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!