Saturday 16 March 2013

St Patrick's Festival Genealogy Centre: review

The third day of the St Patrick's Festival Irish Family History Centre got underway this morning.

Being St Patrick's Eve, Dublin was thrumming by 10am and expectations were high in the Centre that more people would call in, eager to start their research or, perhaps, to get some advice or new direction to progress existing research.

I was doing a short stint on the IGRS counter, and there was certainly a good flurry of activity in the building around 11am. At one point, all eight computer stations were occupied on the FindMyPast Ireland tables, and each of the four Irish genealogy societies were busy helping people at their desk. But it then quietened down again. It wasn't dead quiet; there was a fair throughput, but it was obvious everyone was a little disappointed there weren't more visitors. The two previous days had followed a similar pattern.

As a general observation, I'd say there was an acceptance that this was a new venture, that things would be learned from it, and the tight five-week lead time had clearly not been sufficient to promote the event fully. For all that, it was doing what it said on the tin – offering free help to (mostly) beginners to generate interest in family history research. Just in rather smaller numbers than had been hoped for.

For the visitors who did come along, however, I'm sure all went away very happy indeed either with the records they uncovered on the database (records are free to view throughout the event), with information gleaned from one of the free talks, or with advice from any of the societies, Ancestor Network or the National Archives of Ireland.

The great and the good of Irish genealogy are gathered together at the venue (see below) until Monday. For anyone who has a yearning to start their research, or needs some help to get over a brickwall, there really won't be many better opportunities to get the very highest standard of advice than this weekend.

Venue: Discover Ireland Centre, St Andrews, Suffolk Street, Dublin 2.

Programme for Sunday 17 March: 11am-4pm
11:30am Matchmaking and marriage customs in 19th-century Ireland, with Sean O'Duill
12:30pm The Irish abroad: world records at, with Aoife O Connor
1:30pm Starting your family history with, with Cliona Weldon
2:30pm Introduction to Irish birth, marriage and death records, with Eileen O'Duill

Programme for Monday 18 March: 11am-3pm
11:30am Using directories to trace your family history, with Brian Donovan
12:30pm Hidden treasures: lesser know sources, with Fiona Fitzsimons
1:30pm Starting your family history with, with Cliona Weldon