26 February 2010

POSTCRIPT TO LIBRARY ARTICLE: University and Online Libraries

Don't forget to visit the web pages of college and university libraries. Many of these libraries have digitalized many of their collections, and you can download source materials without leaving your home. Many belong to the WorldCat system described in my earlier posting today, or they will otherwise interlibrary loan materials.
 Irish family history researchers should explore the holdings and collections of some of the universities with an Irish connection or tradition. For example, Villanova University houses the McGarrity collection, which is a treasure trove for those of us whose genealogical research includes Ireland's 20th century struggle for independence (and also for Co. Tyrone researchers). I know Irish genealogy researchers who have found valuable materials at Seton Hall's library.
Don't forget, too, the vast online digital collection of Google Books. Not only can you read a book online as a pdf file, but you can search it using the find function. Under "links" below, I am linking to an example I found through Google Books of an invaluable Co. Kilkenny source, a Report on the Manuscripts of the Marquis de Ormonde.
Report on the Manuscripts of the Marquis de Ormonde
Villanova University Library
Seton Hall Library
Google Book Search


My parting words to anyone visiting Ireland is always "Visit the local libraries!" Irish libraries are where the faery folk hide all the local genealogy treasures--the church jubilee book, the county history, the local electoral maps. If you are lucky, one of the gents or ladies sitting at the table across the room is the local historian, eager to share knowledge and research tips with you.
But, I would never have thought of going to my local  library in search of Irish records. Luckily, friend of mine did--and found for me a treasure for my own research: a volume of The Illustrated Guide to the City and County of Kilkenny 1885 by P.M. Egan. The guide is a huge county directory, full of lists of names of traders, merchants, and electors.
My wise friend, Lorie Morris, is a retired librarian, and she is a whiz at finding books and records for her Irish genealogy research in libraries throughout the United States--without ever leaving the local branch of her county library. Lorie accomplishes this feat through using interlibrary loan. She has gotten books sent to her in New Jersey from as far away as Alaska using this method. Loris says,"Think of the money I saved in gas by interlibrary loaning it!"
Not going to Ireland soon?  Can't find a copy to buy online of the local history published in 1979 of your ancestors' townland? See if one of the thousands of US libraries has one!
There are search engines and catalogs that can aid your search for books throughout the US. The best known one, WorldCat,  is the one Lorie used to obtain the Kilkenny book. Many of the libraries that belong to the WorldCat System have the catalog search engine on their web page. First, search the catalog for books or materials using your Irish county, city, or townland as keywords.
Lorie describes the process she uses once she finds a book in the catalog:
"[My local branch of the county library has] a link from their page right to WorldCat so I all I had to do was put in my search term. Once I found what I wanted, I printed out the page, making sure to include the ISBN and OCLC numbers. Having them makes it easier for the librarian to identify your book. I took the printed page to the library and asked them to interlibrary loan the book."
Not all libraries belong to WorldCat, and not all will do interlibrary loan, but if you come prepared with all the information to your local library, you might persuade them to help you obtain the book. Some libraries will obtain the book for you if you agree to pay a fee covering the cost of processing and postage.
New Jersey has its own interlibrary online catalog, JerseyCat. Your state might have one, also. I am not familiar with the libraries in other countries, but I am willing to bet that if you arrive at your local library almost anywhere in the world armed with full information, money for fees, patience, and a cooperative attitude, you might just obtain that book, or the copies, you need.
Lorie adds that if the desired book is in a special non-circulation category, or if the library does not use interlibrary loan, many libraries are willing to make page copies and send them to you. Lorie also notes,
"Another good source for genealogy items is the St. Louis County, Missouri, Public Library. You may remember that in 2001 the National Genealogical Society decided to disband/disassemble their library. They donated the collection to the St. Louis County Library with the stipulation that the collection be made available for interlibrary loan."
Thanks to Lorie for sharing her library expertise with us!
NGS Collection at the St.Louis Public LIbrary
Of course, I must mention the two libraries that are US centers for international genealogy: the Family History Library run by the LDS in Salt Lake City and the Allen County Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana:
Family History Library/Family Search page
Allen County Library Genealogy Center

19 February 2010


There are quite a few websites that began as limited family homepages, but over the years have morphed into databases useful to a broad range of  Irish researchers. From time to time, I plan to feature some of these sites in this blog. This week, I am highlighting one that has helped many researchers in quite a few counties: ConnorsGenealogy (link below).
Pat Connors began ConnorsGenealogy in 2001, when she was fairly new to genealogy. Her first site was on the old Family Tree Maker website, but that site did not give Pat the freedom to expand, so she obtained her domain name and set up an independent site.
"I wanted to showcase my roots with my website," said Pat. But her site soon grew from being a personal showcase to a valuable resource for other researchers. The site expanded as Pat began to add sections for mailing lists she administered, then as she added counties to own family research.  Rather than discard records that did not deal directly with her family, Pat began to post them for the use of other researchers.
So, do not be misled by the title "ConnorsGenealogy," because we non-Connors can find valuable resources on her site. Researchers for the following counties should take a look:
Leix (Laois)
Researchers for Irish in New York State will also find information and records, as will those from Canada (Welland Co./Ontario). Interested in the English and Welsh locations of Cornwall, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and Swansea? Worth a look, too.
Pat has an excellent search engine for researchers who want to narrow their search instead of browsing through the website.
Be sure to check out the Surname Registries. Pat said, "I try to update them every other month so they are current. The job takes me almost a full week, however, I consider it one of the best services I am offering on the site."
By the way, Pat administers the site completely by herself. Volunteers do help by transcribing various records to include on the site, and she is always looking for help.
Pat offers all this information for free--she does not charge for the data, even though the costs of maintaining the site have risen in terms of time and money. In an effort to defray costs, she does present a number of advertisers on her site, but the site itself remains non-commercial.
Pat made a point which I consider to be the Golden Rule of Genealogy:
"I warn people not to use the info they find on my website as source documents for their family research. Mistakes can easily be made when doing transcribing. So, one should go back to the source document (always given) and check for themselves as to the accuracy of the data."
I want to thank Pat for taking the time to "walk through" her website with me, and for all the work she does for the genealogical community. Find her website at

15 February 2010

More on Forenames

Below is the link to a Co. Mayo site that has an excellent discussion of forename variations, including nicknames and middle names, in its FAQ section. http://www.mayoancestors.com/default.aspx?DepartmentID=12&DepartmentIndex=3

14 February 2010

Nicknames, Middle Names, Same Names--How Did the Irish Get So Many Names?

I had posted a short query on the Irish-in-Philadelphia Rootsweb mailing list (link below) last week about the Irish and their use of middle names. I was surprised at the outpouring of stories that researchers shared about researching Irish ancestors with confusing names. So, I have been "asking around" about difficulties other researchers have had with first and middle names in records and am finding a surprising number of people who have been led astray by nicknames, middle names, and fictitious names.
And, before this quest, I thought that pinning down an Irish ancestor's age was the most frustrating part of Irish research!
Naming Patterns. I have been surprised at the number of researchers who have found that their family, especially in the 1800's and earlier, did indeed follow the traditional Irish naming pattern. The first son was named after the paternal grandfather, the second after the maternal grandfather, and the third after the father (with daughters, reverse, with the first daughter named after the maternal grandmother, etc.). Various aunts' and uncles' names followed.  In families where the naming pattern did not seem to be used, I sometimes found that it was used, but that an older child had died and the name was re-used for a later-born. So, if your 1800's family did not seem to follow the pattern, be on the lookout for an older sibling who died or for a sibling that you have not yet discovered, just to leave no stone unturned.
Middle Names.  I have found that Irish families varied in their use of middle names. Every researcher I ask seems to have had a different experience with middle names. I tend to believe the use of middle names, especially in the 1800's, seems to be related to social class and economic level. The more well-off the family, the greater the tendency to give a middle name. I am excluding here those very Irish "double names" such as Mary Kate and Mary Ann that are said in one breath. Even with the double names, their use seems to increase in the latter 1800's and into the 1900's, as does the use of middle names. I tend to find more double names among the American Irish. I would be interested in hearing from others about their ancestors with "double names."
Two stories are often repeated by researchers about the middle names in their families. One is that ancestors were called by their middle names to distinguish between the members of a large family with a number of identical names.  (That tradition continued into my own generation of cousins. My family tended to assign "Big" and "Little"names, as well: my generation has Little Helen and Little Rich, while my aunts and uncles were the "Bigs." Little Rich is over six foot tall).
In the 1800's, baptismal records, both RC and Church of Ireland, in the southern counties rarely list a middle name. I have found more middle names in church records in the northern counties. Perhaps an English or Scots influence?
I have found that many of the Irish researchers I have asked have discovered that their Irish ancestor's middle name was not given at birth, but was taken as a confirmation name.
Many, many researchers have reported that priests at baptism demanded that the parents choose a middle name for a child if that child's first name was not that of a saint's. Stories abound about this practice--well into the 1950's and 60's!
Nicknames. Ahh, the Irish nickname--created by our Irish ancestors just so that they could sit up above one day and laugh as we spend years, decades even, searching for great gramma Nancy's records when Nancy's name was really Anne! And Helen was Ellen, and Ted was Edward, and Biddy was Bridget, and Dick was Richard, and Sallie was Sarah...
One word to researchers of very common surnames: in Ireland, family groups with the same surname were often given family nicknames to distinguish the branches from each other. You might have the Red Brennan's and the Black Brennan's, or the Tarlar Donaghy's, to name a few I have seen. Knowing your family's ancestral nickname, if they had one, is a crucial research tool when researching local Irish records, especially if you are researching a very common surname such as Kelly or Murphy.
Gaelic and Latin Names. Be on the lookout for Anglicized Gaelic names, especially as you go back in time and into Irish records. As you research RC church records, keep in mind that many priests, both in the US and in Ireland, wrote the names in Latin. Often, the Latin names bear no resemblance to the English or Gaelic names--Eugenio for Owen is one example.
I said it before and I will say it again, Irish research wouldn't be so much fun if it were simpler, now would it?
Irish In Philadelphia mailing list:
List of nicknames from Genealogy Today:
Irish and Gaelic names:

07 February 2010

IRISH GENEALOGY PROJECT (IGP): Bookmark it NOW, Check it often!

I have a personal pet peeve about genealogy talks and articles that list ten or so record groups that would surely break my brick walls (as if I were a less than diligent researcher and simply forgot to look for a death certificate!). You know the list--census, wills, birth/marriage/death records, etc--most likely, we researchers have already checked those sources twice, if not a hundred times (as well we should!). As I noted in a previous post, Irish research IS different. For most Irish researchers outside of the Emerald Isle, finding the county/townland of origin is the key to jumping over the pond and finding ancestors in Irish records. I have rarely found an Irish family researcher who found the townland of origin by plodding through the usual American records.
On the contrary, most of us Irish researchers are rabid for the odd list--the census substitutes, the headstone transcriptions, the newspaper abstracts. And no website is a more valuable general online resource for the Irish researcher of any skill level than the IRISH GENEALOGY PROJECT (link is posted below). Not only does it have a huge collection of the "odd lists," it is a wonderful website for the beginning researcher to explore. In my Irish basics class, I urge all beginners to explore the IGP immediately, and I remind experienced researchers to check it regularly, because the IGP content is updated constantly.
One recent update to a newspaper collection in the IGP archives (see the "Repealers List" link below) has resulted in major research breakthroughs for two researchers of whom I am aware. That is quite a quite a feat in my small pond and makes me wonder how many people around the world have made breakthroughs using the IGP.
It is hard to describe in a blog posting the huge amount of resources available on the IGP websites. My advice would be to begin exploring the county sites first, then peruse the archives. Take your time, and do not forget to bookmark pages you want to check regularly for updates.
Christina Finn Hunt, one of the website's fantastic administrators, says that the aim of the IGP is "to provide Ireland with a resource akin to the USGenWeb Archives....Of course, our main thrust is to add information coming from Irish records. There is more out there than people might think."
Recent updates to the archives include such treasures as three 1803 ship lists, Co. Donegal and Co.  Laois landowners in the 1870's, Co. Kerry marriages, plus cemetery listings in Dublin, Co. Limerick, Co. Waterford, and Co. Westmeath.  Rhode parish, Co. Offaly, baptisms are another recent addition.
Christina reminded me to alert researchers that we, too, can help the IGP to help us: "Please encourage people to contribute items from their own research. Even a record for the wrong person might help someone else. We can use things like obits from the US if they name the county or town in Ireland the person came from."
Contributing to the IGP is easy. There are submission forms on the website.
I want to thank the IGP for the work they do, and also, to thank Christina for taking the time to educate me about the IGP.
Here are the links to the IGP:
Main IGP County site: http://www.igp-web.com/
Link to the IGP archives: http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/index.htm
Link to newspapers containing lists of "Repealers" in the US who supported Daniel O'Connell's campaign for the Repeal of the Act of Union (which formed the United Kingdom): http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/ire/countrywide/news.htm

01 February 2010

AGE DISCREPANCIES: When Was Great Grand-da Really Born?

In my lectures, I often joke that I can identify an Irish family researcher by the two bald spots on the sides of his or her head--a result of pulling out hair in frustration over trying to resolve age discrepancies in the census and other records! For a long time, I thought that my ancestors' age variations were simply a Large family trait. My great-grandfather had married a much younger woman, and so I concluded that his "finding the fountain of youth" and aging backwards between 1860 and 1880 was an effort to appear to be closer in age to his wife. The other explanation could be that one of the children gave the information to the census taker, and simply presumed that ma and da were about the same age.
But most Irish family researchers I meet describe the same problem: a variation of from five to even fifteen years in age as reported in the US census.
John Grenham, in his book Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, Third Edition (Genealogical Publishing Company: 2006) (a "must-have" volume for your personal genealogical library) recommends "a large dose of scepticism is necessary" when working with dates of births, marriage, and deaths before 1900 (page 7). Grenham notes widespread discrepencies even as late as between the 1901 and 1911 Ireland census. He attributes the discrepancy not to vanity, as I had assumed with my great-grandfather, but to people in the 1800's not knowing their date of birth. I myself believe another explanation--this is a joke perpetuated by our ancestors so that they can now laugh at us from above as they watch us run in circles trying to pin down their vital statistics.
These age discrepancies can wreak havoc with your research. Many beginners in Irish research, thinking that dates must match precisely for a record to be an ancestor's, pass over non-matching records, or at the least, believe they have hit a "brick wall."  At best, encountering an age discrepancy, especially one of fifteen years, adds hours and perhaps years to one's research. After all, there is always the possibilty that the discrepancy denotes a second marriage, a child who died (with a second child given the same name), two siblings (with the same name), or another person altogether. So, I cannot advise you to ignore the different ages reported. Always be aware of these alternative possibilities when researching, and always broaden your research to include years (perhaps even a decade or longer!) before and after a reported birth, death, or marriage.
In my classes, I formerly advised students to use the baptism records as true year indicators (and perhaps even true months, since the Irish baptized very soon after birth). But a glitch in my own research put a stop to that advice. I found my Ellen Large's baptism in November of 1836 in the Roman Catholic church registers in the parish of Castleomer, Co. Kilkenny. Alerted by an old family tale of religious differences in the family, I went to the Representative Church Body Library (Church of Ireland) in Dublin last year. I found the Large children were baptized first at the Church of Ireland, then later in the RC church  (I imagine Bridget Kavanagh Large sneaking off to the RC priest with the babies when husband Richard went off to work in the mines). Ellen was first baptized in October of 1833--three years earlier than what I had recorded as her birth year. So there goes that advice out the window!
Perhaps we should lobby the makers of genealogy programs to include special multiple data boxes for the dates of our Irish ancestors' life events. I can see it now, all  of the following boxes to replace one single box for birth date: "baptism date" "alternate baptism date" "birth date from 1870 census" "birthdate from 1880 census" "birth date from death certificate" "birthdate from the family Bible" and so on.
Isn't Irish family research fun? Never a boring moment. Love it!