27 December 2011


     I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions, mostly because I am not one for keeping them well. I do have one major resolution that I intend to keep this year, and that is to create and publish a book of my Irish family history. I've been waiting to find the location in Ireland for my Magee and Maguire ancestors, but I realize that research is never ending, and at some point a published book will at least preserve my family history to date. I am always telling my audiences at my presentations not to put off that trip to Ireland or that family history project, so it is about time I take my own advice. So, this year, I am announcing my genealogical resolution publicly, so that I have witnesses to ensure I get my project done!
      Happy New Year!
 I wish for major family history discoveries for all of us in 2012!
     Even though it is the busy holiday season, the folks at the Ireland Genealogy Projects have continued their valuable work putting free Irish records online. Below are their most recent updates.
DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Glasnevin - Part 9
FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Church
Derryvullan (CoI) Births 1878-1916 (Tirkennedy, Enniskillen)
LIMERICK Genealogy Archives - Obituaries
Assorted Obituaries
LIMERICK Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary
LONDONDERRY/DERRY, Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary
LONGFORD Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary
LOUTH Genealogy Archives
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary
MAYO Genealogy Archives - Land Records
Encumbered Estate property of CHARLES BLAKE, Esq.(Coolcon and Garrymore) 1852
Encumbered Estate property of CHARLES BLAKE, Esq.(Carraskeane) 1852
Encumbered Estate property of CHARLES BLAKE, Esq.1852.(Clonkeen,
Curramore, Ballyglass, Knockanroe, Ballinphuil & Gortnanning)
OFFALY (Kings) Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary

22 December 2011


     One of the most fascinating ancestor mysteries I have found is that of fellow researcher Rosemarie, whose grandfather Patrick Kearney left poems as his legacy. According to family lore, Patrick was born in the mid or late 1860's in County Kilkenny. He settled in Philadelphia by 1893, where he later married Delia Robinson from Co. Mayo. However, Rosemarie cannot trace his roots back to Kilkenny. We have been reading through Patrick's poems for clues as to his boyhood home.
     On such poem is his Christmas poem. I am reprinting it below as a tribute to all our ancestors, at Christmas time and throughout the year.  If any readers have any idea what church in Ireland (perhaps in Kilkenny?) is described in the poem, please contact me!
by Patrick Kearney

Christmas comes but once a year,
   It brings us peace and joy and cheer.
It rouses memories long since asleep
   Of scenes and friends far across the deep.
Scenes more glorious than any artist paints,
   Of the hills and valleys of our Isle of Saints
As a child, I remember the first Christmas morn
   That I head the story of how Our Lord was born.

I searched the house, as in a dream,
   The floor was swept , all things were clean.
I still can feel the glowing heat
   Cast by the fire of bog, deal and peat.
Outside 'twas dark and the clouds hung low,
   But it looked like Christmas, with so much snow
As we trudged along 'oer the country road
   Our hearts were weighed with a joyous load.

Merry Christmas to all, as each neighbor pass,
   The goal ahead was that early Mass.
They knew peace was there and good will toward men
   As when pronounced by the Angels at Bethlehem,
The Franciscan Church we now can see.
   In veneration we called it the Friary.
As I entered its portals I was too thrilled to pray
   As I gazed on the crib built by Father Day.

A more able pen than mine would fail
   To describe the scene at the Altar rail.
The stable was there true to life
    O'er which the Star of Bethlehem cast its luminous light.
The walls, the manger and the thatched roof
   And the floor were kicked the ass's hoof.
Water came bubbling, slow at first
   To cool and quench the Blessed Mother's thirst...

Oh! She looked so queenly, and yet so mild
   As she gazed upon our God, her Child.
As it's her dearest wish to be called our Mother,
   In all humility we can call Him brother.
I thought St. Joseph looked so sad,
   Oh! If I could cheer him wouldn't I be glad.
But I'm sure all his joy was kept within
   For that's characteristic of all great like him.

I looked in wonder at the rushing stream
Of water brought forth for our Heavenly
I had heard how water once flowed from a
By the power of God through Aaron's
And here was Our Lord in His first hour
   Performing a miracle of equal power.
Though there was no room for them at the Inn
   He proved that the world belonged to Him.

I suppose Christmas in Ireland will be always
      the same,
   They celebrate in spirit as well as name.
They're always reminded of their glorious past
   When religious persecution made them hold more fast
To the ancient Faith which naught could sever.
   Like it's Divine Founder it will go on for ever.
   I think I hear you say, 'he forgot the cow'
    Well, no, she was in the crib, so I must leave
      you now.
--Patrick Kearney

19 December 2011


     Time is short this week, I know, but technology can help you create last minute gifts of family history quickly. Some ideas from fellow researchers:
  • ancestor charts (the perennial favorite): Print out a family tree and frame it or have it laminated.
  • old photographs: Time to share those old family photos! Make a collage of old photos or frame one or two special ancestors. Or, scan and copy your entire photo collection.
  • family records:  Have you found records that other relatives might appreciate possessing? For example, records of a cousin's parent? Make a gift of the records (don't forget to make yourself a copy first). You can create a binder for them in no time at all, or place them in a nice memento box if you are short on time. Not only will you be creating a gift, you will help to preserve family records by distributing them.
  • DVD's: If you are handy with video programs, make a short DVD from old family videos. Videos of family Christmas gatherings are especially appreciated during the holidays.
  • recipes: Are you the keeper of grandmom's secret recipe box? Time to share! Create a family recipe box or make a quick recipe binder.
  • gifts for the genealogy buff (or that person you want to infect with family history fever): Give a gift subscription for an online database or pay for a DNA analysis.
  • newspaper articles: Create a gift of newspaper articles for a relevant date, such as a person's date of birth.
     Many of these gifts can be assembled quickly in a three ring binder if you are short on time and funds. Or, place them in a memory box or treasure chest. With gifts of family history, it's the thought--or record--that counts!

13 December 2011


     Not finding an ancestor's records? There are many reasons why a life event might not be recorded, and these reasons might have been "hushed up" by the family. Your ancestors were human, and they might have done scandalous, illegal, or immoral things in their lives. If there is a problem with addiction or mental illness among their living descendants, you should consider the possibility that your ancestors coped with these problems in their lives, also. Don't forget that many illnesses and behaviors that carried a stigma or were illegal in past times may not be considered as scandalous today.
     I have met researchers who become upset or embarrassed when I have raised the possibility of an out of wedlock birth in their tree or an ancestor who abandoned the family. These emotional reactions can create brick walls in our research. Don't allow your sensibilities to cloud your research!

  •       Birth out of wedlock/kidnapping/abandonment. Consider these possibilities if name and age discrepancies occur in a family and cannot be easily explained. 
   I've seen family trees where a "sister" was in fact a child of a sibling, and the "mother" a grandmother or aunt.
     I have heard of two instances in which a child was kidnapped by another relative or family friend when the child's mother died in childbirth (yes, kidnapped--taken right out of the cradle without the father's permission or knowledge!).
     I have researched a case in which some but not all of the children were placed in an orphanage by parents who were struggling financially.
     I have encountered a case in which the researcher assumed that a young woman and small child with the same surname as the household was a daughter in law. However, the young woman turned out to be a daughter who was a single mother and gave her child the family surname instead of that of the birth father.
  • Suicide. In the past in some churches, a victim of suicide could not be buried in church yard or consecrated grounds. In those cases, no record was kept by the church of the burial or death.
  • Bigamy. I have seen family trees containing men with two simultaneous families (and they were not early Mormons, either).
  • Desertion. I have had quite a few researchers tell me about their ancestor who was hard to find because the ancestor deserted the family.
  • Criminal/victim. I have spoken to researchers whose ancestors were murderers, and others whose ancestors were victims of murder. Usually, a researcher is "lucky" in both cases, because there are news reports and coroners' inquests that leave a paper trail. However, the families often covered up the story.
  •  Illness. Both mental and physical illnesses or conditions were often covered up by families.
  •  Name changes/ Family strife. Even today, I know individuals who have changed their names after an estrangement with their family or other life circumstance (such as a religious conversion). Many of us have encountered name changes in our family tree. There is often a story underlying the name change. The change was not always made by some "Ellis Island official," as the popular myth goes. On the contrary, I've read that the immigration officials were rather careful about the immigrants' names. Most name changes were done by immigrants after they settled in their new land--and often families were divided on the change.
     These hushed-up stories are often the mortar in our genealogical brick walls. If an ancestor seems to be a mystery, perhaps he or she was, in fact, involved in one!

08 December 2011


     I have been following the Ireland XO (Ireland Reaches Out) initiative on this blog. This project aims to trace those persons who emigrated from Irish parishes, thereby meeting halfway, in effect, the descendants of the Irish Diaspora who are tracing their ancestors back to Ireland. The number of Irish parishes taking part in the project has grown over the past year. Now the project is reaching out to family historians by providing online resources and bulletin boards. The online site is currently a "beta" version, but holds much promise as a prime resource for online Irish genealogy research. Check out the new features via the link below:


     If your ancestor is one of the 1.1 million people buried in Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery, you are in luck. The Glasnevin Trust has placed the cemetery records online, as well as those for Dardistown, Goldenbridge, Newlands Cross, and Palmerstown. Altogether, there are records dating back to 1828 for 1.5 million people. The Trust has been working for 20 years to make this project a reality. Another boon for Irish family historians!

05 December 2011


     Beginning in January, I will also be writing a monthly piece for the Certificate of Irish Heritage website. (Won't be getting paid, so this is not a commercial announcement! Just pleased to be able to reach a wider audience with my posts). Today, they are featuring a short piece I wrote about our ancestors' calling to us across the ages. I hope you enjoy it!
ARTICLE: HANDS CLASPED ACROSS TIME article on Certificate of Irish Heritage site

At Peggy Lagan's cottage, Innishatieve, Co. Tyrone 1995


DONEGAL Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
KERRY Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary Records
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
KILKENNY Genealogy Archives - Military
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
KILDARE Genealogy Archives - Military
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Military Records
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
TIPPERARY Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Aglish & Gortnahoe Headstones
TIPPERARY Genealogy Archives - Photos
Twomileborris Cemetery Photo
WESTMEATH Genealogy Archives - Land
William Hankinson's Ledger Fearmore Townland, 1852-1884
WESTMEATH Genealogy Archives - Bible
John & Bridge Coughlin Bible (from Moat)
WICKLOW Headstone Index
Glenealy Parish Church Cemetery (additional headstones)

02 December 2011


     Because of the hectic nature of the winter holidays, family history research is often pushed aside. Shopping, decorating, wrapping, cooking and church services take center stage in our lives in the month of December. But, for many families, Christmas is the only time of the year that family members come together en masse. Don't lose the chance to steer the conversation towards reminiscing. Recalling family memories together is not only a bonding experience, but could lead to family history discoveries.
     You might consider making a game night out of the experience. In October, I had the pleasure of meeting Carol and Mary Jane McPhee at a Toronto book festival. The two sisters have created a game called "LifeTimes: The Game of Reminiscence." The game consists of 125 cards with vintage photos and 500 "Remember?" prompts that invite storytelling and conversation. Currently, the game comes in a 1950's edition, and I am hoping the sisters expand it into other decades (although perhaps many of us will want the 60's kept secret!). Most  of the prompts can be used for other time periods, as well, so even if you want to explore other decades, you can do it fairly well with the 50's set.
     Each card has a general theme for the prompts. For example, the card that contains the saying "Be home when the street lights come on" has the following prompts: "What was your family's signal for bringing the kids in?" "Try and recall a game played by the children in your neighborhood," and "What were some fears parents had for their children? Are these fears different today?"
     Carol and Mary Jane created the game to help their mother with memory loss. They wanted to develop a "positive tool" to get their mother "more relaxed and to a happy place." They soon found that the game resonated not only with their mother and other elderly persons, but with their friends and even younger generations.
     I can envision so many ways a family historian can use these cards. They are excellent writing prompts for anyone writing their memoirs or personal essays. They are also great memory jogging tools. I have often found myself stymied when interviewing family members for movies or oral histories. Some relatives close up like clams, and the questions on these cards are sure to pry some interesting stories out of them. I like reading over some of the cards in private and losing myself down memory lane.
     The game is available to order online, and can be shipped to Canada and the USA.

(Disclaimer: I am not associated in any way with LifeTimes or the McPhee sisters, nor have I received any payment or reward for this review).

28 November 2011


     Findmypast Ireland is an online database of Irish vital and genealogical records. It is not a free service, but has subscription plans and pay-as-you go options. In November, Findmypast Ireland introduced a free family tree builder (registration required). I have been "playing around" with the program and offer these observations:
1. I know many, many family history researchers, even very advanced genealogists, who keep paper records only and  do not have their family history data on a computer program or online. Since I have used genealogy software programs since they first appeared, I consider genealogy tree building programs indispensable. Using genealogy programs is easiest in the early stages of one's research, so I would advise beginning family historians to use a program in conjunction with their paper files from the start.
2. The simplicity of the Findmypast Ireland family tree builder is both a strength and a drawback. The "bells and whistles" on many of the programs today make my head spin. I find most genealogy programs today to be almost unnavigable. The Findmypast family tree builder is so simple, I don't think it will scare away beginners. If you are looking for a free, simple way to record your family data, their builder is a nice way to begin. The format is easy and uncluttered, and the learning curve for using the builder is almost zero.
     The simplicity is also its main drawback. While I like the clean interface and the lack of daunting controls and formats, I would like to see a bit more attention paid to fields for source citations. I don't see a way to upload a GEDCOM file to the builder. I believe I will have to type in my names and data one-by-one. This task might be too daunting for those of us who have been collecting family history for a long time.
     Findmypast Ireland promises to expand the capabilities of the program. I hope when they do so, they can find a way to keep the interface simple and easy to master. I would hate to see such an easy to use program become a quagmire like many of the other programs.
3. Your tree will be available to you online. It is not a program that is downloadable to your own computer.
4. I don't see privacy safeguards. Please consider privacy considerations before entering the name of or data for any living person.
5. So, if you are a beginner looking for an easy way to begin recording your Irish family tree online, I would advise looking into this builder. It might work for intermediate researchers also who don't mind taking the time to fill in the data fields.  I don't think I myself will have the patience to take the time to fill in the data for all my ancestors I intend to monitor the site as it expands its capabilities to see if the builder becomes one I can use.
(Disclaimer: I am not associated with findmypast Ireland nor have I received any compensation for this review. The comments above are mine and are based on my experiences using the Findmypast Ireland family tree builder.).

23 November 2011


     "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?"
 Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
     I never realized I would miss Thanksgiving so much. I knew I couldn't spend the Christmas holidays away from my family, but I thought I could easily stay in Canada for Thanksgiving and save the travel headaches and airfare. After all, the day would be like every other workday here in Toronto, and I would not feel as though I was missing anything.
     I was wrong. I am missing it already, and it is only Wednesday.
     I thought buying a turkey and pumpkin pie would suffice, but I was wrong..
     People outside the United States, I have found, don't quite "get" the significance of Thanksgiving in the States. They understand only that it is another holiday with a big dinner, or that the day is a prelude to Black Friday shopping. I don't think I myself "got' it until this week, when I realized that, while I will have my turkey dinner and pumpkin pie, I will not have my family with me, and I will not be in South Jersey. I won't have my roots, neither personal or geographic.
     Thanksgiving is all about roots. Americans hunger for roots, perhaps because we are immigrants and descendants of immigrants, descendants of go-west-young-man-ers and climb-up-the-social-ladder-ers. We, personally or ancestrally, at one time pulled up our roots and stepped into the world, looking to reinvent ourselves or lose our pasts or follow opportunity. Ahh, but those roots regenerate--either in our hearts or in the hearts of our descendants.
     Americans will travel great distances and go through tremendous difficulties in order to be with certain people or be in a certain place on Thanksgiving. They will wait hours in airports and will inch along gridlocked interstates. They will spend thousands on airfare and travel expenses. Many will reach out to strangers to share a human touch on this day. They will do all this even though they know Aunt Sue will make them wince at least once, Grandpa will snore in the armchair, and their bratty nephew will kick the chair legs and tease his sister throughout dinner.They are not spending all that time and money and patience and emotion simply to eat dry turkey and catch a few televised football games.
     It's all about the need to go back, to touch base, to feel roots.
     Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

22 November 2011


   There has been lots of  buzz in the American genealogy community lately about new rules regarding the U.S. Social Security SS-5 applications. Researchers who have ordered the applications in the past few months have received their copies with the parents' names redacted.
   Researchers are upset about this redaction, with good reason. I have learned more from the U.S. Social Security SS-5 applications than perhaps any other record. Social Security applications have broken right through three of my research brick walls. Not only have I obtained birth dates, places of origin, and addresses from the applications, but, most importantly, I have gained a step on the genealogy ladder by learning the names of the applicants' parents.
     To obtain the parents' names, the rules now require "acceptable proof of death for a number holder who is at least 100 years of age" or "the number holder exceeds 120 years of age." I am reprinting the relevant Social Security statement below. This statement lists the documents that are "acceptable proof."
     The names of the parents can also be obtained if you submit acceptable proof of death of the parents.
    Well, these rules certainly create one more unnecessary "Catch-22" for family history researchers. I would never have been able to trace at least three of my ancestral lines back to Ireland and Poland had I not been given the names of my ancestors' parents on the SS-5 applications.
     I could rant on for pages, but will simply say that this is another overly broad use of the excuse of "privacy" concerns on the part of the government.
     Below is the relevant language and also the link to the source.

"Our current policy does not allow us to release (the mother’s, the father’s, the parents’) name(s) without proof of (his, her, their) death unless we have acceptable proof of death for a number holder who is at least 100 years of age, or the number holder exceeds 120 years of age. Acceptable proofs of death include:

  • a certified copy of a public record of death of the number holder; or
  • a statement of death by the funeral director; or
  • a statement of death by the attending physician or the superintendent, physician, or intern of the institution where the person died; or
  • a certified copy of the coroner’s report of death or the verdict of the coroner’s jury; or
  • a certified copy of an official report of death or finding of death made by an agency or department of the U.S. which is authorized or required to make such a report or finding in the administration of any law of the U.S.; .  .  .
. . . If you can provide acceptable proof of death for ###’s (mother, father, parents, as appropriate), we can release the withheld information to you. The proof of death for the parent(s) must contain enough information for us to determine that the proof of death refers to the same individual(s) shown on the requested SS-5."

18 November 2011


     I am reprinting below a press release from the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IRGS) concerning a proposed merger of the National Archives into the National Library. When I read this release, I was amazed at how something such as a merger between two record-keeping entities could have a profound effect on genealogy research. I admit that sometimes I don't pay enough attention to news about institutional and government matters, but I have been trying to educate myself better in this regard because, over time, I have realized that these matters eventually affect my research and my access to records. 
From the IGRS:     
Archive and library reform moves worry genealogists
The Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS) is concerned that a so-called merger of the National Archives “into” the National Library could diminish these vital heritage services.
Steven Smyrl, IGRS chairman, says that while the IGRS recognises the need for savings across the board in Irish public services, it is concerned that with two bodies under one director, competition for resources could be fierce.
“The proposed area of control is simply too vast, whether or not, as the Government proposes, both institutions are to retain their separate identities. The Government’s plan is further complicated by reference to the possible sharing of services between the National Library and the National Museum which could dilute the services still further.”
Smyrl acknowledges that there are savings to be made through the pooling of public services resources. “Conservation and administration are just two such areas that immediately spring to mind, but while libraries and museums might appear to be similar they are actually very different service providers.
 “Staff trained in the care and control of archive materials require quite different skills to those working in a library and economies of scale will not be found by requiring flexibility from staff to work across borders in the proposed new set-up. It is crucial that specialist knowledge and training be recognised as essential in service delivery at national institutions. The historians, academics, researchers and genealogists using them rely heavily upon the staff’s expertise and knowledge.
“The IGRS welcomes the Government’s initiative to see where savings can be made but advises caution if irreparable damage to public service is to be avoided.“


     I can barely keep up with all the news in the world of Irish genealogy these days! Here are the latest additions to the Ireland Genealogy Projects Archive:
Antrim Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary

Armagh Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary

Carlow Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary

Cork Genealogy Archives
Cork 1842 Royal Irish Constabulary

Clare Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary

Cavan Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1842 Royal Irish Constabulary

Dublin Genealogy Archives - Headstones - Glasnevin,
Glasnevin Part 8

Galway Genealogy Archives - Land
Encumbered Estate property of CHARLES BLAKE, Esq. (Tonroe) 1852

Mayo Genealogy Archives - Land
Encumbered Estate property of CHARLES BLAKE, Esq. (Tourard,
Killeenrevagh, Gortskehy) 1852

Monaghan Genealogy Archives - Headstones.
First Presbyterian Church, Ballybay

Roscommon Genealogy Archives - Cemetery Records
Walsh Family, old churchyard, Drum, Athlone

Tipperary Genealogy Archives - Miscellaneous Records
Pawnbrokers 1827- 1837

Tipperary Genealogy Archives - Photos
Monsea Cemetery & Church Ruins

Tipperary Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Moycarkey Graveyard (5 images)
Patrick Collins, Davy Thomas, Jeremiah Gleeson - (single headstones)

Wexford Genealogy Archives - Headstones.
Gorey; Christ Church Graveyard (Church of Ireland)

Wexford Genealogy Archives - Directories
New Ross & Wexford 1820-1822 Directories

Wexford Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

Wicklow Genealogy Archives - Military
Wicklow 1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

15 November 2011


     With today's technology, it is not too late to begin to create holiday gifts of family history. There are quite a few projects that can help you preserve your family history, create an heirloom, or share family memories. Family history gifts usually generate hours and perhaps days of discussions and memories. I am listing just a few ideas for holiday gifts I have gathered from my fellow family historians.
1) Genealogy charts and reports, naturally.
2) Family history books and scrapbooks. There are a variety of publishers online who do a beautiful job of producing top quality photo and text books. The programs have become simpler to use, and you can create your family photo or text book quicker than you would think possible. If funds are tight, you can take your family history to a local office supply store and copy and bind your pages there.
3) Sharing photographs. One gift that is usually a big hit is a gift of photographs. In many families, one or two members seems to have inherited the bulk of the family photographs. If you are that lucky person, consider sharing those photographs--nowadays you don't have to part with them to do so! There are so many ways to share old photographs today. In an afternoon or two, you can scan and upload those old photos to a photo book publisher and have them bound into a book or made into physical photos for you. Many of these photo publishers, such as Blurb and Shutterfly, have ideas on their websites for other gifts you can create, such a calendars and notebooks. Besides sharing a precious family history resource, your gift will help to ensure that future generations will view and appreciate the old photographs.
4) Create a family crest or coat of arms. I know a few family historians who have created family crests or coats of arms, then placed those creations on gifts such as mugs or shirts or plaques.Some of these creations that are touching stories in themselves, incorporating symbols of family history and unity.
5) Needlepoint, painting, and other arts and crafts. My imagination is perhaps too limited to list all the ways the family history can be incorporated into crafts and art.
6) Movies and videos and DVDs. Many people have given up attempting to transfer the old family movies and VHS tapes into current technology, and families will lose precious memories as a result. Getting these memories into digital form is a wonderful gift. Better yet, if you can learn to edit video (and it is much easier than you would think), create a family history DVD complete with commentary and information. I've found that many family members whose eyes glaze over when I roll out my ancestor charts will play a family history DVD over and over.
     I am sure I am missing many great gift ideas and would love to hear from readers who have created family history gifts of their own.

(Disclaimer: I have not received any payment, gift, or benefit of any kind for mentioning any companies or commercial Internet sites in this post. I have mentioned any such companies only because I have used their services myself).

10 November 2011


     Online Irish genealogy is so busy nowadays, I am finding it  hard to leave the computer! Another video lecture  from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and updates to the Irish Genealogical Projects'  (IGP) databases are the news of the day.
     PRONI announced yesterday that another Exploring Local History lecture is now available on their new You Tube channel series. This lecture, "Poverty," by Olwen Purdue, should not be missed, especially by those who are researching Board of Guardian sources.  The link to the video: PRONI VIDEO ON POVERTY
GENERAL IRELAND Genealogy Archives
Assorted Indentures: Crawford & Rowley, Peacock & Lloyd, Taylor & Nixon

CAVAN Ireland Genealogy Archives
Drumgoon Cemetery (partial only)

DUBLIN Genealogy Archives
1861-1862 Banns from St. Thomas

GALWAY Genealogy Archives - Land
Encumbered Estate Property of James CUFF (Ballinamana) 1851
Encumbered Estate Property of James CUFF (Escar) 1851

GALWAY Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
Galway 1845 17K Oct 2011 Richard Leonard Royal Irish

LAOIS Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
Queens - 1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

LEITRIM Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

LONGFORD Genealogy Archives - Church Records
Granard Baptisms 1881 (1 page only)

LONGFORD Genealogy Archives - Headstone Photos
Newtowncashel R.C. Headstones (partial)

LOUTH Genealogy Archives - Headstone Photos
Melifont Abbey (views)

LOUTH Genealogy Archives
Louth 1845 4K Oct 2011 Richard Leonard Royal Irish Constabulary

MAYO Genealogy Archives
Ballina, Ardnaree Friary (5 images)

MAYO Genealogy Archives - Land Records
Encumbered Estate of James CUFF, Esq. (Crowhill, Castlepark,
Oldcastle, Upper & Lower Shanwar) 1851

MAYO Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
Mayo 1845 Leonard Royal Irish Constabulary

MEATH Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

MONAGHAN Genealogy Archives - Military
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

MONAGHAN Genealogy Archives - Headstones.
Ballybay, 2nd Presbyterian

ROSCOMMON Genealogy Archives - Headstones.
Killeenan Headstones

ROSCOMMON Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

SLIGO Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

TIPPERARY Genealogy Archives - Military
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

TYRONE Genealogy Archives - Military
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

WESTMEATH Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary Records
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary

07 November 2011


     Family historians have recognized the potential for Internet networking since back in the day when Al Gore invented the Internet. We began reaching out to each other in the early web communities, especially after Internet services such as AOL began offering genealogy bulletin boards and chat rooms. Groups such as Rootsweb and Genweb began to concentrate on getting databases online and on bringing groups of genealogists together. Genealogy web pages began to link up via "web circles," enabling researchers surfing for information to click and skip from one genealogy web site to another. Bulletin boards turned into mailing lists, widening the number of email contacts for researchers. Google and Yahoo groups with specific genealogy interests became abundant and full of fellow researchers ready to connect and share (and commiserate about their brick walls!).
     The natural progression of the family history community has now infiltrated online social networks. Actually, I am a bit surprised that it has taken this long for the genealogical community to become social network savvy. The past year or so has seen a huge increase in the presence of Irish genealogical groups, institutions, and researchers on social sites such as Facebook and Google+.  I've also seen an explosion of people in the genealogy community linking together via the social/business network LinkedIn.
     What has changed for me in using these networks is the amount of information I am getting from these connections. My Facebook newsfeed is now a virtual Irish genealogy newsletter. I can hardly keep up with the volumes of information being placed on Facebook pages by organizations such as the Irish Genealogical Society and the National Library of Ireland. In the past few months, Facebook has become my "go-to" source for Irish genealogy news.
     In fact, the amount of news has become so overwhelming, I am trying to figure out ways to prevent it from crowding out the news from friends and family. From what I know of Google+, the "circle" idea seems like a great solution. There are already many genealogy "circles" floating in the Google+ world.
     LinkedIn is a networking site with a more professional direction. I've been able to keep up with the world of professional genealogy via its groups.
    These networks can be valuable for research purposes also.  I have heard many stories of cousins and long lost relatives connecting via Facebook. Many Facebook users conduct searches for families using surnames and communities as keywords for their "friends" searches.
     A cousin of mine in Poland found me using that route, and I have been able to connect to distant cousins in my Irish tree and in my husband's Jewish family via Facebook. . I have also been able to "friend" fellow researchers and keep current on their lives and research. I would estimate that half my Facebook use is now genealogy related. Especially in Irish family research, personal connections are very important, so don't dismiss online social network as simply a way to display photos and announce your whereabouts. Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and other social network sites can become serious family history research tools.
These links are to Facebook pages. If you are not a registered Facebook user, you may not be able to retrieve the page. Be sure to be signed into your Facebook account to access these links. "Like" the page or "Join" the group to receive their posts in your newsfeed.

03 November 2011


    Disappointing news was announced this week for all of us who have been monitoring the events at the Duffy's Cut "dig," near Immaculata, Pennsylvania. While the massive grave of Irish immigrant railroad workers, some murdered and others perhaps dead of cholera, is nearer to being uncovered, the proximity of the bodies' remains to current Amtrak tracks will prevent the team of researchers from digging any further. The goal of the team to give the men a proper burial in Ireland will go unrealized. Thus, the tragedy of these 57 hard-working men continues to this day.
     In 1832, these men, mostly from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry, signed on to help build America's railroads soon after they arrived in Philadelphia. In their short time in America, they put in long days in harsh conditions for little compensation. Suddenly, all were dead, supposedly of cholera. Their bodies were quickly buried at the worksite. About ten years ago, two brothers (and historians), Frank and Bill Watson, set out to prove their theory that many of these men were murdered. Anti-Irish, anti-immigrant sentiment was high in the Philadelphia area at that time.  They have since uncovered evidence of murder in the artifacts and bones that have been unearthed. Of particular interest to Irish family historians, the project has been working toward identifying the men and tracing their family connections to Ireland (see my previous post on the subject via the link below).
     I have been informed by some family researchers that a mass grave of Irish immigrant railroad workers also exists in McLean County, Illinois. Near the railroad tracks in Funk's Grove, a six foot tall Celtic cross marks the ground where over 50 Irish men died in 1852. Like the men of Duffy's Cut, these men supposedly died of cholera. But, some historians argue that cholera was not present in the county at that time--another mystery, another Irish American tragedy.
     I wonder how many Irish men are buried along our railroad tracks? How many Irish Americans have no idea that their ancestors are lying beneath the rails on which they travel?

01 November 2011


     The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), in conjunction with Open University Ireland (OUI) has launched a new YouTube channel PRONIonline. The first video series is on the topic of  "Exploring Local History." How wonderful that Irish family historians around the world can now attend PRONI lectures, and for free!

31 October 2011


     Since Halloween is rooted in ancient Celtic traditions, I wanted to wish all Irish family historians a frightfully happy Halloween! If you want to learn more about how our ancestors celebrated Shamhna, also known as Samhain, simply use some of the following words in your favorite Internet search engine: Halloween, Irish, Celtic, Hallow's Eve, Samhain, Shamhna. Also, the Irish American Magazine has an excellent article by Edythe Preet on the ancient roots of the holiday (link below).     I cannot find a photo of an Irish ancestor in Halloween garb, but I do have one of my Polish babcia (grandmother). So, in honor of all our ancestors everywhere who enjoyed the frights of Halloween night, I am posting it below.
     P.S. Please send any Cadbury Flakes you might find in your Halloween sacks for me. Thank you.
Sophie Jakubowski Burdalski about 1940

28 October 2011


     My Certificate of Irish Heritage arrived this week. I love it! As my Derry "daughter" Caitriona would say, "It's brilliant!"  I'll be honest, I did not expect much, and the certificate and framing exceeded my expectations. The framing is excellent, I would highly recommend ordering a frame with the certificate. The price was very reasonable, and I probably could not have gotten a better framing job in the States for the price. My husband now wants a certificate, and he isn't even Irish (well, he IS an honorary Irishman. Hmm, maybe the Irish government should look into giving Honorary Certs.).
     I put the certificate in my study across from my desk so that it encourages me in my Irish family history research.  Instead of blathering on, I will let my readers see for themselves. The links to the site and to my other posts about the Certificate are below the photos.

I chose to honor Richard Large, my great grandfather, because I have his baptism record from the  St. Mary Church of Ireland in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny. I also honored Peggy Reilly, whose poignant 1847 letter from Innishatieve, County Tyrone, set me on my journey to uncover my family history. I thought these two ancestors together told the story of my family roots: South and North, Protestant and Catholic, male and female, miner and farmer. Although they aren't the "oldest" ancestors on my tree, their two stories fueled my love of Irish genealogy.


25 October 2011


    What will happen on April 2, 2012? If you are a family historian doing US research, that date is circled in red on your calendar. That is the date when the Internet will crash because every genealogy researcher in the US will log onto the National Archives (NARA) to search the newly released 1940 census!
     When the census is released on April 2nd, the digital copy will be viewable, free of charge, on personal computers or at NARA public access computers.
     Not every researcher will be prepared to search the census. The 1940 census will be placed online by NARA, but it will not be searchable by variables such as names. If you are like me, you are so accustomed to searching the census online by surname that you have almost forgotten those squinty-eyed days of scanning reels of microfilms to find your ancestors in pages of street-by-street listings. While our computers will replace the dark rooms and microfilm readers, if we want to find our 1940 ancestors in a somewhat efficient manner online, we will need at least three important pieces of information: name, address, and enumeration district number (ED).
     Researchers would be wise to begin collecting 1940 addresses now. Ask relatives for house numbers, street names, or, at least, neighborhood names. Go to local historical societies, libraries, and online genealogy databases to find 1940 city directories.The NARA site (link provided below) suggests additional sources of addresses: draft records, naturalization records, and the 1930 census (if your relatives did not change residences).
     Once you have an address, you can obtain the ED number through NARA maps and resources online. Another useful site is Steve Morse's One Step page on the 1940 census. Steve Morse has a short, informative tutorial on his One Step site that can help you prepare to search the 1940 ceneus. Links to these handy sites are below.
     I once found my grandmother's family in the 1915 NJ state census by beginning on page 1 and scanning each page. This feat (on a microfilm reader back in the days before Al Gore invented the Internet)  took me two days and cost me a migraine. I will be better prepared with addresses and ED numbers in April!

20 October 2011


     Sue, a fellow family historian, has been on the trail of her ancestor Osceola Powell for years. Osceola is her "brick wall," and Sue's research has taken her down interesting genealogical trails. She suspects that her Osceola might have a connection with the Seminole leader Osceola, also known as Billy Powell.

Signature of Osceola Powell, Sue's ancestor

      Last week, Sue decided that it was time to commemorate her ancestor. She also decided to do it in a way that would "shake things up" and allow her to "strike out in an unexpected direction." So, how did she decide to honor her ancestor? A light bulb clicked on in Sue's mind after she read a news story about young parents' getting tattoos with the names of their children. Hmmmm, Sue had Osceola's signature on his daughter's birth registry. What to do with that signature?
  Genealogy + creativity + skin + ink ( + a little bit of pain) resulted in....
Yep! It's permanent!

     I have relatives and friends with tattoos of the Irish flag and the Celtic cross. Why not an ancestor's name or likeness? Maybe a coat of arms, official or self-created? I think Sue is onto a new trend in genealogy.Can you imagine--tattoo booths at all the major conventions?

17 October 2011


     Time again to report that more FREE records have been placed online by the volunteers at the Irish Genealogy Projects (IGP). But first, I want to make a point about the Royal Irish Constabulary records collection that the IGP has been so diligently transcribing.
     That most pre-Famine Irish "stayed put" in their general localities has become a bit of a truism in Irish genealogy. Many of us do find that, once we discover an ancestor's townland or parish, we can trace the family back several generations in the same place. However, those researchers who discover a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) among their ancestors often have an added problem. Because of the resentment displayed in many areas of Ireland toward the men who entered this service, and due to concerns over policing the populace, the practice was to station the men in a location far away from home. Sometimes, the rest of the family shunned the RIC man and stayed in their home location, but many times family members followed the RIC man to a new location and new life.
     For a good fiction book on the subject of the dislocation, both emotional and geographic, of an RIC man, read Sebastian Barry's acclaimed novel, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty.
     Luckily, records of the RIC do exist, and having the IGP place these online is a tremendous help to researchers. This month, the IGP has added more RIC records to its online databases. Other record groups have been added as well.
DERRY/LONDONDERRY Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary records
DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Glasnevin Part 7
FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Church
Irvinestown & Pettigoe; Births at Irvinestown & Pettigoe Presbyterian Church
KERRY Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary Records
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary records
KILDARE Genealogy Archives - Military
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary records
KILKENNY Genealogy Archives - Military
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary records
LEITRIM Genealogy Archives
Dromahaire, St. Patrick's Church of Ireland Cemetery
LIMERICK Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary records
LONGFORD Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary records
MONAGHAN Genealogy Archives - Headstones.
Ballybay, 2nd Presbyterian
OFFALY (Kings) Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1845 Royal Irish Constabulary records

14 October 2011


     I posted earlier this year on the new Ireland Reaching Out program. This initiative aims to identify, by parish, those persons who left Ireland, then to trace their descendants. Envision the hand of Irish genealogy reaching out from Ireland to grasp the hands of Irish family historians working around the world, and you can picture "Ireland Reaching Out." The program, also known as IrelandXO, began with participating parishes in Co. Galway. In June, IrelandXO, together with these parishes, held a Week of Welcomes for descendants and family historians, complete with tours and genealogical assistance.
     The Week of Welcomes was a success, and the program continues to grow. A meeting was scheduled for this week to broaden the number of Irish parishes participating.
     The IrelandXO project has also issued a call for volunteers to help in the genealogical work involved. Read more about the project and the volunteer opportunities by clicking on the links below.

12 October 2011


     In their recent press release, the Irish Family History Foundation (IFHF) announced that 535,00 Roman Catholic baptismal records for Co. Waterford parishes are now available online. For a long time, access to Co. Waterford records was difficult for overseas researchers to obtain, so these additional online records will be welcome news to many Waterford family historians.
     The IFHF database continues to be the largest source of Irish records available online. However, be aware that the IFHF does charge for access to its records. As I have noted in previous posts, although the initial search is free, the IFHF will bar from accessing the site those researchers who perform an excessive amount of free searches without purchase of a record. Please review very carefully the payment schedule, and the terms and conditions of the use of the database. If you search the "labels" on the right hand column of this blog, you can access my earlier posts regarding the IFHF database.

11 October 2011


     Irish genealogy cannot be separated from the history of Ireland and of the Irish Diaspora. Knowing even a small bit about Irish history can help guide you to those elusive records. For example, knowing that a rebellion occurred in 1798 led me to lists of rebels and landowners that I might not have found otherwise. Knowing when the waves of Irish emigration occurred, and what counties had the highest rates of emigration at certain times, can help guide you to an ancestor's location in Ireland. At the very least, knowing the times in which your ancestor lived can help you to understand his or her own personal story.
     Growing up in the United States, I did not learn much Irish history at all. In my Catholic elementary school, we learned a bit about St. Patrick every March. In my public high school, the Irish famine was the only Irish history topic covered.  Most of my education about Irish history was contained in the telling of family tales. My own family's history mirrors much of Irish history in that religious strife divided my ancestral Large and Kavanagh families. When I was a young girl, my father and grandmother would tell me stories of strife between the families of my great great grandparents' because of their religious differences. In the late 1960's, I would sit in my grandmother's living room and watch the violence in the North on the news. Grandmom (whose own grandmother was from County Tyrone)  would say, "That's us. That's where we are from." For me, Irish history and family history could not be separated.
     How does a family history researcher, not educated in Ireland, learn about Irish history? I know a few researchers who complain that the subject is so vast, they simply give up trying to learn. But, at the least, researchers can learn enough Irish history to aid their research and write their family stories. Start with learning in the form that suits you best. I know some researchers who like to absorb a bit of Irish history and culture through novels and historical fiction. Others read the great tomes by Tim Pat Coogan. Of course, many of us surf the web for information.
     I often browse TheWildGeese.com website to add to my own knowledge of Irish history and emigration. I like the wide array of topics covered by The Wild Geese and have found genealogical record sources by following up on some of the historical tidbits I have read on the site. The site is branching out into genealogy with a blog directed at Irish family historians. The links are below.
      I was very excited this past week to be interviewed for their newsletter. You can find the interview and the newsletter at the link below. The newsletter is free and sent via email. (I must disclose that I did win a $10 gift certificate to the Wild Geese shop when I signed up for the newsletter. Sign up and maybe you, too, will have a bit of Irish luck!).

07 October 2011


     This topic demonstrates one of the limitations of the Internet. The Web allows us to see, and sometimes hear, but we cannot touch or smell or taste Ireland while surfing the Internet. Perhaps one day our computers will come equipped with those scratch and sniff strips or some sort of odor emitting device like the movie theatres had for those John Waters' films.
      Ireland is a feast for the senses, which is one reason family historians should make the trip, even if they have not found their ancestor's location. Simply smelling the earth, tasting the black pudding, or touching the stone walls can provide your senses with impressions of an ancestor's life and experiences.
     On my first trip to Ireland in 1995, I noticed the smells.Wet earth and wet grass and wet hay. Peat burning on the hearth in County Clare. Musty castles. Cow dung. More cow dung. Beer and ale suds. Even food smelled differently. I could smell the heavy, pungent scent of the farm fresh streaky bacon, puddings, and sausages long before I entered the breakfast room.
     Even familiar food had a different taste. Ketchup was more tangy. The bacon had an earthy flavor, far stronger than the packaged brands I bought in South Jersey. While Americans usually think of corned beef and cabbage as Irish foods, my second thought of food in Ireland (my first, of course, is black pudding) is salmon. I ate salmon everywhere--smoked salmon with brown bread, salmon with pasta, salmon in soup. Even lox on a bagel in a Jewish deli now reminds me of Ireland.
     Smelling and tasting Ireland brought my ancestors to life in a way no microfilmed record ever could!

05 October 2011


     As I noted in a previous post, the Certificates of Irish Heritage were to be available late September--and they are! I ordered mine yesterday. When I saw that the certificate contains the names of up to two Irish ancestors, I thought that having one would be an appropriate way of honoring my Irish ancestors. As my main honoree and documented ancestor, I chose my great grandfather, Richard Large, who was born in Gurteen, Co. Kilkenny in 1826 and left Ireland for Canada and the US in 1844. My second ancestor named on the certificate will be my third great grandmother, Peggy Lagan, who was born in Innishatieve, Co. Tyrone, about 1805. It was Peggy's 1847 letter to her children in Philadelphia that began my journey to trace my family back across the pond. In this way, I honor one ancestor who emigrated and one who stayed. Richard suffered the heartbreak of leaving his home, and Peggy suffered the heartbreak of watching her children leave, forever, her cottage beneath the sycamore tree in Innishatieve.
     The process of ordering a certificate was very easy. I suggest having all your dates at hand and your necessary documents scanned before beginning. Of course, I didn't and, of course, I spent double the time on the order.

(Disclaimer: I am not in associated in any way with FEXCO, the company providing the certificates on behalf of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade).

03 October 2011


     October is celebrated as Family History Month in the United States. In honor of Family History Month, many of the commercial online genealogy sites offer free or reduced rate services. So, if you are looking to save money or to try out a commercial site, it would be wise to keep your eyes open for bargains and offers this month. Many libraries and archives across the country have special exhibits or programs in honor of Family History Month. Check them out!
     Take a minute this month to think about your family history research goals for the year. Set new goals for the coming year or start that new project you have been putting off. Another great way to celebrate is to dust off those "miscellaneous" files and search for clues you might have missed.
    You can also mark Family History Month by joining a genealogy group or society. You will find that having other researchers in your life helps your research tremendously and provides a social outlet in what can be, at times, a hobby that requires too much "alone" time.

off the town square in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny

     And, don't forget to raise a pint in honor of the ancestors! Better yet, plan that trip to Ireland so you can raise the pint in the land of your ancestors!

29 September 2011


     The news buzz around the Irish genealogy world the last couple of weeks has been the controversy over  the addition of Irish Roman Catholic parish records to Ancestry.com's database. The question being asked  is whether Ancestry.co.uk infringed the legal rights of the NLI regarding the microfilms containing those records. The NLI possesses the microfilm collection of the Catholic parish records.
See IRISH TIMES: National LIbrary Inquiry into Legality of Records Release        
    The copyright and other legal issues involved are difficult and fact-dependent, so I will not comment on the allegations made by the NLI. The Library has been attempting for some time to digitize the collection of Catholic parish records, and to place them online free of charge for the public's use. Currently, a free database has been established under the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht ( http://www.irishgenealogy.ie/ ), but the records available are very limited.
     Be cautioned, however, that the Ancestry.com database available to paying subscribers is very limited, even though it is titled broadly. For example, the collection titled "Ireland, Catholic Parish Baptisms 1742-1881" contains mostly records from Counties Meath (40 percent) and Roscommon (15 percent). My concern is that researchers who do not read the full description of the database will be misled into believing, when they cannot find their ancestor on the database, that the record for the ancestor does not exist at all, when it is simply not included in the collection.
      I will admit that, in my excitement over accessing the Catholic parish records online, I spent quite a long time fruitlessly searching the Ancestry.com collection for Clough parish records that I knew existed on the NLI microfilms. Why wasn't I finding them in the Ancestry database?  My much-more-thorough-fellow-researcher Jack, from the Castlecomer mailing list, directed me to the collection description (Jack saves me from many a research blunder). But mistakes are great learning tools, and this one reminded me to ascertain exactly what records are in any collection before I start plugging information into a search engine!


     The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and the Open University Ireland have teamed together to offer a free public lecture series on Irish local history at PRONI's new headquarters in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. The lectures will take place on the last Thursday of each month, beginning today, September 29th, at 6:30 p.m. For more information:
     Family research must involve local history research. Not only does the knowledge of the history of the locality and of the times in which our ancestors lived help our genealogy research, it provides us with a clearer snapshot of our ancestors' lives.

23 September 2011

Footnote to the Heritage Certificate Post

Please click on the comment left by "Anonymous" after this week's post regarding the Heritage Certificate. The comment is a succinct explanation of the requirements for the certificate. Thanks, Anonymous!

21 September 2011


     The news this week is the launch of the Certificate of Irish Heritage. This certificate will be an official recognition by the Irish State of the Irish ancestry and heritage of those persons, not born in Ireland, who can document their connection to an ancestor born in Ireland. Note that this certificate does not confer citizenship. The certificate seems to have many aims for the Irish government, such as promoting tourism and maintaining ties to descendants of the Irish diaspora around the world.

If my great grandmother Theresa Bowe
wants to be listed on my Certificate of Heritage,
 she had better lead me to her birth records real quick!
 Come on, Theresa, where are you??
      The criteria for obtaining the certificate are rather loosely stated. From early press releases, it seems that a wide variety of records, from birth and baptism records to census records and ship manifests, will be accepted as proof of ancestry. The cost will be 40 Euro, and the process can be completed online with a credit card.
     Although I am somewhat sceptical about the value of this certificate and the point of getting one, I am guessing that, one day soon, I will be visiting the site with my credit card because I just can't resist having one. I just love my family history records and certificates and can't help pursuing one more! A note to early Christmas shoppers: you will be able to purchase Heritage Certificate gift cards for others. They must supply their own documentation, however.

Official web site for the Certificate of Irish Heritage : Note that this site will not be up and running until late September www.heritagecertificate.ie/
Irish Independent article announcing first certificate given to 9/11 hero:  http://www.independent.ie/national-news/first-heritage-certificate-goes-to-firefighter-who-died-in-911-2882515.html
Irish Central article detailing steps to getting your Certificate of Irish Heritage: http://www.irishcentral.com/news/How-to-apply-for-your-Certificate-of-Irish-Heritage-130222958.html