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!).