28 February 2012


      Shortly after Mary Robinson was elected President of Ireland in 1990, she placed a candle in the window of Aras an Uachtarain (the official residence of the President) in remembrance of all the Irish who had left their homeland. I was deeply touched by her reaching out to the Irish diaspora.  Ireland has continued to reach out to those of us who share Irish ancestry. Did you know that the Irish Constitution is unique in that it recognizes an affinity with the descendants of its emigrants? Article 2 states that "the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage." Recently, the Irish government decided to give official recognition of these ties to descendants of Irish immigrants by issuing a Certificate of Irish Heritage.
          I also write a monthly post for the Certificate's website. (LINK TO MY CERTIFICATE BLOG).  It's my way of saying "thank you" to the Irish government for honoring my ancestors and welcoming them home in spirit. When I give my genealogy presentations, I have been asked many questions about the certificate. Today, I'd like to share an interview with Gavin O'Sullivan, who is the Customer Service Team Leader for the Certificate of Irish Heritage (Fexco is the company that administers the Certificate for the Irish government). Gavin was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to answer some of the questions I have been asked about the Certificate.

Who issues the Certificate of Irish Heritage? Is it an official document of the government of Ireland? GAVIN: The Certificate is issued by ‘The Certificate of Irish Heritage’ on behalf of the Irish Government (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade). It is an official Irish Government Document containing the golden harp, the national symbol of Ireland, and each Certificate is signed by Eamonn Gilmore TD, Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
My Certificate (excuse the reflections)
What is the purpose of the Certificate? GAVIN: The purpose of the Certificate is to give official recognition by the state to individuals of Irish heritage all over the world. Article 2 of our Constitution states “the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.” The certificate goes a step further by recognising each individual recipient.

Who can apply for the Certificate? GAVIN: The Certificate is open to anyone of Irish descent born outside the Island of Ireland.
Does an applicant have to know a county or a town of origin for their ancestor to qualify for a certificate? GAVIN: Applicants do not need to know the town or county that their ancestor came from. All they need demonstrate is that their ancestor was Irish or was born on the island of Ireland. If they know the county where their ancestor came from and the year they were born this information can also be provided to us and it will  appear on the Certificate, but it is not a requirement.

Is there any help or assistance with genealogical research provided to potential applicants? GAVIN: Yes, we have a small and dedicated customer service team who are here to assist all applicants with their application. If applicants are having trouble locating a document that demonstrates their ancestor was Irish, our team will complete a search on their behalf and provide them with this document in order to complete their application. If you require assistance please email customer@heritagecertificate.ie.

The beautiful framing job by
the Certificate framing dept.
Anything else you would like to emphasize ? GAVIN: Many applicants believe that they must produce an document from Ireland that demonstrates that their ancestor was Irish. This is not the case. We accept official documents from all countries not just Ireland. Census documents and death certificates from the country where their ancestor settled are usually much easier to locate, depending on when their ancestor left Ireland. Many of our applicants have purchased Certificates for their family members and friends, as a result of this we are now offering substantial discounts when applicants order more than one Certificate. We are planning a promotion in March so keep an eye on our website www.heritagecertificate.ie and Facebook Page www.facebook.com/heritagecertificate
Thank you, Gavin!

25 February 2012


The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) Co-sponsors The Revels Repertory Company Show: “An American Journey”
When: March 4, 2012 3:00PM - 4:30PM
Where: Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St, Watertown, MA
Description: NEHGS is a proud sponsor of An American Journey, produced and performed by the Revels Repertory Company. This original musical theater production brings the story of American immigration to life in partnership with Watertown’sArsenal Center for the Arts. The 90-minute production finds Italian, Irish, and Eastern European Jewish immigrants on a passenger ship bound for America circa 1907. Sharing their music and songs, their dances and their dreams, the diverse group of travelers become one, as they leave their hardships behind and steam toward America, the land of hope and promise.
Rhonda McClure, NEHGS Senior Researcher and an expert on American immigration, will give a pre-performance talk at 2:30 p.m. Learn more about starting your own family history journey.
Revels Repertory Co. is the touring ensemble of Revels, Inc., the national performing arts company that presents the Christmas Revels in ten cities across the U.S. The show is appropriate for adults and children ages six and up and includes audience participation.
Tickets: $20 adults ($18 for NEHGS members), $12 students/children 12 and under
For more information, please visit  www.AmericanAncestors.org.

23 February 2012


     We often use the term "generation" in genealogy, as well as in historical studies and in social discourse. We even give names to generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, "The Greatest Generation." Sometimes we ascribe general qualities and values to persons born during certain generations. Witness the television commercials today that target aging Baby Boomers with rock songs and psychedelia!
     What is the average length, in years, of a generation? I have not yet heard a definitive answer. Historians generally define a generation according to events that bookend a period of births.  Some genealogy sources that I have seen claim a generation is twenty years, while others have said twenty-five to thirty or more.  In an individual family, a generation is the number of years between a parent and a child. However, even in one nuclear family, a generation will differ according to whether one uses the mother or the father as the yardstick, and what child is being used as measurement.
      I've been interested in the subject of the length of generations ever since I discovered that my great grandfather Richard Large was born in 1826. I am fifty-seven years old, and there are not many people my age whose great grandfather was born so very long ago. My Large family's average generational length is very long because my father was the youngest of ten children, and his father was youngest of eleven. Richard Large was 54 when his wife gave birth to my grandfather!
     The answer is an important one in genetic genealogy because the rate of mutation is tied to generational length. The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (link: ISOGG) has helpful information regarding the topic, which is quite beyond my ability to explain--my last biology class in DNA was back in the day when we filled out charts for blood types!
      Sometimes it can be helpful and interesting to know your own family's average generational length. The length can perhaps unveil a familial or historical pattern in your ancestors' lives. For an excellent guide to calculating your family's average generation, follow the instructions in this EHOW.COM article:

21 February 2012


Reporting from My Kitchen Table: What Drives your Family History Research?
Was sitting at my kitchen table, thinking about what drives me to research my family history.
 (Note: This one is for Bob, who wanted more videos!).

16 February 2012


     I gave a presentation today to an Irish genealogy group in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. As usual when Irish American family historians gather, I meet the nicest people, and today was no exception. And, as usual when Irish American family historians gather, frustration is a commonly expressed. It is good when people speak about their frustrations at these gatherings, because, in an odd way, knowing that others are having difficulty with their Irish research can be encouraging--misery loves company, you know! Many researchers, especially those starting out on this difficult journey, feel that they are alone in their inability to trace their ancestors to a place in Ireland. Often, they simply give up, or don't even begin to delve into their genealogy.
     One man told me that he had no information about his Irish ancestors, apart from one record that listed "Ireland" as a place of birth for a grandparent.
     "But do you have any family stories? You must have a story or two that has been handed down," I said.
     "Oh, yes," he said. "We have stories about my grandmother."
     He proceeded to tell me about a colorful woman who smoked a corn cob pipe. He had vivid descriptions of his grandparents and his family memories.
     "Write all this down!" I said.
     He seemed a bit unsure. He was clearly defeated by his inability to "jump the pond" with his family history.
     But, even if he never finds an Irish record for his ancestors, what a treasure he would be leaving for his future generations if he collected the family stories about his grandparents. His grandparents are ancestors who are four whole generations past from his own grandchildren. The future generations of his family might not know where in Ireland the family originated, but they will know that they descended from a straight-talking Irish woman who smoked a corn cob pipe!
     I think there is something magical about Irish family history research. Seems that once you start, your ancestors push you along the path until you make discoveries you never thought possible. But, you have to take that first step, put that pen to paper (or those fingers to the keyboard), and begin with what you know about who you know. And your greatest discovery will be that you know far more family history, already, than you think you do!

13 February 2012


  • Ireland Genealogy Project Archives Updates:
ARMAGH Genealogy Archives - Vital Records
Marriage - MORROW
CARLOW Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1840-1841 Royal Irish Constabulary
 CAVAN Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
Royal Irish Constabulary 1840-41
CLARE Genealogy Archives - Marriages
Assorted Marriages from Magazine of Magazines
CLARE Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1840-1841 Royal Irish Constabulary
CORK Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Keeffe, Owen - Kilcrumper Cem. Fermoy (single photo)
CORK Genealogy Archives
1840 & 1841 Royal Irish Constabulary
DOWN Genealogy Archives - Military and Constabulary
Royal Irish Constabulary 1840-1842
DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Deansgrange Cemetery
Deansgrange Cemetery, St. Mary's Section, Pt. 1
DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Headstones - Mount Jerome, Dublin
Mount Jerome, Dublin - Part 36-37
DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
Royal Irish Constabulary with native county of Dublin 1840-1841
FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Church
Trory, Births recorded in St. Michaels C. of I, 1779 - 1922
 LIMERICK Genealogy Archives - Photos
Costello & Downes Photos
LIMERICK Genealogy Archives - Obits
Assorted new obituaries
MAYO Genealogy Archives - Land Records
Encumbered Estate property of DOMINIC BROWNE (Curskeagh, Carrowmore & Carrowmor Upper) 1857
MEATH Genealogy Archives - Biographies
Mulvany Biographies
 ROSCOMMON Genealogy Archives - Land
Encumbered Estate property of DOMINIC BROWNE (Cloonlough) 1857


  • The Irish Genealogical Research Society is launching a new monthly e-bulletin for its members. The bulletin will contain up-to-date news of the Irish genealogical world, plus breaking news about online databases. Readers of Help!The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancestors! can receive a copy of the newsletter, via email, through February by sending an email, with 'IGRS Bulletin' in the subject line, to IGRSOC2011@hotmail.co.uk  Link to Society: IGRS
  • I will be giving two presentations of  The Basics of Irish Research in the Philadelphia region in coming weeks. The first will be on Thursday, February 16th, at the meeting of the Irish American Genealogy Group of Delaware County (PA). For information, see  DELAWARE COUNTY IRISH GENEALOGY .  On March 2nd, my presentation will be at the National Archives (NARA), Mid-Atlantic Branch, Philadelphia. This talk will be co-sponsored by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania and NARA. For information, please visit the web sites for the Genealogical Society and for NARA Mid-Atlantic--both organizations offer a wealth of genealogy classes and seminars:

09 February 2012


    In my monthly genealogy article for The Certificate of Irish Heritage website, I discuss the importance of contacting living relatives. The Irish tradition is an oral one, and Irish genealogy is no exception. Following search engine prompts on online databases does not substitute for gathering information and family stories from relatives. Read the article:
     And, don't forget to scroll down this blog for my interview with Peter Clarke and information on his free Irish ebooks site!

08 February 2012


     Ebooks can be a great source for your genealogy and local history research. You can view or download them instantly, instead of trekking to a bookstore or waiting until they arrive from an online book source. Better yet, the number of free ebooks has risen exponentially and continues to rise.  Many of these free online books were published in the 1800's or earlier, not only providing us with a source for records, but giving us with a contemporary peek into the times of our ancestors.
     However, finding and researching pertinent ebooks can be a daunting task. Luckily, Peter Clarke has come to our rescue with his web site FREE IRISH GENEALOGY EBOOKS  (for those of you on Facebook, you can "like" his new page, FREE IRISH GENEALOGY EBOOKS FACEBOOK PAGE ). Peter has a knack for searching the Internet for free resources for Irish family historians. I asked him a few questions about how he navigates the web to bring us such a useful web site. Peter is a retired bank manager who was born in Cork City and has lived for the past twenty-five years in the village of Saintfield, Co. Down, with his wife and three (grown) children.
What is the purpose of your website?
     Peter: To provide a free central index of eBooks available free at a wide variety of different sites on the general topic of Irish Genealogy. The emphasis is on printed Family Histories but also the site has resources such as almanacs, directories, books on Irish and Local History, the Irish Diaspora, biographies - basically anything which could be helpful to a researcher
When did you launch the site?
     Peter: February, 2011 (1st year anniversary coming up shortly!)
What gave you the idea for the site?
     Peter: An article in the Irish Times (Dublin) by John Grenham (author of "Tracing Your Irish Ancestors", his "Irish Roots" column is a must read every Monday morning). He talked about eBooks and their usefulness to genealogists who did most of their research online or couldn't get to a library. When I realised there were several sites with eBooks I began my Index. Grenham was kind enough to review my site in his column back in August 2011 (after I emailed him to tell him about my project) and he said very favourable things about it. That gave me the incentive to continue with it. I had about 400 books then, now I have well over 2,000.
How do you find the ebooks for your site? Do you have any advice for researchers who want to search for ebooks?
     Peter: Grenham mentioned Google Books (http://books.google.com/), the Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/) and the Open Library (http://openlibrary.org/) as repositories for eBooks on Irish Genealogy - so I started with those. Open Library is really an Index for the Internet Archive - but not a very complete one. Then I Googled "Free", "E-Book", "ebook", "Digital" "Library" with "Irish" or "Genealogy" etc. in various combinations. I found the Haihi Trust Digital Library (http://www.hathitrust.org/ - guest login required) and the Mormon site Family History Archive (http://lib.byu.edu/fhc/index.php). I also found other local and genealogy sites which had smaller numbers of books available for free. New sites and books are being added all the time so every now and again I Google to see if anything new has been added. I would mention that the search engine for the biggest site Internet Archive is terrible! - some of the results do not seem to have anything to do with the search term. Try Open Library first, then if you can't find it there try Internet Archive.
Flip Books - Ebooks that look like real books are the best to read online - unfortunately the Mormon site in most cases has page by page links which is tedious, however it is possible to download the whole book in pdf format - click "printing version". Likewise the Google Books site allows you to scroll down rather than 'flip'. When I find a book on the Mormon site or Google Books I always check to see if it is available on the Internet Archive as well and link to there instead.
I see you provide this service for free. How and why?
     Peter: People ask me why do I provide this service for free? I don't even have ads on my site. "You could make money out of this!" - I keep hearing. One person even offered me money (£10,000) to buy the site from me! My heroine is Cyndi Howells of Cyndi's List (http://www.cyndislist.com/) who does not charge for her brilliant 15 year old site but does have ads and a donate facility. Mind you, she has 290,000+ links - I have only 2,000+! Surprisingly, the reason I don't have ads on my site is that Google (who own Blogger - the free site I use) has blocked me from having ads on my site without explanation or appeal. I can only think that it is because I used to have a political page which said nasty things about Tony Blair but I really don't know why they have blocked a genealogy site. I also don't have a 'donate' facility so the site is completely free and free of ads.
However, now that the site has grown to well over 2,000 links it is starting to throw up some problems particularly the need for a search facility such as "Google Search - search this site" which I can't get to work properly on my site possibly because of the huge number of links it contains. I'm not ready to rent/buy an URL and pay someone to develop a new site or buy a web developer do-it-yourself package and start charging or putting ads and donate buttons etc.
Any other comments you wish to add?
     Peter: Finally can I wish your family history researchers good luck in their efforts? From the feedback I get, people really find things in eBooks that they won't get elsewhere - think of them as another useful source of information.

Thanks to Peter for the e-interview and for providing Irish family historians with a unique and free research service!

03 February 2012


     Do you have an ancestor who suffered an untimely or unusual death, such as a death by execution or suicide? Did your great great grandmother die in childbirth, along with her unbaptized infant? Have you been unable to find them in a cemetery?
     Perhaps your ancestor was buried in a "little graveyard," also known in Gaelic as a Cillin (Cilliní, pronounced "killeeni," is plural). These burial grounds, often secret and neglected, contain the remains of those who were marginalized in death.
     I turned to Toni Maguire, an archaeologist and anthropologist in Northern Ireland, for an expert's explanation of these burial grounds.  Toni specializes in the area of marginalised infant and adult burial within a Christian context.

Who is buried in Cilliní? When did this burial practice begin and end?
       Toni: The answer to the first part of your question is anyone who was considered to have died an unusual or untimely death.  Individuals traditionally buried in Cilliní were consigned to an anonymous grave either by their spiritual status at the time of death (such as unbaptised infants and mothers who died in childbirth), or the nature of their death (such as suicides or executed criminal).  The second part of your question is more difficult. Opinions vary, while some archaeologists consider the practice to be post medieval, while other, myself included, believe that the practice has its origins much further back in time. 

Was this the practice of religions other than Roman Catholicism? Which?
      Toni: The practice of exclusion was not exclusive to the Catholic Church and the practice was common as literary works such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Under the Hawthorne Tree demonstrate. 

Are there records kept of the names of persons buried in cillini?
      Toni: By the very nature of this type of burial there were no records kept.  The church considered the infants buried there as pagan and therefore outside the remit of their care.  Markers were traditionally field stones, they did not record the name of the person buried beneath, but sometimes the stones carried a mark which would distinguish the location within the landscape.  There is a distinction between Cilliní and Poor Ground burial, although they reflect similar traditions on many levels, records were often kept of the people buried in Poor Ground. 

 Where are cillini located? How do you find them?
      Toni: In Ireland, Cilliní are cited at a variety of location; everything from prehistoric sites to the ditches of raths; fairy trees to the land outside consecrated or blessed ground.  They can be also be found along townland and field boundaries, bog land and spots of outstanding natural beauty in the landscape. 

THANK YOU, Toni, for the fascinating information. To learn more about Toni's work and Cilliní, click on the links below.


01 February 2012


     If we are to understand our ancestors' lives, we need to develop an appreciation for their culture and tradition. In the States, our impression of Irish culture is formed by our St. Patrick's Day celebrations and our Irish shops full of leprechauns and shamrocks. (I must insert a disclaimer here--I do possess a rather large collection of leprechauns. Mostly gifts, plus a few cuties I just had to buy, I love and treasure them!). But we Americans don't often understand how deeply the Irish culture is rooted in ancient Celtic and early Christian beliefs and traditions.
     I have been thinking about ancient Celtic traditions because today, February 1st, is an important day on both the Celtic and Christian calendars--Imbolc in the Celtic tradition and St. Brigid's Day in the Christian. Imbolc is the ancient celebration of the arrival of spring. Over the years, the traditions of Imbolc combined with the legend of the ancient Celtic goddess Brigid. With the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, the celebration of St. Brigid's Day became transposed upon the ancient practices. So, today's celebration of the Irish spring combines all three traditions. For information on the Imbolc and Brigid traditions, along with other Celtic practices, see the links below.
     I have several Brigid's in my family tree, and my daughters both took the name Brigid when they were confirmed, in honor of their third great grandmother Brigid Kavanagh. So, this feast day is important to me, and each year I find myself wondering what ancient Celtic traditions might have been kept by my Brigid Kavanagh on her name day. I'll share some of the links I found during my "Imbolc" Internet wanderings below.