30 May 2012


This week brings two news items of note for Irish family historians!
A new series of videos has been uploaded to You Tube by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). Check out their great series on Local and Family History.
PRONI states, "The last in the current PRONI/Open University Exploring Local History lecture series, entitled ‘Families’ by Dr Janice Holmes is now available on the PRONIonline channel on YouTube, by following the [below] links."

Part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0r2uAU7y7w
Part 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuMeCeiqeu8
Part 3 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p2FAN8KyU0
Part 4 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0R8Z-IeJFz4
Part 5 - http://youtu.be/bzfmNA6Z3O4100%

     Before the month of May ends, we have another update from those fabulous volunteers who work hard to add to the Ireland Genealogy Projects (IGP) databases:

IRELAND Genealogy Archives - Marriages
ROBINETT Marriages 1773-1824

IRELAND Genealogy Archives
List of Converts and Protestant Settlers in Ireland

CARLOW Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1846 Royal Irish Constabulary Men

CAVAN Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1846 Royal Irish Constabulary Men

CORK Genealogy Archives
1846 Royal Irish Constabulary Men

DUBLIN Genealogy Archives
Assorted Funeral Entries - 1630's (7)

LEITRIM Genealogy Archives
Old Tarmon Abbey (partial)
Drumshanbo Famine Cemetery

LEITRIM Genealogy Archives - Emigration Records (5)
Declaration of Intention, Kings Co., NY - 1915

MAYO Genealogy Archives - Emigration (6)
Declaration of Intention, Kings Co., NY - 1915

MEATH Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Brannockstown, Trim
Cannistown Church Cemetery (near Navan)
Castlerickard, Trim
Castletown Kilpatrick Old Graveyard
Castletown Kilpatrick Graveyard New (Left Side)
Castletown Kilpatrick Graveyard New (Right Side)
Dunderry, Churchtown Cemetery
Trim-Newtown Abbey Graveyard
St Patrick's Cathedral Trim

SLIGO Genealogy Archives (4)
Declaration of Inention, Kings Co., NY - 1915

22 May 2012


     Before I begin my rant, I want to make two things clear: 1) I truly appreciate the work done by repository staff, especially volunteers, and 2) I have worked in genealogical repositories and centers in both professional and volunteer capacities. I've been on both sides of that particular fence.
     Bad staff behavior at certain repositories and archives? The stuff of genealogical legend! Mention certain facilities at a genealogy gathering and eyeballs go rolling. Most of us researchers have encountered a staff person who seemed intent on being a linebacker instead of a guide.
     I recently had an experience at a historical society that ruined a research trip. I had done as much preparation as I could. I checked to make sure the library was open. I checked their holdings to pinpoint exactly what records I needed. I had my questions listed. I brought all relevant research with me.
     The people at the facility were extremely nice, which is one reason I don't want to identify the place. But the staff member in charge insisted on being a partner in my research. However, his interest was not in my research, but in impressing me with his knowledge. Since this was a facility where most of the records were accessible only through staff retrieval, I was pretty much at his mercy. Rather than retrieve the records I needed, he brought me records that he wanted me to see, records that were not pertinent to my research. When I insisted, very nicely, that I really needed to look at certain record books instead of the ones he brought, he suddenly became very busy with other library matters and patrons. After wasting an hour, I decided to move on to other places I wanted to visit. I planned to return the next day, hoping that someone else might be on duty, but other matters prevented my return. I don't know when I will be able to return to this locality.
     The ideal staff member--and I have met plenty in my travels--is a person who quickly assesses a patron's requests and needs. As a former head of a historical library myself, I know that a patron's skill level and need for assistance can be evaluated fairly quickly. Some people need additional help, and they usually ask for it. Most patrons are helped by a quick description of the holdings and their methods of access. Pertinent suggestions may be helpful. The occasional neophyte may need extensive help with research methods and direction. But few patrons need someone to conduct their research for them, and if they do, their need is obvious.
     Volunteers and professional staff members need to check their egos at the door. Patrons already assume that the people helping them have a vast and superior knowledge of the facility's holdings and of the local history. They are there to research, not to be impressed.
     I once had an experience with a volunteer at an LDS family history center that almost stopped me from researching my family history. This happened back in the 1980's, before genealogy really exploded on the Internet. I had heard that the family history center had records and resources that could help me begin my research. But, the man at the center insisted on doing my research. He took a few of my ancestors' names and searched for them in the collection of discs the center had. He found none. I asked him where I could search next. He told me that I would never find my ancestors because all my resources were exhausted. To this day, I can't figure out if this encounter was one of miscommunication or whether this man was the worst genealogical volunteer in history.
     Thankfully, I didn't believe him!

16 May 2012


     Don't forget to check the Ireland Genealogy Projects pages for new additions to their databases. If you haven't yet discovered the IGP county pages and the IGP archives, don't waste another minute. Click on the links and begin exploring this FREE and valuable resource.


CORK Headstone Photos
Cobh, Clonmel (Old Church) Cemetery - Lusitania Dead
DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Photos
St Patrick's Day Parade 1935
DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Mount Jerome, Dublin - Part 45
FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Church
Colaghty: List of young persons confirmed by the Bishop of Kilmore on 16/6/1856
FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Newtownbutler (CoI) Cemetery (6 old headstones)
LEITRIM Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Drumkeerin Church of Ireland Cemetery (partial)
Dromahaire, Killanummery Friary also known as Creevelea (partial)
LIMERICK Genealogy Archives - Emigration
Declaration of Intention, Kings Co., NY - 1915 (6)
MEATH Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Batterstown; Ballymaglassan Church Cemetery
Batterstown Church Cemetery
Batterstown; Rathregan Cemetery
Beauparc; Knockcommon, New Cemetery
Beauparc; Knockcommon Old Cemetery
Beauparc; Knockcommon, Old Cemetery (inside old Church)
Beauparc; Old Cemetery
Beauparc; Yellow Furze Cemetery
Bective C of I Church and Graveyard
Bohermien R.C. Cemetery, Navan
Boyerstown Cemetery, Navan
TIPPERARY Genealogy Archives - Photos
Group Of Soldiers Taken In Castle Yard, Roscrea Co Tipperary 1922
TYRONE Genealogy Archives - Military
1840 & 1841 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
TYRONE Genealogy Archives - Headstones.
Castlecaulfield Presbyterian Church Cemetery
Crossdernott, All Saints (Church of Ireland)
Carland Presbyterian
Upper Clonaneese Presbyterian Cemetery
WESTMEATH Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary Records
1840-1841 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
WEXFORD Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1847 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees
WEXFORD Genealogy Archives
Clonmines  (Hist. of the Town & County of Wexford)
WICKLOW Genealogy Archives - Photos
Coolmoney Camp - 1930's
WICKLOW Genealogy Archives - Military
1840-1841 Royal Irish Constabulary Enlistees

15 May 2012


     Seems like every time I pick up a good novel lately, I find themes of family history. The latest is the current best seller, Defending Jacob by William Landay. I decided to read the book because it concerns an assistant district attorney who defends his son against a murder charge. As a former assistant D.A. myself, I thought the moral and legal questions would be interesting. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author explored genetic and genealogical questions as well!
     Landay explores the concept of whether some people are genetically disposed towards violence. In his author blog, Landay cites the case of an Italian appellate court that reduced a man's sentence (for the American equivalent of second degree murder/manslaughter) because the man had five genes that have been linked to violent behavior. Although Landay notes that, in the United States, "the murder gene" is not accepted as evidence in the criminal justice system, the questions he raises in the novel are intriguing to any family historian. After all, many people are quick to credit their genes for desirable family traits like athleticism or musical talent. Can we blame our shortcomings or predilection to violence on our genes? Interesting issues indeed!
LINK: Wm. Landay discusses the "murder gene" in his blog for his new book Defending Jacob

09 May 2012


     When I am in South Jersey, I never miss a meeting of the Irish American Family History Society (IAFHS). I always learn something new from this knowledgeable and enthusiastic group. Their topic last week was Internet Genealogy, but the discussion veered into the preservation of photographs. The group is very lucky to have a professional photojournalist as a member ("Mr. B"), so we are always veering off into the topic of photography in order to goad Mr. B into sharing his knowledge with us!
     Most people fail to label photographs with sufficient information.  Mr. B pointed out that names and dates do not adequately identify the contents of a photograph. A conscientious family historian should follow the "5 W's" in labeling every photo: who, what, when, where, and why.
      (Use a soft pencil to write on the back of the photo. If you are naming photos on a computer, be as descriptive as possible, as most naming fields will accommodate quite a bit of information).

THE 5 W'S (thanks to Mr. B)
Wish someone had
at least written
1. Who? Full names of each person in the photo are necessary. I might know who "Aunt Em" is, but future generations won't know who "Em" was or whose aunt she might have been. Don't forget maiden names of married females. Don't use nicknames exclusively, although it is a good idea to include them in parenthesis with the person's proper name. 
     A fellow researcher once sent me numerous photos of a woman identified as "Baby." Everyone else had a first name.
      I have also seen tons of photos with everyone identified except for a person named "me!"
2. What? What is the subject of the photo? As family historians, we tend to focus on the names of the people in the photo, but sometimes we have photos of houses, scenery, workplaces, stores, streets, etc. The non-human subjects or background should be identified also. Even with photos of people, it is advisable to ask "what?" Are the people in a group of some kind, for example, "Magee first cousins," "St. John's First Communion Class of 1960," or "John Magee's bowling team?"
Knowing where this
photo was taken
helped me to identify
the woman as
my great grandmother
3. When? Be as specific as possible with dates. Dates can be crucial clues in genealogical research.
4. Where? Writing "Camden, NJ" is not enough. Again, be as specific as possible: a full street address, a building's name, an intersection, or the address and owner of a backyard (Example: "Jim Large's back yard at 1545 Lees Avenue in Camden, NJ, with Camden City Hall in the distant background far left").
5. Why? Why was the photograph taken? What is the story told by the photo? Do you know a reason why the people in the photo were together? Why they were at the location? Why was Aunt May's photo taken that day? Was a family or individual portrait taken for a special reason or as a gift to a special person? Why is the family standing in front of that building? Why were they at the beach that day?
      Every picture tells a story--don't forget to include that story!

Oh, there is a story in this photo, for sure!
But will I ever know?

01 May 2012


     I simply could not wait until I could get my hands on a copy of the new 4th edition of John Grenham's Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, so I ordered a copy from Amazon UK. And, yes, this tome (579 pages) is still THE authoritative handbook on Irish genealogy. I was not disappointed!
     In the chapter "The Internet," Grenham states on page 68: "The rule is simple: if you don't know what you've searched, you don't know what you've found."
     My response: AMEN!
     I think this one sentence sums up why this book belongs on the bookshelf of every Irish family historian.
     I wish I could afford to send copies to the creators of every "cut and paste" family tree posted on Ancestry.com. Just this past week, I found four such trees that have included my ancestor in families that are not his and in locations in which he never resided.  (I wonder--do some of these "family historians" ever go back to Ireland or other countries and visit "relatives," found via this hasty and faulty research, who are not in fact their relatives?). The "owners" of many of these trees have no idea of what they are searching or who they are finding. With a guide such as Tracing Your Irish Ancestors available, there is no excuse for shoddy research. For more experienced researchers, the book contains valuable finding aids for locating records and repositories.
    I have a few comments on my initial examination of the book:
1)  This guide "works" precisely because Grenham explains the records--what the records are, where they are located, and what those records mean to your research. His explanations are as valuable as are his lists and bibliographies.
2) Grenham writes in an intelligent manner, but takes the time to explain the basics. Don't be daunted by the size of the guide. Read it in small chunks, if needed.
3) I especially like the bibliography of books and publications he includes at the end of chapters and county sections. Bibliographies in his earlier editions have proven very valuable to my research. His bibliographies have led me to quite a few local histories that have helped me to further my research and understand the lives of my ancestors.
4) Which brings me to a related topic item: eBook research. Books are being digitized at an amazing rate, a boon to those of us who can travel to Ireland only occasionally. Finding local histories and genealogies online can be as tricky as finding records, and I would have been interested in Grenham's advice regarding searching for and evaluating the information in eBooks. ( See my recent post on eBooks: http://irishfamilyresearch.blogspot.com/2012/02/using-ebooks-for-your-genealogy.html and see the site Free Irish Genealogy EBooks: http://freeirishgenebooks.blogspot.com/ ).
5) Grenham has updated the Internet portion of his book. However, tackling Internet research and sites in a physical book is like catching a greased pig (to use a rather visual rural American term!). Internet sites and databases change too rapidly to capture in a snapshot in a print book. But, that is the nature of the Internet, and not a criticism of the book. What I think is valuable is Grenham's discussion of Internet research--that advice will stand the test of time.
6) I liked that Grenham tackled the topic of estate records, and points the reader to many estate collections, but I wish a more comprehensive guide to estate records were available. The huge Wandesforde estate collection (at the National Library of Ireland) is not mentioned. This collection has been my most valuable resource in tracking my County Kilkenny ancestors. Estate records can be a treasure trove for family historians, but are not easy to locate, so I assume the task was beyond the reach of this edition. But if Mr. Grenham ever decides to publish a comprehensive guide to estate records--I will be first in line to buy the first copy off the presses!