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!