Friday 28 January 2011

In search of emigrants in N. America, England, Wales or NZ?

Family Search, the huge LDS site, has launched over 90 million records this month. While none of them are directly related to Irish genealogy, they include some excellent resources for those trying to find emigrants who 'disappeared' in foreign climes.

The following are likely to be of most interest:

  • 4.3million records of US Border Crossings from Canada to the US 1895-1956.
  • Indexes of nearly 190,000 death registrations in Ontario 1869-1937
  • Indexes of nearly 365,000 marriages registered in Ontario 1869-1927
  • 1881 and 1891 census indices for England and Wales
  • Some 144,500 records of immigration to New Zealand 1839-1873

There are also several other collections of deaths, marriages and naturalisations in specific US states.

This feast of new records is now available at


Saturday 22 January 2011

National Library launches advance ordering service

Earlier this month the National Library of Ireland (NLI) launched an advance ordering service for those wishing to view its catalogued Manuscript Collection.

Up to five items can now be ordered by telephone or email --  (01) 6030 386, A form needs to be completed if ordering by email. Your can download it here.

Your request has to be logged by staff by 9am on the day you wish to view, so get your order in as early as possible the previous day if not before. Automatic confirmations are not issued.

The Manuscript Collection covers a wide range of subjects concerning Irish people in Ireland and overseas. Those of most interest to genealogists include landed estate records, maps and papers relating to certain businesses or industries. 

Monday 17 January 2011

Spring term genealogy courses

If the New Year has motivated you to make serious progress in your genealogy research, signing up for an indepth study course might be just what you need to harness your commitment and channel your enthusiasm.

Here are some of the courses starting this term:


Independent Colleges, Dawson Street, Dublin 2: Diploma course delivered in conjunction with The Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland. Starts Tuesday 8 February and runs for 12 weeks. Each weekly seminar lasts three hours.Costs €895. Tel:: 01-6725058.

Genealogical Society of Ireland, Dun Laoghaire: A weekend genealogy course taught by John Hamrock over eight weeks. Six students maximum. Starts Saturday 22 January. Class duration two and a half hours. Costs €300 including one-year student membership of GSI. Tel: 087 0505296.

Irish Times Training
, Tara Street, Dublin 2: Tracing your Family History, with John Grenham. Eight weekly 3-hour classes starting on 25 January. Costs €750, including one-year subscription to Irish Ancestors, and an individual consultation. Tel: 01-4727101. Fully booked.


Belfast Metropolitan College, Belfast: Investigating your Family Tree. Three courses, all starting week commencing 24 January, ending April/May. Mondays: Chichester Avenue; Tuesdays: Whiterock; Thursdays: Ashfield Girls School. Costs €72. Tel: 00 44 (0)28 90 265 265

Saturday 15 January 2011

Famine in Bray

One of the casualties of last month's extreme weather conditions was a talk The Famine in Bray, co Wicklow by Brian White.

The talk has been rescheduled for 8pm Wednesday 19th January at the Royal Hotel, Main Street, Bray.

This fund raising event is in aid of Bray Cancer Support Centre and the Chernobyl Children's Fund. All welcome.

Friday 7 January 2011

New Year Resolutions - 7

What goes around comes around, so this final Resolution of the first week of 2011 is to Help and Be Helped.

No matter where you live, there are always opportunities to give or receive genealogy advice, or to help out in all manner of ways. The plan is to share your own knowledge and experience with others while also benefitting yourself.

Here are some ideas:
  • Join a forum specialising in Irish genealogy ( and are both very good). Here you can post and find answers to your own specific questions and share your own knowledge by answering those of other forum members.

  • Join a group. Yes, this has come up before in this year's resolutions, but it's worth repeating. Becoming an active member of a family history group (local or national), a local history society, or an Irish club means you'll not just be learning from others, you'll also enjoy the craic.

  • Join a transcribing project. Getting involved in indexing projects means you're helping the entire genealogical community. It doesn't really matter if you're transcribing Irish records or not. Everyone benefits. is always looking for transcribers (a project to index the Tithe Applotment Books has just got underway if you want to get stuck in immediately), but your local family history group or heritage centre may also be looking for volunteers.

January dates for your diary

Below is a random collection of history and genealogy talks, lectures, discussions, presentations taking place this month. Please confirm times with the organisers/venue.

11 January: Genealogical Society of Ireland. Recording your family history in real time Global Web Environment. Joe Whelan.

18 January: Coleraine Historical Society. Titanic. George Dallas. 8pm. Guild Hall, Terrace Row.

18 January: Linen Hall Library. Titanic Port: The Illustrated History of Belfast Harbour. Alf McCreary. 6.30pm.

25 January:
O'Neill country Historical Society. Roger Casement's Northern Connections. James Kane. 8pm Bottle of Benburb, Dungannon.

26 January: Linen Hall Library. Vere Foster - the man who paid women to go away. Ann McVeigh (PRONI). 1pm

Thursday 6 January 2011

New Year Resolutions - 6

It's easily overlooked in the excitement of discovering another delicious snippet of information about an elusive ancestor, but every genealogist has to get into the habit of recording their sources.

We've all done it -- assured ourselves that the information is so staggeringly memorable that we'll remember forever exactly where and when we discovered it. Truth is, though, that while the new information may be indelibly etched on your brain, its source will very likely fade in a surprisingly short period of time.

Give yourself a break! You cannot expect yourself to remember the source of every single piece of genealogical data you come across. You simply need to record it, not least so that you can consider its weight when dealing with conflicting information.

It is not just you who benefits from this practice. It helps anyone else who wants to rely on your research to find the source document. There are a heck of a lot of genealogies now flying around either in cyberspace or in printed format. Some are well-researched. Many are not. The only way you or any other researcher can check the validity of another person's work is if sources have been cited.

Citing your sources is an excellent habit to acquire. There are some industry standards for doing this, but they are not really essential. Just make sure your citation provides enough information for another researcher to find your source.

Let 2011 be the year that citing your sources becomes an automatic response to new discoveries.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

New Year Resolutions - 5

Traditionally, homes were whitewashed in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the intention being to make sure the home was spic and span, ready to receive family and friends for the festive season.

In a similar spirit, Resolution 5 is to Whitewash your Research ie really tidy, organise and spruce up your records, to ensure that when next Christmas comes around, they're in great shape.

For some, this will be quite a daunting prospect. But, let's face it, the more daunting, the more likely your research material needs a darn good sort out.
  • Write or type up all your notes. Gather all your scraps of paper, Post-Its and notebooks into one place. Sift through and sort into surname/individual order or chronological order (whichever works best). Initially just concentrate on breaking down a mammoth project into smaller, more manageable tasks. Then tackle one task at a time. Create a realistic schedule and work systematically through it.
  • Label & archive your family photos. I went through this exercise myself last year and ended up with 976 photos, each one physically labelled, scanned with an identifying file name, and filed in 'decade' and 'surname' folders on my computer. This huge digital album was then transferred onto dvd, and I sent copies to all my siblings just before Christmas. I've also transferred the album onto two memory sticks – one lives in my purse, the other on my desk. I swear I've slept better in the last month, knowing that my family's photographic inheritance is safe, even if disaster should strike the original old photos themselves.
    1. Before you launch into labelling and scanning, make sure you have correctly identified all the people in the photos.
    2. Don't write directly onto the back of a photo.... write onto a self-sticking label and then attach it to the back of the photo.
    3. For long-term storage of originals, use acid-free, archival quality boxes.
  • Decide who will inherit your research: This will be taking the notion of a tidy-up a little too far for some, but I'll mention it anyway. Do you want the results of all your genealogy effort to languish in a loft when you've gone, or do you want to ensure someone else enjoys and/or continues your work? I'll assume the latter! In which case you need to make a decision, ensure several members of the family are aware of it, and, if necessary, leave written instructions. Depending on the make-up of your family, you might even want to divide your research between different branches of your family.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

New Year Resolutions - 4

The Internet, and computers in general, have revolutionised genealogy research and opened it up to a much wider public.

This is A Good Thing.

Unfortunately, we've very quickly come to see these technological advances as the be-all-and-end-all of family history research.

This is A Bad Thing.

So, this New Year Resolution is to Remove the Internet blinkers and leave the mouse at home. Here are a few ideas for reaching out beyond your computer:

  • Contact Great Aunt Nellie: Get in touch with at least one relative who you've been meaning to contact for ages. Don't postpone this any further. If possible, make it a face-to-face interview. Prior to your meeting or telephone call, gather together some prompts (old photos, newspaper clippings, memorial cards etc) to help you guide your relative down memory lane. Copies of these items can be sent by post in advance.
  • Join a family or local history group: Whether you choose a national or local group, you're sure to extend your knowledge of resources and how best to access them, as well as making contact with others who can guide you, swop brickwall and success stories, offer tips, and keep you minded that genealogy is about people, not bytes and USBs.
  • Sign up for history lectures or classes: Learning about historical and political events will help put your ancestors' lives in perspective, while social history subjects will deepen your understanding of your ancestors' day to day lives. Your local family/local history group or library will have details of what's on offer.
  • Visit an unfamiliar place connected with an ancestor: Depending on distance, aim to make at least one visit to a church, school, house, street, town or other specific location that would have held memories for one of your ancestors. Explore it and talk to neighbours, officials and/or locals until it starts to feel familiar to you. If distance, resources or mobility make a visit impractical, resolve to read an area-specific book, or carry out research in some other way, to help you achieve that 'sense of place'. (Research carried out exclusively on Google Earth doesn't count!)

Monday 3 January 2011

New Year Resolutions - 3

Here's a quick and easy resolution that you can tick off quickly: sign the petition for the early release of the 1926 census.

As things stand today, the release of the 1926 records is caught up in the 100-year-rule that would not see the records made public until 2026.

But the 100-year-rule was not introduced until many years after the census so, according to those campaigning for its release (myself included), there would be no broken promises or breach of confidentiality involved in releasing the records now.

A compromise solution – of redacting information (ie witholding data) for those born within the last 100 years – is a sensible way forward. This was the basis on which the 1911 census in England and Wales was released early. There wasn't even a murmur of discontent about it, and there wouldn't be in Ireland, either.

To read Steven C Smyrl's full argument in the Irish Times go to

And then sign the petition!

Sunday 2 January 2011

New Year Resolutions - 2

Develop a Data Back-up Routine.

Computer technology has been a fantastic boon to genealogists. Not only can we run sophisticated family tree databases on our machines, we can also scan and keep photos, and store emails, bookmarks, To Do lists, ebooks, genealogy charts, worksheets and lovingly researched biographical stories of our ancestors. Love that machine!

So how are you going to feel if it all that data disappears in one fell swoop?

Technological blips happen. Not often, fortunately, but are you happy to take such a risk? If not, there's only one way to avoid disaster: back up your data. Regularly.

How you choose to do this is up to you. You might want to find an online back up service. Costs vary. Or you might want to buy yourself an external hard drive, one that connects via a USB plug. Again, costs vary, depending on the amount you want the device to hold.

More portable methods include copying all your files to CD/DVD or Memory/USB Stick. (The latter is my preference. For less than 10 Euros, my memory stick holds all my essential data and is small enough to fit in my purse.) It's a good idea to keep your data copy separate to your computer.

Once you've decided on HOW to copy and store your data, make sure you USE it! Regularly. Preferably every time you make any updates. This is one habit you won't regret. Even if you never have a catastrophic technological blip, you won't regret the peace of mind that backing up brings.

Saturday 1 January 2011

New Year Resolutions - 1

Each day of this first week of 2011, Irish Genealogy News will suggest a suitable New Year's Resolution for family historians. First up is this:

Make a Plan for what you want to achieve in 2011.

You'll make best use of your time and resources if you know where you're headed. Exactly where you start with your plan rather depends on where you are already.

If you're just starting out, follow Irish Genealogy Toolkit's First Steps advice. You'll be well along in your research if you work your way through the list.

If you're already further along in your research, take a systematic approach.

  • Decide what it is you want to achieve.
  • Identify the gaps in your existing research
  • Map out the resources you need to search to fill those gaps
  • Decide when and how you are going to access those resources.

Commit your plan to paper and update it as you achieve each element.

Happy New Year!

What will 2011 bring to family historians, I wonder? My fanciful self hopes for loads of new resources, online, perfectly indexed and transcribed, and prettily wrapped up in a box marked 'free'. And then I return to reality, and realise that in the current economy, it's highly unlikely the Government is going to be dishing out much in the way of funds for major genealogy projects anytime soon.

Rather, I wouldn't be surprised if the opposite happens and we start to see some price rises along the way. It's already happening in Northern Ireland, where the cost of bmd certificates purchased from GRONI will rise from £12 to £14 from today.

But I don't really want to start speculating (especially in case it gives out any ideas!) so I'll stick here to what already appears to be on the cards.

  • Like it or not, it seems the LDS intends to forcibly switch us to the new, beta version of the online Irish civil registration index. The original, so-called pilot version was, according to many of us, considerably easier to use, and search results were more confidently received. Despite hundreds of negative comments, from genealogists in all corners of the world, the LDS team seem to be forging ahead. Until the day the plug is pulled, I know which one I'm using!

  • Expect a Certificate of Irish Heritage to be launched sooner, rather than later. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs confirmed to Irish Genealogy News just before Christmas that negotiations with a service provider were at an advanced stage. Since this product is mainly aimed at the American diaspora, and will bring in funds, I see this one going ahead.

  • The Tithe Applotment Books are being transcribed by the LDS church and, when completed, will be uploaded for free access onto the Family Search website. I don't know how long the transcription is likely to take but the project started at the end of November so I imagine it will be finalised this year.

  • More Roman Catholic church records for Cork and Dublin should be released at IrishGenealogy in the next few months. These are the records originally scheduled for release by the end of 2010. The revised date is 'early 2011'.

  • Another US series of Who Do You Think You Are will begin on NBC on Friday 4 February. The line-up includes Gwyneth Paltrow,
    Tim McGraw, Rosie O'Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Richie, Vanessa Williams and Ashley Judd. Not being a sleb follower, I don't know who most of these people are so can't hazard a guess on how much Irish genealogy will be involved, but the press blurb specifically states that this series includes some family history in Ireland.

  • Yet more genealogy on TV. A new genealogy programme is about to hit screens in Ireland. Called Genealogy Roadshow, the show will feature 'ordinary' people, rather than celebrities (hurrah!). Filming of the pilot show will be taking place at Carton House, Maynooth, co Kildare on Sunday 16 January, 11am to 5pm, when a team of genealogy experts will be on hand to solve family mysteries. The team are especially hoping to meet descendents of Arthur Guinness and Ernest Shakleton.

  • The mega database Ancestry is in the process of updating its Griffiths Valuation collection. It's calling this update an 'improvement'. I've no idea what that means, so we'll just have to wait and see. Currently, the database contains the Valuation Index of nearly one million names.
It's not a bad looking list for the very start of the year, especially considering the economic climate and outlook. As always, Irish Genealogy News will be keeping you up to date in the weeks and months ahead with any snippets of information about these and any other possible releases.