24 September 2010


     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


     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.

10 September 2010


     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
     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.
Assorted Births, Deaths And Marriages from assorted Newspapers -1700's
Creagh Cemetery between Skibbereen and Baltimore in West Cork
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)
Tubrid Church, Kesh, Co. Fermanagh -Marriages 1801-1904
Ardrahan Graveyard, County Galway
Straffan Graveyard
Directory for the Year 1788 (City of Kilkenny)
Parish Church At Boher, Parish
Wicklow Parish Church, (Update)

03 September 2010


     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!