25 February 2011


     First, I want to extend my condolences to all who lost family members and friends in the recent earthquake in New Zealand. I also hope no further damage occurs, and that the country can recover quickly.
     Second, I want to thank my Castlecomer list friend Jack Langton for alerting me to what is quickly becoming one of my favorite web sites, Papers Past.
     With the world's awareness now focused on New Zealand, I thought it would be appropriate to point out a very valuable resource that the National Library of New Zealand provides for Irish family history researchers: the Papers Past project. This free online database can be of value to all Irish researchers, even if one's family never set foot on New Zealand soil. The database contains over one million digitized newspapers from the years 1839-1945.
     Why would old local newspapers in New Zealand be of value to a researcher in Iowa or Toronto or Dublin? Because where ever the Irish settled, they still longed for news and gossip from home. If your ancestors made the news in Ireland, they may have found their way into one of the 61 New Zealand newspapers in the Library's database.These newspapers are full of news items coming out of Ireland. 
     I began by using broad search terms such as "Kilkenny" and "Castlecomer." The search engine returned numerous articles about local life in Co. Kilkenny that ranged from the king's visit to a local uprising to a mysterious thick black rain that fell on Castlecomer on a July evening (the rain stained clothing and contaminated the local streams).
     Don't forget that this search technique can be effective with other newspaper databases, also. Have you tried a search using your Irish townland or county name in newspaper databases for cities with large Irish immigrant populations, such as Boston or Philadelphia?

18 February 2011


     Many times after my presentations, fellow family historians relate stories of how they became interested in genealogy. Quite a few researchers have told me that they turned to the family history because they never felt as if they "fit in" with their nuclear or extended families. Many have told me that they felt odd and out of place in the family tree until they discovered their ancestors' stories.
     Very often, people seek to find an ancestor with whom they can feel a sense of kinship. From the conversations I have had, many people have found that they share a trait or occupation in common with an ancestor--traveling around the world, painting, killing people for a living.
     No, I am not testing to see if you are paying close attenion! I just finshed a novel written by a man whose family tree includes a long line of official executioners. The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch is a murder mystery set in Bavaria in the 1600's. The protagonist is a village executioner, who also functions as official torturer. This character is drawn with great empathy by the author, who draws the reader into the hangman's world without being off-putting (the blood and gore factor is handled delicately).The plot is intriguing and entertaining (take note, fellow lovers of historical murder mysteries), but what surprised me at the end was the author's motivation for writing the book. Potzsch hails from a line of Bavarian hangmen, the Kuisl family. He wrote the book because the history of his family intrigued him. He states in his postscript that learning about his family's history imparted "a feeling of belonging, as if a large community had taken me under its wing." This sense of belonging pervades the novel.
     What I admire about Potzsch is that he loves his family stories, however macabre. He is not afraid to acknowledge that his family traits include clawlike fingernails and "tear-jerking sentimentality and sometimes brutality."
      "Altogether not exactly a sympathetic picture" he writes, "but then you can't choose your family..."
     Potzsch, in his postscript, also muses about our reasons for pursuing genealogy::
     "In the past few years, genealogical research has become increasingly popular. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that we are trying, in a world of increasing complexity, to create a simpler and more understandable place for ourselves. No longer do we grow up in large families. We feel increasingly estranged, replaceable, and ephemeral. Genealogy gives us a feeling of immortality. The individual dies; the family lives on."
     Agree? Disagree? Why are you "hooked" on genealogy?
P.S. Irish researchers, don't forget to check my posting dated 17th February for an update on the future release of the 1926 census.

17 February 2011


     The release of the 1926 Irish census may happen in the not too distant future. Thanks in part to the lobbying efforts of the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO), at least one political party, Fine Gael, has made reference to its support of making the census records public. Read more about CIGO's efforts and the recent announcement by Fine Gael at the CIGO website:

11 February 2011

NEWS: PRONI, GRO, AND IGP (enough acronyms for ya?)

     PRONI The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has announced that the Cregagh self-service microfilm facility will be closed as of March 16th.   Full service will resume when the new PRONI Headquarters at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast opens on 30 March 2011! Check PRONI online for updates on the grand opening: http://www.proni.gov.uk/
     GRO The General Register Office (GRO)of the Republic of Ireland has an online website that no Irish family history researcher should miss. The site is full of information regarding birth, marriage, and death records (and adoption and stillbirth records). The GRO does not perform genealogical research, but will provide copies of the public records to persons who supply the needed information and fees. Remember, also, that records for certain years for both the Republic and for Northern Ireland are found at the GRO. For example, birth records from January 1864 to December 1921 are available for both the Republic and Northern Ireland.
      Records can now be ordered ONLINE from the GRO.
      Check out the GRO website: http://www.groireland.ie/
    IGP  Also, it is time once again to check out the updates to the Irish Genealogical Projects' databases (IGP)(thanks to Christina Finn Hunt):
IRELAND Country - Miscellaneous
Fenianism and School Teachers 33 names

ANTRIM - Headstones
Ballintoy (CoI) Cemetery - Part 2 (updated)

ARMAGH - Headstones
Tynan RC Graveyard (partial)

DOWN - Headstones
Belfast, Knockbreda Parish Church of Ireland (Walled) Cemetery Pt1
Belfast, Knockbreda Parish Church of Ireland (Walled) Cemetery Pt2
Dundonald, St. Elizabeths Parish Church (CoI) Graveyard

DUBLIN - Headstones
Mount Jerome, Dublin - Parts 16 - 18

GALWAY - Vitals
Tuohy, Julia May 4, 1886

LEITRIM - Headstones
Drumshanbo, St. John's Church of Ireland - partial

LIMERICK - Cemetery
Mt. St. Lawrence Cemetery, Limerick, Co. Limerick - Gilligan 1855-2008
(PDF file)

MONAGHAN - Headstones - All Partial sets
Aghabog Parish Church
Ballinode Church - Tydavnet Parish, St Dympna's
Ballybay, 2nd Presbyterian
Cahans Presbyterian Church Graveyard
Carrickmacross, St Joseph Catholic Church Cemetery

TIPPERARY - Vital Records
Fitzgerald, Maria - Donovan, Edmond February 20, 1897
Talbot, Mary - Doyle, James November 9, 1834

WICKLOW - Headstones
Kilquade Cemetery, Pt. 2
St. Patrick's Church, Enniskerry - Part 4

INDEX: http://www.igp-web.com/IGPArchives/

03 February 2011


     You would think that family history researchers would be comfortable discussing matters of estate and funeral planning, dealing as we do with the preservation of memories of the dead, but I often find my genealogy friends become fidgety when the subject of wills and funerals--their own--arise.
     Now, don't go clicking to another site just because I am making you squirm a bit--this is important!
     What will happen to your years of work when you are gone? Who will preserve those records and photos that you labored to find and organize? Have you safeguarded your collection legally, or at least spoken to family members concerning its care and ownership?
     I have seen instances, heart-breaking to a genealogist, of records and photographs thrown into the trash by family members and friends while cleaning out a deceased person's house. You don't think your family would do that? Sometimes a helpful neighbor tackles the "clutter" to help out a grieving family. Other times, those boxes and binders and files just have no room to fit in a loved one's small apartment. Very often, the photos and records are swiped by a family member, never to be seen by anyone else again. Sorry to sound so cynical, but, as a lawyer and a genealogist, I've seen dissention and accusations of theft in many "close" families that the deceased would never have envisioned (and even some squabbles that the dearly departed obviously planned and relished while alive).
     You cannot assume that others place the same value on your work as you do. Believe it or not, I once met a genealogist who was in the process of trashing boxes of a her late aunt's photo collection. Why? Because, she said, the photos weren't labeled and therefore "were no good to anybody." You would think leaving your photographs to a genealogist would ensure their survival, wouldn't you?
     So, protect your genealogical legacy in the same way that you would your most valuable jewelry: designate an heir for it in your will. If you don't want to revise your will, you can create what most states call a "codicil," which is a sort of amendment to a will. A codicil is subject to the same legal formalities as is a will, so you will want to consult a lawyer. You can leave written instructions to your family members, but those instructions will not have the force of law.
     If no one in the family seems interested in your collection, consider donating it to a local historical or genealogical society. It is wise to check with the society first, to see if your collection is appropriate to their needs and if they would accept the bequest. Then put the bequest in a will or codicil, and inform the institution and your designated executor and family members.
     When choosing an heir, consider if that person is going to continue your work. I know of several people whose collections were bequeathed to family members who squirreled the records and photos away in a closet, lost to the other members of the family who were interested in the family history. You should have a conversation with the person to whom you would like to leave your collection. Make sure that the person wants the materials, and that you are both "on the same page" regarding its preservation and use.
     There is never a better time than now, whatever one's age or health, to provide for the care of what many people consider their "life's work."