present. Make a record of your Thanksgiving recipes, and ask those who brought their dishes and desserts to do the same. If you are hosting and are too busy to sit and talk with guests, appoint a child or relative as "historian of the day," whose job it is to both record the moment and listen for stories of the past. Give a restless young relative a video camera and a mission--to produce a family documentary for your Facebook page.
     Tomorrow, Friday, November 26th, is an important day for family historians in the USA. StoryCorps, the national oral history project, has designated the day after Thanksgiving as the "National Day of Listening." Their aim is to encourage everyone to take an hour out of the day tomorrow to record a conversation with a loved one.
     StoryCorps itself has recorded oral histories of over 60,000 Americans, mostly ordinary citizens. The oral histories the Corps collect are on file at the Library of Congress.
     Don't have a relative at the ready for recording? Record yourself. Write down a few memories. Many a memoir began with one small paragraph. Take that step today and generations will thank you for it!
LINKS
STORYCORPS WEB SITE
NATIONAL DAY OF LISTENING WEB SITE

19 November 2010

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX (THREE SHORT VIDEOS)

      No matter what my topic is, most of the questions during my talks deal with brick walls. Today I am posting three video snippets of a talk I gave at the Gloucester County NJ Historical Society. Because of the number of brick wall questions, I departed from my prepared talk on church records and discussed how to find those ancestors hidden by the faery folk. Of course, if I knew THE method to blast every Irish family historian's brick wall, I would be a rich woman today (or, at least, very popular among family historians).  But, I hope perhaps the videos will inspire you to "think outside the box."


video

 Dr. A., a former Buddhist monk, would tell me to add that, more precisely, Buddhists would say that we simply perceive a wall. That is true, our research problems are walls only if we perceive them to be!

video

video
LINK

12 November 2010

WHAT CLUES MIGHT YOU BE MISSING?

     Clues lurk in the most amazing places. Often, they are right under our noses but hidden from view. My friend Rosemarie surely has faery folk in her family tree, since she is always finding clues hidden in family heirlooms and records (I wrote a while back about the clues her Irish grandfather left in a collection of poems he wrote).
     Recently, a framed document that had been hanging on her wall fell, and its frame broke. The document was her late husband's discharge certificate from the USMC. Her mother in law had framed the certificate, along with some of the family treasures. As Rosemarie took apart the matting in order to get the document reframed, she found a form on the back of the certificate. The form contained a complete account of her husband's career in the Marines, from enlistment to discharge. Details included dates, places, and pay rates.
     Rosemarie's story reminded me that clues are often shielded from our view. Notes are sometimes written on the back of documents and photos. Sometimes these notes are cryptic, often they contain clues to our ancestor's lives. Sometimes they are hidden behind frames, mats, or photo mountings.
     A note scribbled on the hidden back of a baptismal certificate proved to be the one clue that blew open the door to discovering ancestors I had lost all hope of finding. The certificate was in a plastic folder, and its back was obscured by another document. On a hunch one day,  I pulled it out of the folder. On the back was this scribbled note:

I knew the date was not the date of  my grandfather's death, even though it was on his baptismal certificate. The date turned out to be that of the death of my great grandfather, of whom the family knew nothing. Starting with this date of death, I was able to trace my family all the way back to their village in Poland.
     What heirloom, photos, or documents do you have that might contain hidden clues? Don't forget to examine carefully any books you might have inherited from ancestors. One woman brought her family Bible to one of my talks. In between the pages, she had found pressed flowers, notes, and lace. I have found bookmarks made out of obituary notices. I have also found funeral cards in prayer books.
     I am sure Rosemarie is eyeing those other documents and heirlooms her mother in law had framed. Whether to dismantle a framed heirloom or an old scrapbook is a tough question. I have attended a few classes on archival preservation, and am sensitive to the value of keeping an heirloom "as is." The frame or scrapbook is often an heirloom in itself. You may wish to consult a professional before tearing apart a frame or ripping photos out of an album. Do, however, check the backs of any documents you might have in your binders or files. A note that meant nothing to you years ago might today prove instrumental to your research.
     Hmmm, maybe one of my ancestors hid valuable stock certificates or an original copy of the Declaration of Independence behind the photo of Aunt Maggie.....


05 November 2010

RESEARCH TIP AND UPDATES ON ONLINE DATABASES

     I had a wonderful trip to Rome last week. As an American, I am always amazed by the sheer stretch of history in the buildings of Europe, and visiting the antiquities in Rome was truly an experience of a lifetime. As a family historian, I envied those Romans whose families have roots stretching back through those ages. I have to remind myself that we all have roots that long--we just have to find them!
    Upon my return, I was happy to learn that at least two researchers took my "call to action" seriously and contacted other people for information about ancestors. Both made progress in their research. One man reminded me to pass on this advice: attend reunions or jubilee celebrations of ancestral or childhood parishes or schools (or just attend Mass or services in an ancestral or childhood parish). Former neighbors and fellow parishioners of your ancestors and relatives can give you valuable information about your ancestors and insight into their lives. You might even discover a family secret or neighborhood gossip!
     UPDATES
1641 Depositions
     The buzz this month seems to center around the Trinity College Dublin's online database of the 1641 Depositions. These depositions have been the subject of much controversy throughout subsequent Irish history. The depositions, about 8,000 of them now online, were taken of Irish Protestants after the violent Catholic uprising. Not only is the database of importance to students of Irish history, it is of great genealogical value. The depositions are full of names--Catholics, Protestants, victims, perpetrators, neighbors, officials, and bystanders. The database is searchable by surname and by county. Be aware that the original spellings were used, so you must search for various spellings of the surnames you are researching (e.g., Brennan, Brenin). The database is free, registration (of an email address) is required.
LINK
Irish Genealogical Projects
     The wonderful volunteers at the Irish Genealogical Project continue to expand their outstanding databases. Below are their latest updates. Thank you, IGP!
General Ireland NEWSPAPER---check out the new drop-down box for searching the newspapers.
HOME Page with drop down box for counties
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/countrywide/news.htm
Dublin CHURCH
Blanchardstown Dublin Asst. Baptisms - 1775-1880
Chapelizod Parish Dublin - Asst. Baptisms, (FLANAGAN, LANE, NEWMAN) 1854-1905
St Paul Parish Dublin - Asst. Baptisms FLANNAGAN, BERGIN, MULLALLY & others
St Paul Parish Dublin - Asst. Marriages FLANNAGAN, BERGIN, MULLALLY & others
Blanchardstown Dublin Assorted Marriages - 1776-1879
Chapelizod Parish Dublin - Assorted Marriages 1854-1928
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/dublin/church.htm
Kildare Genealogy Archives CHURCH
MULLALY, RORKE, TIMMINS - Assorted R.C., Baptisms
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/kildare/church.htm
Kilkenny NEWSPAPER
To Be Sold - The Estate of John EATON, Esq
Laois Genealogy Archives - CHURCH
Mount Mellick Baptisms 1837 - 1859 - K
R.C. Baptisms - Connor, Fitzpatrick, Kennedy
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/laois/church.htm
Limerick - PHOTOS
Kilflynn Church (Church of Ireland) Ballydonohoe
Ballyorgan, Roman Catholic Church, Kilflyn
Limerick Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Kilflynn Church of Ireland Graveyard, Ballydonohoe
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/limerick/photos/tombstones/markers.htm
Longford Genealogy Archives - Headstone Photos
Patrick Walsh - Headstone
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/longford/photos/tombstones/markers.htm
Monaghan HEADSTONES.
St. Patrick's Plaques, Monaghan
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/monaghan/photos/tombstones/markers.htm
Tipperary NEWSPAPER
Tipperary Free Press, 4 April 1827 - Assizes
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/tipperary/news.htm
Tipperary VITALS
Assorted South Tipperary Birth Extracts 1864-1918
Assorted South Tipperary Marriage Extracts 1864-1918
Assorted South Tipperary Death Extracts 1864-1918
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/tipperary/vitals.htm
Wicklow Genealogy Archives - CHURCH
Assorted R.C. Baptisms - BYRNE, FITZPATRICK
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/wicklow/church.htm
Wicklow HEADSTONES
Kilquade Cemetery
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/wicklow/photos/tombstones/markers.htm

22 October 2010

TWO WEEKS WORTH

ACTION WEEK     
     I will not be able to post next week, October 29th. So, in lieu of the post, I suggest a Week of Family History Action. Get out of the archives and off the online databases. Find, call, visit, write, or email at least one family member and talk about your family history. Share stories and memories. Ask questions. Get your aunt to 'fess up and come clean with the family secrets.
     Try my tried-and-true jelly donut method: bring along some jelly donuts, sit down with a family member and let them talk. Don't forget to audio or video tape the visit (use a tripod for the video so that you can eat jelly donuts, too). I would love to hear of any discoveries or success stories!
    Also, don't forget to check "LABELS" section in  the column to the right. "Labels" is really an index to previous blog postings (don't know why Blogger uses the word "labels" instead of "index," it took my thick head a few months to realize what labels meant!). Search my labels for earlier blog postings that deal with those subject headings you might find useful to your research.

THE "BLACK IRISH"
     Every so often after one of my talks, an audience member will tell me that he or she is a  descendant of "Black Irish." Others often ask if I had heard of the term. I usually ask in reply, "How does your family define Black Irish?"
    Whatever the reply, I joke that he is wrong and that it really means that he is descended from selkies (female seals who become human women for a time). See the movie The Secret of Roan Inish for a good selkie tale! (Also the movie Ondine, a more modern take on the legend, has been recently released on dvd).
      I have found that the term "Black Irish" is rarely used in Ireland and seems to be an American invention.
     Most people I meet who use the term do not use it in reference to race. Their explanations are many. A few that I have encountered in my research or through my fellow researchers include the following:
     1. Dark hair and/or eyes. This is the most common explanation I have been given.  I know of one man who would ask his grandmother why he did not have red hair, and the grandmother answered, "Because we are the Black Irish, that is why!"  Being a descendant of a line of dark haired, blue eyed Irish myself, I often heard other children remark that I didn't "look Irish" because their idea of Irish was of a different hair coloring (however, I did inherit the pale skin and the tendency to burn instead of tan!).
     2. The Spanish Armada. Others claim that their dark hair is a trait passed down when a female ancestor married a Spanish sailor who washed up on Irish shores after the Armada was defeated. I have not been able to find any verification of these tales.
     3. The term has also been used in the US in a racial manner. I have read that it has been applied to persons of mixed racial descent, one component of which was Irish. There is a rich Irish heritage in many Caribbean islands, particularly Monserrat, where many Irish indentured servants had settled during the colonial period. I have also read that the term was used, mostly in the South, to refer to people of mixed Irish and Cherokee descent.
     The term does remind us of the rich genetic heritage found in Ireland. If we dig far enough into our roots, we will most likely find Danish, Norman, French Huguenot, English, Welsh, Scottish or Spanish ancestors, among many others, contributing to our gene pool. I am always meeting researchers who have found, not just another surname, but another ethnicity in their Irish family tree!
LINKS for more information:
Ireland-Information.com website article about "Black Irish"
Discover a rich Irish heritage--visit or learn about Montserrat
Wikipedia entry on "Black Irish"

    

15 October 2010

STEPPING ON TOES: SEMANTICS, POLITICS, AND IRISH GENEALOGY

     Irish genealogy can be fraught with controversial politics and divisive semantics. Two words for one place, for example "Derry" or "Londonderry," can signify the speaker's religious or political affilitations. As someone who conducts genealogy workshops and speaks to various groups about Irish genealogy, I am very aware of my responsibility to tread carefully on the line that separates information and opinion. I often speak to groups containing researchers who are looking for Orange Order ancestors mixed with those who are searching for ancestors who took part in armed struggles to create the Republic. I strive to maintain a neutral gathering where all Irish family historians can learn. For the most part, an atmosphere of education wins over any partisan feelings (although I am sure there are many of tongues bitten and outbursts inwardly extinguished).
     However, sometimes a comment slips and causes a bit of disagreement. But these instances, if approached with learning in mind, can be a source of education.
     One recent evening, I was giving a talk to a group of Irish attorneys. Speaking of the migration of Irish to America in the 1700's and early 1800's, I stated that those waves of Irish immigrants originated in the northern counties. I used the terms "Scots Irish" and "Scotch Irish," stating that those were the labels applied to such immigrants in the USA. These two terms are commonly used in the USA, but they are not used in Ireland, England, or Scotland.
     So I was not surprised when a native Ulster Scot in the audience objected, saying that the only proper term is "Ulster Scots." We had a conversation about semantics (it was a group of lawyers, after all, what could I expect?), and I listened to quite a few new points that I had not considered before that night. As is often the case, I learned much that evening from an audience member. This "give and take" with others is one of the reasons I enjoy giving talks.
     I've since done some thinking, and some additional research, but I have yet to find a term that is both genealogically descriptive yet politically neutral for those ancestors who hailed from Ireland but were of Scottish ancestry or origin themselves. I tend to call a group by whatever name they designate themselves, so until I am corrected again, I will drop the American "Scots Irish" for "Ulster Scots."
    But this incident did remind me of the difficulty of teaching about Irish genealogy research devoid of any historical  or political context. Can't be done! Irish ancestry and Irish history are wound together too tightly to be separated easily. Throw in a need for political correctness these days--and talking about Irish genealogy can be like stepping into a minefield. I am thankful, however, that I invariably find Irish family historians to be sensitive to this political quagmire and to share, instead, the joys of finding an ancestor after years of research, regardless of their own, or their ancestor's, political leanings.
    

08 October 2010

UPDATES FOR YOUR RESEARCH

     There has been quite a few new developments in Irish records databases the past few weeks, so today is update day.
     First, the buzz about Google Maps--the photo mapping of Ireland is completed! I have found this photo service to be of great use to me here in the States. I have used it to see photos of my ancestral churches and addresses. A friend of mine used it recently to view some tombstones (near the road) in a cemetery. Can't get to Ireland anytime soon? Spend an day strolling the streets of your favorite town via your computer with this Google service. It is free, by the way.
     Simply type in the address in Google Maps. You might have to try some different spelling variations, and perhaps start with a map of the county or city and then use the zoom function. Don't forget to add the "Ireland" term. Or, you can access the global Google map and then click on Ireland.
     When you have the larger geographical area you are looking for, zoom to street level. On your left, in the zoom and navigation controls, is an icon of a man. Click on him and drag him to the place on the map you want to see. If a photo is available, the street will change color. Click him into place and have fun exploring. Try the directional and zoom funtions for a 360 degree view.
GOOGLE MAPS, GLOBAL MAP KEY
      If that is not enough to keep you busy for a week or more, check out the following additions to online databases.
IRISH GENEALOGICAL PROJECTS
Birth, Deaths & Marriages from the Freeman's Journal
Killaloe Marriage Bonds for Tipperary. Includes spouses from
surrounding counties
Clare Genealogy Archives
"Part of the Estate of Hon. Brig. Thomas Fowke" From the Dublin
Journal 1 Aug 1747
Cork Genealogy Archives - News
A rent roll for the County of Cork, 1st Nov. 1748.
Cork Headstone Photos
Kilbrogan Cemetery (Chuch of Ireland), Bandon, Cork
Derry Genealogy Archives - Church Records
CARLIN Baptisms & Births 1841-1875
Dublin Genealogy Archives
List of Dublin Cemeteries
Dublin Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Deansgrange Cemetery, South West Section Part 4
Fermanagh Genealogy Archives - Church
Tubrid Church, Kesh, Co. Fermanagh - Burials 1836-1943
Laois Genealogy Archives - Church Records
Mount Mellick Baptisms 1837 - 1859 - F-G
Limerick Genealogy Archives - Church
PURTILL Baptisms in Kilcolman Parish
Monaghan Genealogy Archives - Headstones.
Tydavnet New Graveyard - Map of Graves
Wicklow Headstone Index
Arklow Cemetery, Part 3 (Updated)

     The Irish Family History Foundation has added more counties to its online database: Laois, Offaly, and Limerick.  If you have not yet used the IFHF database, be aware that, while the searching the index is free, they charge 5 Euro for each record you may wish to view (with other rates for multiple records). Also be aware that the IFHF does deny access to users who exceed the IFHF limit of free searches without purchasing a record  (I am not sure of what that limit is). While these features of the IFHS are somewhat controversial, it remains the largest online database of Irish records, and can be an invaluable, but also expensive, source. I find that, while "fishing expeditions" can be expensive on the IFHF, a carefully conducted search  (with solid information on an ancestor such as a county, townland, parent's or spouse's names) can produce results well worth the fee.
     I find there are two "camps" of family historians: one group believes all ancestral records and information should be free and accessible, while the other side is more willing to pay fees (of course, we all want those fees to be reasonable and give value for the cost). I do attempt to promote free sites in this blog, and to avoid being an advertisement for any paid services, but I do feel that I must mention some of these fee-based sites, when relevant or newsworthy, as a service to all the family historians. My updates do not constitute an endorsement, just information, and where relevant, my experiences.
IFHS DATABASE
     Enough legalese! Have a great week strolling along those Google Map streets!

02 October 2010

PRESERVING

     I am a day late posting my blog this week. I have been immersed in creating a family history book, a project I have been putting off (placed on the long finger, as the Irish would say) for a long time. The task seemed insurmountable, but as the photographs fall into place, and the pages bloom one by one, I find I am enjoying the process so much that I wonder why I have procrastinated.
     I think part of the reason revolves around my indecisiveness regarding the best way to preserve the records, information, and photos that I have collected. I have my "hard data" stored on a computer genealogy program, and I also have binders in which I have all the records organized. For me, this is how I like to view family history--give me a collection of the raw data and let me draw my own conclusion, my own story in my mind. But, I have found that my binders and charts are of no interest to most of my family members. Their eyes glaze over as I attempt to interest them in page after page of census records.
     My worry is that my binders will also be of little interest to generations yet to come. So my question is, how do I best preserve the family history in a way that will interest and inform other people, while retaining the integrity and accuracy of the records?
     I have made three family history books through the years. Two were composed of copies of all the records that I have collected. I took the copies to a local copy/business center and had them spiral bound, then distributed them to family members. I found that most of my cousins were grateful, but I doubt that they spent much time examining the hundred or so pages of documents. But, I feel that at least the records are "out there," all together, and that they will be preserved for at least a few generations.
     One cousin of mine mentioned that she liked reading stories of the family history. To be truthful, my own eyes glaze over when I read most people's family stories. It is beyond my talents to make an interesting, accurate story of the generations. I find most family stories tend toward the mundane (John married Jane, their children were Zeke, Zoe, Yetta, Xavier...), the elaborate (five pages of World War I history lifted from Wikipedia), or the heavily footnoted (I can't help it, I was an appellate lawyer, I footnote every phrase!). I have been attending a memoir writing class, and some of the essays knocked my socks off, so I know that some people can pen a beautiful memoir. One man in the class is writing a very detailed personal history, and his book should be donated to a local museum or archive, it is so rich in detail and history. But I don't find many family histories like his--engaging and accurate at the same time.
     So this time, I am combining many methods into one book. I was inspired by a book authored by a friend of mine, Rosemarie, who is part of the Irish American Family History Society that meets in South Jersey every month. She put together a beautiful, hard-bound book that contains her grandfather's poems, their family history, and photographs. This eclectic approach worked for me. I found myself glued to the book, even though it was not about my own ancestors.
     Before I began, I explored several options for creating and publishing the book. I found that there can be a HUGE difference in price and product, so please shop around before deciding on an online publisher. You might want a publisher that arranges your book automatically for you, or you might want full creative control over the process. Rosemarie used Blurb.com, and I am using that service also. I found their prices to be the best. I did have difficulty navigating their BookSmart program at first, but once I got familiar with it, I was running full speed ahead. So much so, I forgot to write my blog posting yesterday!
     My book will be a mixture of personal essays, photos, and records. I hope that this mixture will accomplish both my aims: to preserve the family records and to interest family members. I will let you know once the reviews are in whether or not this approach is successful. For now, I am enjoying the process immensely.
    

24 September 2010

ANOTHER FAMILY DETECTIVE HITS THE STREETS AND FINDS SUCCESS

     I do love hearing from fellow researchers who find their ancestors in unconventional ways. Their stories confirm my belief that the most successful Irish researchers are the ones who think creatively and who "hit the streets" as a detective would do. Stories of chance meetings leading to ancestral discoveries seem miraculous to some genealogists, but they are every-day occurrences for us Irish family historians!
     Des White, a start-up professional researcher who is also a family historian with Co. Cork roots, has one such story. I am going to reprint his own words, as he tells a story much better than I can!
     "County places are great; drop a few names, ask a few questions, answer loads more--and bingo, everyone knows everyone! I went to a florist to get some flowers for the family grave near Clonakilty and told the lovely shop lady what the flowers were for. She said she knew a probable relative of ours close by and would mention it to him.  Took that with a pinch of salt and left the flowers plus my name and mobile on the grave on the Saturday evening . . . Amazing, on the Monday, got a call from [Cousin P]. He'd gotten the word from the florist, zoomed up to the grave & seen my note. So, we ended up meeting on the Wednesday back in Clonakilty, for a chat and to swap some family tales. . .  Definitely related! Our great grandparents, Thomas & Julia, are the link between us.
     "[Cousin P] also put me right about the Barrys in our past (Julia's people).  And thanks to a bar owner in Rosscarbery, I discovered one descendant owns a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) place in their original area near Rosscarbery. I took a 6 km walk out the road to have a look (and me with a possible cruciate ligament gone in one knee) in lovely sunshine, nice countryside. It's an imprssive B&B--the De Barra (Barry in Irish) Lodge."
     Des's tale is a "teachable moment." It illustrates the importance that personal connections have in Irish culture and society. Our ancestors brought this strong sense of community and family with them when they emigrated to the USA. Sadly, as the generations have passed and the climb up the social and economic ladders has supplanted other values, our personal family connections have suffered. But the explosion of interest in Irish family research in the USA has had the wonderful effect of renewing family and personal ties.
     Seems, from Des's story, that it might also have an effect on our knees!
     Thanks, Des, for allowing me to use your story. Hopefully, it will inspire some of us couch potatoes to get out and CONNECT in person!
    
 

17 September 2010

APOSTILLES: INTERNATIONAL RECORDS CERTIFICATION

     Sometimes a subject for this blog just hits me on the head. In just one week, three people mentioned apostilles to me. Two fellow researchers needed apostilles for genealogical purposes for use in Ireland and in Ukraine. Then my husband said he needed one for a lawsuit in Guatemala. So, today is Apostille Day!
     Those of us in the USA are familiar with the procedure of notarization, that is, having a notary public certify a record or attest to a signature.  Countries have their own laws and procedures for certifying public records, and most countries do not automatically recognize a certification done by a foreign official or notary. If you have a USA birth certificate you want to use for a purpose in another country, e.g. obtaining dual citizenship, you must certify that document for use in the foreign country.
    Under traditional international law, this certification was accomplished by a chain of individual authentifications. This process was often slow and difficult. This legalisation process was streamlined by the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, also known as the Apostille Convention.
     An apostille reduces the paperwork to a single formality. However, determining whether an apostille is necessary and where it can be obtained can sometimes be difficult. Not all countries recognize apostilles. The ones who do recognize apostilles are called "signatory States." Each signatory State (i.e.,country)--and in the USA, each individual state--has a designated "competent authority," This competent authority is the government officer who can issue an apostille (often a secretary of state in individual US states).
     Beware the claims of agencies and websites that advertise apostilles. To be sure that you are getting an official apostille, please check the links I have placed below to the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The Conference has a online brochure explaining apostilles and provides links to online sites that can help you navigate the apostille process. The Hague Conference is developing an online source for obtaining apostilles, please check the links below before paying an online site for a questionable apostille.
LINKS TO OFFICIAL APOSTILLE CONVENTION SITES
OFFICIAL APOSTILLE BROCHURE
FULL TEXT OF CONVENTION FOR ALL YOU LEGAL EAGLES
E-APP WEBSITE (OFFICIAL SITE FOR ONLINE APOSTILLES)

10 September 2010

UDATES: IRISH GENEALOGICAL PROJECT AND PRONI

     I received an email on Wednesday from PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland), announcing that their premises at Balmoral Avenue in Belfast have officially closed to the public. PRONI will remain closed until the spring of 2011, when it will reopen at the Titantic Quarter. I'm sure the new facilities will be grand, but the long closure will affect many Irish family historians hoping to conduct research at PRONI. I know a few researchers who have put travel plans on hold, or who have changed itineraries, because of the closure. The PRONI email stated that thier visitor numbers reached an "unprecedented" high over the last few months. I'm not surprised!
      A temporary self-service facility will be available to researchers at the Cregagh Library. I have heard that this facility, while a welcome "fix" for those who simply must conduct research in the next few months, is in a rather small space. So, if you are planning to go to Northern Ireland before next summer to research your roots, you might want to ascertain if your desired materials are available at Cregagh, as well as inquire into their hours and location (car parking is available at the library and on surrounding streets).
PRONI website
     IGP UPDATE
     The Irish Genealogical Project Archive has made major additions to its FREE online database in the past few months.  I will list the most recent additions below. If you get the chance, thank the wonderful people who maintain this huge, valuable, volunteer-run Irish genealogy database. If you are new to Irish genealogy, please spend some time browsing their county pages and their archives. If you have been researching your Irish family for what seems like centuries, don't forget to check the IGP every so often to breathe new life into your quest.
IRELAND GENERAL - NEWSPAPER
Assorted Births, Deaths And Marriages from assorted Newspapers -1700's
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/countrywide/news.htm
CORK HEADSTONES
Creagh Cemetery between Skibbereen and Baltimore in West Cork
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/cork/photos/tombstones/markers.htm
DUBLIN - HEADSTONES
Deansgrange Cemetery, North Section Part 2
Deansgrange Cemetery, Plot of the Angels
Deansgrange Cemetery, St. Itas Section , pt1
Deansgrange Cemetery, St.Fintan’s Section, Pt. 1
Glencullen Cemetery, Old (around St. Patrick's ruins)
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/dublin/photos/tombstones/markers.htm
FERMANAGH CHURCH RECORDS
Tubrid Church, Kesh, Co. Fermanagh -Marriages 1801-1904
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/fermanagh/church.htm
GALWAY HEADSTONES.
Ardrahan Graveyard, County Galway
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/galway/photos/tombstones/markers.htm
KILDARE HEADSTONES
Straffan Graveyard
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/kildare/photos/tombstones/markers.htm
KILKENNY DIRECTORIES
Directory for the Year 1788 (City of Kilkenny)
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/kilkenny/directory.htm
OFFALY (KINGS) PHOTOS
Parish Church At Boher, Parish
http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/offaly/photos.htm
WICKLOW HEADSTONES
Wicklow Parish Church, (Update)http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/wicklow/photos/tombstones/markers.htm

03 September 2010

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

     Basically, genealogy is an activity for individuals. Unless we are lucky enough to have a relative sharing the same research goals, we family historians pursue our ancestors by ourselves, online or at archives or libraries. And, for those seeking ancestors of most nationalities and ethnicities, genealogy research can be accomplished alone because their research is dependent on records and written materials. I am often envious when I meet an Italian or English or Polish researcher who was able to discover, in one church or town, ancestors all the way back to the Middle Ages. Rare is the Irish researcher who is so lucky.
     I have written often about the reasons why Irish research is so difficult. History, rebellions, fires, and oral traditions have all played a role in disrupting our ancestors' paper trail.
     I know Irish researchers who have an impressive knowledge of records and borders and boundaries, but still can't find their ancestors. You can't always find your Irish ancestors on a film or a census, or at the NLI or GRO. Sometimes you have to leave the library.
      Sometimes you need a Beatles' song: "I get by with a little help from my friends."
     Irish records can be so very local, and so very scattered, that it is virtually impossible to find them without the help of fellow researchers or Irish locals.
     I am constantly amazed by the discoveries that are made when Irish family historians come together, online or in person, to share their successes and frustrations. There is a group of researchers in the Philadelphia area that meet monthly (we now call ourselves the Irish American Family History Society), and almost every month at least one person is helped by another. Our meetings often include a formal presentation, but we try to keep our format "seminar-styled," with most of the time devoted to sharing.
     I will share some of the tips that the members reported as helpful at this week's meeting:
1. If you are researching or traveling, ask the locals, perhaps in a library or a pub, for the oldest resident or the local historian. One of our members did so in Co. Tipperary and was taken to the oldest woman in the townland, who happened to remember the member's cousin. Other members have asked for introductions to local historians and were able to advance their research considerably. Even here in the US, there is often a person who "keeps" the history of the town or urban neighborhood.
2. Sign those guestbooks when you travel! Some members have been helped by contacting persons they found in guestbooks at bed and breakfasts, museums, and heritage centers. I, myself, was found by a cousin who saw my name in a guestbook I signed in Donaghmore, Co. Tyrone.
3. Ask others to look at the records you have found. There is no substitute for a fresh set of eyes. You never know the details you are missing until someone else points them out. One member had a record that mentioned that her ancestor was a "brushmaker." Once another person pointed out to her that she might want to begin researching brushmakers, she embarked on that route. When she went to Ireland, she met a researcher who knew that her brushmaker ancestor would have been an urban fellow, and they began to look in Waterford City records first before looking at those of the countryside. Not only did she find her ancestor via this research route, her discovery led to other generations.
     So, don't be a wallflower, join the dance! If there is no local genealogical society near you, try to get a few fellow researchers to meet at a local library or coffeeshop. If you go to Ireland, talk to the locals and to the staff at libraries and museums. You are Irish, you have the gift of gab, so use it!
LINKS
IRISH AMERICAN FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY
FEDERATION OF GENEALOGICAL SOCIETIES--FIND A GROUP NEAR YOU
CIGO--COUNCIL OF IRISH GENEALOGICAL ORGANISATIONS

  

26 August 2010

SCRIBBLES, SCRATCHES, AND SPLOTCHES

    At almost every presentation, there is a person waiting for me afterwards with a sheet of paper. He or she has unfocused, bloodshot eyes, a furrowed forehead with permanently scrunched eyebrows, and a pathetic, pleading look in their crossed eyes. I know what is coming, and reach into my bag for the magnifier. It is "can-you-read-this-handwriting-I-have-been-trying-for-years-and-no-one-else-can-read-it-either" time. It is why I needed bifocals by my mid-thirties.  
     Illegible handwriting and creative spelling are the evil twins of genealogy. Even the most beautiful and elegant penmanship on old records can be impossible to decipher due to changes in styles and writing instruments. So what's a family historian to do?
     Luckily, a magnifier is not our only weapon. There are quite a few tricks that we family history detectives can use to break the code.
     The first trick is to look for other instances of the mystery letters in a word that is clear to you. If the first letter of the mystery word is formed the same as that in a very clear "Murphy" and looks completely different from the one beginning "Wexford," then you know you have an "M" and not a "W." Rather like playing one of those fill-in-the-blanks word games, isn't it?
     Rid your mind of its preconceptions. Sometimes, we have our own idea--or wish--of what  the word could be.
      A row of spikes can look like closed letters "e" and "l" but might be the letters "u" or "w."  so we get it into our heads that we are looking at a "ill" when the letters are "uel." Sometimes, the first impression of a the letters sticks in our minds.  Other times, someone offers a suggestion that we just can't shake out of our vision (another reason to ALWAYS look at an original records, and not someone else's transcription, whenever possible).
     Here are some ways to take a fresh and original look at the illegible scribble:
1. Change the size of the image. Sometimes minimizing the letter reveals a word. Magnifying an image can enable you to see the individual strokes of each letter. You might be better able to discern if a mark is a dot to an "i" or if it is just an errant ink splotch.
2. Remove preconceptions from your mind. If you thought you saw "Lenge" on a census entry, you will keep seeing "Lenge" and never see the true surname "Large." To prevent your mind from  filling in letters for you, try to read the word upside down, or flip it to its mirror image. These techniques are also helpful in trying to determine the individual letters.
3. Experiment with contrast. Turn the image into a negative one--white writing on a black background. If you have the computer skills, experiment with different photo sharpening and contrast tools. If you are working with a paper copy, try a colored plastic film, especially a yellow one. This type of film works great when placed over the image projected by microfilm viewers.
4. Add dots and crosses to letters containing loops and stick strokes.
     Don't forget to share the image with others. You might not want to tell them your guess at first, so that their mind is not vulnerable to suggestion.
     If you ever get the chance to take a class or buy a book about historical styles of handwriting, do so. Just seeing all the different styles will open your eyes and mind to diciphering all sorts of writing. And, don't forget to "roll the word off your tongue." Say your guesses out loud--your ears will help you make sense out of what your eyes may see as gibberish!
LINKS
CYNDI'S LIST: links to sites about handwriting and script

NOTE: A local colleague of mine will be teaching genealogy classes on cruise ships next year, while I stay on dry land. I will pass along the link to these genealogical cruises should any readers with seafaring inclinations be interested: Worldwide Cruises


 

20 August 2010

PHYSICAL GENEALOGY

     We are becoming accustomed to hearing about genealogical discoveries made through the miracles of DNA analysis. But a recent genealogical breakthrough was made by a much older means--noticing a family dental trait.
      In 1832, fifty seven recent Irish immigrants died while working on a track of railroad, known as Duffy's Cut, outside of Philadelphia. An excavation of the bodies is ongoing. Recent discoveries have revealed that some of the men did not die of cholera, but of blows to the head. Others may have been shot. An excellent article by Lori Lander Murphy, describing the history and discoveries at Duffy's cut,  can be found via the link below.
         One skull was found to have a missing front molar (from birth). Members of the Ruddy family in Co. Donegal, hearing about the research being done in Pennsylvania, alerted the researchers that many members of their family has a genetic quirk--a missing front molar! So, the body of young John Ruddy was the first to be identified and matched with his Irish family.
     The story makes me wonder how many of us consider physical and anatomical characteristics in our family history research? Have you examined causes of death on death records to see if certain conditions might be genetically linked or might run in a family? Very often, military records note physical chararcteristics and abnormalities. Don't skip over these details when looking for genealogical clues.
      Noticing small physical details can be helpful in identifying photographs, also, to determine if a person in a photo might be family. Some of the details can be as noticeable as a large gap between the front teeth, or a strong, square jaw. Others can be more subtle. I have been able to identify a couple of photographs from the 1800's as the same ancestor because of an almost imperceptable bump in his left arlobe.

     Even if you don't have a distinguishing physical family trait, don't forget to document in your records any physical descriptions you can obtain. These descriptions can prove important. For example, I have been able to differentiate two men with the same name, in British military records, based on the physical description of one of the men in his hospital records.
     When you ask relatives what they remember about their ancestors, don't forget to ask for a physical description. Was Grandpa tall? What were Granny's facial features? Which ancestor gave me my blue eyes?
     Don't forget to read Lori's fascinating article on Duffy's Cut at IrishPhiladelphia.com:
    

12 August 2010

ANCESTRAL SPIRITS

                                              
     This posting is not about the Jameson or Bushmills type of spirits--so off you go to a pub if it's whiskey you are seeking.
Co. Derry
     I am writing about those ancestors who hang around long after they are gone, the ones that go BUMP and BOO in the night. Those type of spirits!
     Does your family have any stories of ancestral ghosts? I have heard from a few family history researchers whose families have passed down stories of ghosts and hauntings. Chances are, if your ancestors lived in a castle or large estate house, there might be a tales of the supernatural for you to "dig up" along with your genealogical research. But hauntings are not confined to the rich and famous.Rural Ireland is replete with ghosts--some of whom might share your surname.
     There are tales of local hauntings all around Ireland. You can find these stories many ways. I have seen reports of spirit sightings in local Irish newspapers from the 1800's.  Search the internet for tales of the supernatural in Ireland. When you go to Ireland, book a local "ghost" tour. These tours are springing up all over the country, particularly in the cities. Cork City has its own Irish Ghost Family Festival each September. Don't forget to search local libraries and book shops for tales of local lore. Ask locals if they know of any hauntings nearby.
Co. Kilkenny
     There are other Irish spirits that are genealogical in nature--the banshees. A banshee, (bean-sidhe), is an ancestral female spirit who forewarns members of ancient Irish families of the impending death of a family member. Some legends claim that a banshee appears only to members of the O'Grady, O'Neill, O'Brien, O'Connor, and Kavanagh families, others add many old Irish families such as the O'Leary's and the O'Toole's. Does your family have its own bean-sidhe?
     A particularly scary banshee is featured in the Disney movie, Darby O'Gill and the Little People. (Thanks to fellow Castlecomer researcher Jack for remembering the name of the movie. I had forgotten it, maybe because I had my frightened eyes closed during the banshee scene!).
     Don't wait for Halloween--begin your search for your family spirits with the links below. Post any family ghost stories, also.
LINKS
Darby O'Gill and the Little People

05 August 2010

IF YOU ARE NOT CONFUSED YET, YOU WILL BE (MAPS AND BOUNDARIES)

     Researching US civil records is relatively easy, at least compared to Irish records. For example, think about the levels of government and administration in the USA, and envision layers of transparent maps. The top map is the outline of the whole country. LIft that map, and the states fill in the borders nicely. Lift the states, and the counties fill in the state outlines, snug as a bug in a rug (are my expressions revealing my age?). And so on with cities, towns, and townships. Nice orderly layers.
     Not so with Irish governmental and administrative districts--their boundaries do not stack neatly, no smaller unit within a larger unit. Rather, it seems that each type of district has its own boundaries, independent of any other governmental unit.
     Irish administrative boundaries reflect the turbulent politics and history of the country. Celtic, Irish, Norman, British, and Republican administrations have all made their mark and collected their records. There are the ancient Irish kingdoms, the Gaelic lordships, the baronies, the counties, the civil/Church of Ireland parishes, the cities and towns and townlands. Throw in the Poor Law Unions, and, if you are not confused yet, you are probably very good at chess, as well as genealogy!
     If you have a geographical location for your ancestors, say a county of townland, you can aid your research by learning what other divisions and districts cover that location. Some of the links posted below can help get your started. A "must have" volume for your genealogical book shelf is Brian Mitchell's A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland. Mitchell's book has the best collection of administrative maps, as well as hard to find maps such as the Presbyterian congregations.
      Make a chart listing all the districts and divisions pertinent to your ancestral location  and have it handy while researching. For example, if you know the townland, you will want to record the Poor Law Union, civil parish, county, and barony in which it is located. You should also include the Church of Ireland diocese on your chart, regardless of your ancestors' religion, in case you need certain records such as wills filed in the perogative courts. Also note the pertinent religious congregations or parishes in your chart, as well as census and modern day electoral districts. Don't forget to include any estate on which your ancestor's home might have been located.  When finished, your chart will be a one-stop resource guide for each ancestral location.
     Noting the dates that certain records were collected at a location is also a good idea. Note the year that Griffiths Valuation was done for your county, and perhaps also record the year of the Freeholders and Tithe lists. Taking the time to note the Griffith's year for each of my counties of interest has saved me quite a bit of research time and confusion.
     You might even break a brick wall by putting such a chart together because the chart will lead you to consider new record sources. For example, you might discover that estate records or Poor Law Union workhouse lists exist for your locality.
     Below are some links to help get you started on charting your way out of administrative confusion.
CONNORS GENEALOGY REGISTRAR'S DISTRICTS
ENECLANN ARTICLE ON THE "QUAGMIRE OF ADMINISTRATIVE DISTRICTS"
KIWI CELTS INTERACTIVE IRELAND MAPS
SEANRUAD'S TOWNLAND DATABASE
A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, Second Edition