31 March 2011


     When my husband and I were planning marriage and children, we did not give a thought about being tested for the possibility of being carriers of the gene for Tay-Sachs Disease (TSD). TSD is a fatal inherited disease that destroys a child's nervous system. My husband is Jewish, so I was aware of the prevalence of TSD in the Jewish community. But, being Irish and Polish myself, I thought there was no need to be tested, since the disease requires genes from both parents.
     Years later, through my family history research, I discovered that I might have Jewish ancestors in my Polish tree. I also discovered that the Irish, along with French Canadians and Cajun peoples, also have a high risk of being TSD carriers. Although we have no incidence of TDS in the family, these revelations brought home to me the importance of collecting the family medical history, along with the other family records and stories.
         Those of us of Irish descent should also be aware of a couple of other diseases besides TSD. Both celiac disease and hemochromatosis run in Irish families. Celiac is a digestive disorder in which the body cannot process gluten. Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disease in which the body absorbs too much iron, leading to a number of health problems and possible death. It is sometimes called "The Celtic Curse."
      I know a few researchers who have made family medical trees. They have noted diseases and medical conditions on a genealogial chart. These charts can be very useful to a family doctor in assessing a patient's health and risk for various diseases. Of course, there is also a rise in the popularity of DNA testing for many diseases that run in families.
     So, as you note the life statistics of your ancestors, don't forget to note any medical conditions and causes of death. Your family medical history could be a lifesaver to you or a descendant one day.


29 March 2011


     The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) reopens to the public tomorrow, Wednesday, 30 March 2011, at 9 a.m. in its new home at 2 Titantic Quarter, Belfast. The new home is one mile from Belfast City Center, and is near the Odyssey Entertainment Complex. According to the press release, "PRONI@TQ" is an "iconic building, sustainable for the future in terms of fabric, maintenance, and archival deposits."  The Public Research Room is double the size of its predecessor and is better equipped for researchers, including those with laptops. Despite having to relocate over 40 km of unique and valuable documents, PRONI achieved the feat in record time, completing the project and opeing to the public months ahead of schedule!

24 March 2011


     The Irish Family History Foundation (RootsIreland.ie) has announced that the Advanced Search feature is now available for all counties in its database, except for Counties Sligo and Limerick. The IFHF database is the largest online collection of Irish records. The advanced search feature allows a researcher to include more fields (search terms) in searches for births, baptisms, and marriages..  The new feature is useful in narrowing down results to those most pertinent to a researcher's interests. Previously, the fields for searches were limited to an individual's name, time span, and county.
     However, there are a few caveats to note when using the IFHF database. While searching the database is free, there is a charge to see the details of the retrieved records. Beware--the number of free searches a person can make is limited. The IFHF warns that  "this access will be limited at the discretion of the IFHF and its member centres. A high volume of searches without the purchase of any records will lead to disabling of your account." I have heard from a few researchers who have been denied access to the database because they did not purchase enough records.
     Also, be aware that the pricing policy is different when using the advanced search. The records retrieved from an advanced search must be bought in bulk.
     Check out the map of included counties when researching. Not all Irish counties are included in the database. If you are searching Sligo or Limerick, be aware that returns for those counties will not be included in an advanced search.
     (Please note that I am not affiliated in any way with the IFHF and this post is not an endorsement of or advertisement for the IFHF).

18 March 2011


     I have a fascination with search engines that goes back before Al Gore invented the Internet. (Warning: I am going to "date" myself here with tales of life "back in the old days").  I was in the first generation of lawyers taught to use Lexis as a research tool in the late 1970's. Lexis was the first major step in computer-based legal research. It used Boolean searches to seek out phrases and "buzz" words in legal opinions. Few law firms could afford a Lexis computer station, plus the cost of training its attorneys in Lexis use, but I was lucky to work at one that did, so I received training while I was still in law school.
     This early training was invaluable to me. While I no longer understand the algorithms that drive today's search engines, I can still put together a killer search on most engines. So when I began receiving multiple emails from fellow researchers this past week about the new genealogical search engine Mocavo, I had to try it out right away.
     I think Mocavo has its place in every family history researcher's tool shed, but it does not totally replace general Internet search engines for genealogical use. Mocavo scours genealogy-based databases to get its results. Therefore, it automatically weeds out all those irrelevant results and zeroes in on returns from genealogy related sites only. It performs this job very well.
     One test I use on search engines is my own surname, "Large." Just try putting "Large" in ANY search engine and getting ANY results relevant to genealogy! But Mocavo passed the "Large test" admirably, returning hits about persons with the surname Large from a multitude of genealogical sites--even when I simply used "large." What a welcome help for someone like me who is researching a name that is a commonly used word! Running names such as "Richard Large" or "Thomas Large" in quotes gave better results. For a newcomer to genealogy, this service would be invaluable. Even experienced researchers can use Mocavo to double check or update their Internet searches.
     My only concern is the same one that I have about Ancestry.com: inexperienced researchers might think that they have searched all there is available to search on the Internet. If you are new to genealogy, please don't stop with your results from Mocavo or from Ancestry.com. I have been hearing from many researchers who give up after trying a few searches.
     There is still a place in genealogical research for a well-crafted all-Internet search. Especially in Irish research, only a tiny portion of available genealogical records are on the Internet, and a smaller portion, yet, on popular genealogical sites.
     One way that an Irish genealogical researcher can narrow down a Google search is to use Google Ireland. The top results will be from Irish web sites.
     Don't forget to search Google Books. I have made many Irish genealogical discoveries in 19th century books that are stored on Google Books. Many of these discoveries were made in books published in the UK in the 1800's.
     Clustering search engines are my favorites. A clustering search engine will place its results in categories. This is a convenient way to narrow down your search, especially if the categories include "family" or "genealogy." Unlike Mocavo, you can at least see other categories that might be relevant to your search terms. Sometimes those categories might give you ideas for further research, even if they are not related to genealogy. For example, if your ancestor was, unbeknown to you, an author, that information would pop up in the "author" or "publications" category. That information would be lost in the million hits of a  Google search or left out of a narrow genealogy-only Mocavo search. My favorite clustering engine is Yippy (it has gone through various names, such as Clusty).
     So, my advice is to add Mocavo to your favorites list. Do spend some time running your ancestral names through its engine to ensure that you have not missed major genealogical databases. But, don't forget to use a variety of search engines in your research.
GOOGLE IRELAND: Google Ireland


Tonight, Geneabloggers Talk Radio is hosting an Irish genealogy night. I am on the guest list, along with fellow blogger Smallest Leaf, plus Sharon Sergeant, Mary Ellen Grogan, and Jennifer Geraghty Gorman. The featured guest from Ireland will be Brian Mitchell, whose Genealogical Atlas of Ireland should be on every Irish family historian's bookshelf. If you can't stay awake tonight for the show (it airs at 10 p.m. eastern), Geneabloggers archives its shows, so you can play it back while surfing the Internet over the weekend!

14 March 2011


For St. Patrick's Day, here is a very short video from 1955. My uncle Bill Large and his friend Joe Flaherty are singing Irish tunes at a family picnic. The movie had no sound, but I have always imagined that they were singing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," a favorite of theirs.
Don't forget to check my previous blog post for news of important Irish records databases available online.

13 March 2011


     Better make yourself a nice cup of tea and settle in for a long session at your computer, because the buzz in the Irish genealogy world is all about these new databases, plus some changes and updates to older ones.

     Hmmm, instead of the tea, viewing the following database might be more appropriately done with your laptop at a local pub while the bartender is drawing you a pint of the black stuff. Guinness itself has taken a liking to genealogy! If one of your ancestors was employed by Guinness, you might be in luck, because the company has put a database of its employee records online. I guess the company will have to change its ads from "Guinness is Good for You" to "Guinness is Good for Genealogists!"
   The next online archive goes by the name DIPPAM. Sponsored by Queens University, and the University of Ulster, plus other libraries and archival groups, DIPPAM is "an online virtual archive relating to the history of Ireland, and its migration experience from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. It is a free-to-view resource available to all users with an interest in Irish history: family, local, national and diasporic."
     I have found that the site is still under development, and is sometimes inactive due to "bugs." If you find it inaccessible, keep trying another day. Every Irish family historian will want to explore its databases.
     There are three main databases in DIPPAM of interest to Irish family historians. One is EPPI, the collection of Enhanced Parliamentary Papers on Ireland. The contents of the Papers are far ranging, and, surprisingly, contain many records of local Irish matters, many with names and information. A few years ago, when the EPPI database first appeared online, many Irish genealogists made discoveries in its contents. Then the collection was taken offline and made available through the Southampton University library site, which was more difficult to navigate. The reappearance of EPPI, in an easy to use format, will be good news to many genealogists.
     The two other major databases are the IED (Irish Immigration Database) and the VMR (Voices of Migration). The IED will have 33,000 records from PRONI and private sources, mostly covering the years 1780-1920. The VMR contains 90 life narratives and interviews dealing with the Irish diaspora.
     According to its web statement, "The Irish Archives Resource is a portal web site that will enable researchers/users to search for publicly accessible archival collections that are located in Ireland. The IAR is funded by the Heritage Council of Ireland and is supported by the Archives and Records Association (Ireland)." This site should prove especially valuable for those researchers planning research trips to Ireland. I have used a similar database in the UK in the past and found valuable the ability to locate which archives hold which records. I was able to find Irish estate records from the 1700's in a York, England, archive--something that I might never have found otherwise.
     Once again, thanks to the tireless volunteers at the Irish Genealogical Projects (IGP) for adding to the projects' databases!
Antrim Genealogy Archives - Vitals
-Death Certificate of Catherine RAMMAGE (nee Harris), 16 Aug 1886
-Death Certificate of Ross RAMMAGE, 4 Sep 1905

Clare Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
-Royal Irish Constabulary with native county of Clare Jun 1853-Nov 1853

Derry/Londonderry Genealogy Archives - Vital Records
-Harris, Catherine August 16, 1886
-Ramage , William Ross September 4, 1905
Down Genealogy Archives
-Hillsborough, St Malachy (CoI), Graveyard, Hillsborough, Co. Down

-Magheralin (CoI) Church
-Magheralin (CoI) Church Ruins

Dublin Genealogy Archives - Headstones - Mount Jerome, Dublin
-Mount Jerome, Dublin - Part 19 (see Mount Jerome page)
-Deansgrange Cemetery, West Part 3 (see Deansgrange page)
-Glencullen Cemetery, Old (around St. Patrick's ruins)

Longford Genealogy Archives - Newspaper
-Back From The Dead December 5, 1914
-The Late Sgt Maceoin August 5, 1944
-Workhouse Demolished April 3, 1909

Monaghan Genealogy Archives - Headstones
-Drum Presbyterian Church (partial)
-Drumkeen Presbyterian Church

Roscommon Genealogy Archives - Church Records
-Devine, John (Brideswell) & Banan, Catherine; Aug. 3, 1839

Tipperary Genealogy Archives - Church
-Clonmel & Fethard Deaths 1760'S-1800

Waterford Genealogy Archives - Newspaper
-Freemans Journal, Oct. 29th 1778 - List of signers

Westmeath Genealogy Archives - Church Records
-Devine, Mary; May 21, 1840
-Devine, John & Banan, Catherine; August 3, 1839

12 March 2011


     A big THANK YOU to all the readers of Help! The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancestors! for voting the blog as one of Family Tree Magazine's Top 40 Genealogy Blogs 2011. I truly appreciate your support, and am glad that you enjoy my blog!
     When I began this blog, I wondered if I could find enough topics to keep it going for a couple of months. Thanks to my fellow Irish family historians, especially those who attend the talks I give in the Philadelphia/NJ area, I am learning something new about Irish genealogy constantly. I find that the Irish researchers I meet are invariably friendly and always happy to share their knowledge and discoveries with me, and each other. From being a rather lonesome hobby done in dark microfilm rooms, genealogy has become a social activity in itself, which is a boon for Irish researchers. Because of its degree of difficulty, Irish researchers benefit greatly from interacting with each other. When I began my family history research in earnest in the 1980's, it was difficult to find a lecture on genealogy in the Philadelphia area, now I have my pick of one or two a month. The audiences for my own talks have grown from a handful of diehard researchers to rooms of engineers, lawyers, and Hibernians--all wanting to know how they can begin keeping their Irish family history.
     Genealogy in general has emerged from being the realm of those who belong to lineage societies to encompass those of us who search for more recent immigrants. So many people tell me that they never expected to find any records because their ancestors were "simply" hard-working immigrants who arrived in the US in the 1800's or 1900's. But today, thanks in part to online resources, our salt-of-the-earth Irish ancestors have not been lost to memory. The Irish government, archives, libraries, and heritage organizations also deserve credit for preserving and making available their records for our research, especially for increasing the amount of online databases.
     I remember, in the days before Al Gore invented the Internet, when it took me a few months and a few "snail mail" letters back and forth across the pond to find out where in Ireland the townland of Innishatieve was located (in County Tyrone). Today, thanks to the legions of researchers helping each other online and in person, most researchers can locate an ancestral townland in a few minutes.
     I like to think that we are doing good by discovering the stories of our ancestors' hardscrabble lives and by preserving their memories. Their "ordinary" lives were far from mundane. These people fought hunger and poverty just to stay alive and to keep their families from disappearing. They left all that was familiar to them to set off for foreign lands in order to grab the future. Their stories are epic and mythic, no less so than the tales in storybooks and histories. So join me in telling them and start your own family history blog!
If you are interested in finding more blogs on genealogy, or want information on telling your ancestors' stories in your own blog, check out GeneaBloggers:
To read about the Family Tree Magazine's Top 40 Genealogy Blogs:

02 March 2011

That OTHER genealogy TV show--FACES OF AMERICA

      I am not going to join the chorus of genealogy bloggers chiming in about the recent episodes of WDYTYA (Who Do You Think You Are?). I would much rather review a show that was missed by a large portion of American family history researchers. I call it the "other" show because when I ask my audiences if they saw it, people often say, "Oh yeah, what was its name, that other show?" This "other" show premiered on PBS a year ago and is now available on DVD. In my humble opinion, this "other" show is what our quest for our roots is all about.
          Have you seen FACES OF AMERICA?  
       I was very puzzled by the number of family historians who watched WDYTYA but missed FACES OF AMERICA on public television. I think there are a few reasons why FACES was not seen by a wider audience, lack of big money sponsors among them. The advertising and tie-ins for WDYTYA have a much bigger budget. Plus, a short time before FACES aired, the host, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., had been involved in an incident with the police that eventually involved President Obama. I wondered if his notoriety might have caused viewers to develop a preconceived opinion of the host.
     Professor Gates is superb in his role as host of FACES. He is warm and empathetic and intelligent. He takes a sensitive but frank tone when dealing with the complexities of ethnicity and race and history. As someone who walks a fine line lecturing about aspects of Irish history--including its religious and social and political controversies, plus the emotions such controversies engender in my audiences--I can attest to the difficulty of Gate's challenge and his success in meeting it..
     The program deals with the intertwined themes of genealogy, American history, and the immigrant experience. Where WDYTYA is a plodding narrative, FACES is a symphony that weaves the guests' genealogies into a search for what it means to be American, and for what it means to be descended from ancestors who left family and country, often forever, for life in a new land.
     Yes, the subjects whose genealogies are traced on FACES are famous people. But they are not all famous actors, some are well-known in other fields (you may not recognize all of the guests, I did not). Their reactions and emotions seem genuine (well, perhaps some more than others--I have a hard time trusting the reactions of actors on these genealogy programs). Some very startling family secrets are revealed, and some poignant family stories are recounted.
     My unanticipated reaction to the DNA segment illustrates how expertly Gates evokes emotion from the viewer. In the segment, Gates and his father are subjects of extensive DNA testing. If you are a family historian, you know how confusing and intricate explanations about DNA testing can be. If you are like me, your eyes glaze over and your head spins when shown a chart of T's and Eves and Y's and what-nots.Well, FACES has the most understandable explanation of DNA testing I have heard, but that is not what is remarkable about the segment. What is remarkable is the emotion evoked when Gates and his father view their DNA analysis. Yes, emotion! When they are shown a chart which reveals the DNA of Gate's late mother, the reaction of the men is so intense that I felt tears welling in my own eyes.
      C'mon--I was almost crying over a DNA analysis! Can a genealogy program be any better crafted than that?

    First, I want to make clear that I am not associated with FACES OF AMERICA or PBS in any way.
    The PBS website has information on buying the DVD. Other sources also carry the DVD. The PBS site has short videos and some of the episodes you can view free: