St Patrick’s Day Research Seminar Reprise

May your blessings outnumber

The Shamrocks that grow.

And may trouble avoid you

Wherever you go.🍀

On Wednesday, March 17th, the Family History Library hosted a free all-day seminar focused on Irish family history. Although I had other leprechauns to catch that day, I logged in at the top o’ the morning to find a pot of gold for someone beginning Irish research. The good news is that the recordings from these sessions are available for a limited time on the Family History Library Facebook page.

The day began with a keynote presentation by David E. Rencher, CGO+ who serves as the Family History Library’s director. His session was titled, “Three things I wish I’d known when I started my Irish research!” 

Spoiler Alert! Here are the three things he wished he had known:

First, the Irish enjoy the stability of surnames. Finding clusters of surnames can help a researcher focus on a specific geographic region of Ireland. If the researcher has the surnames of husband and wife to cross reference, it can leverage the power of intersection to narrow the search even more. Rencher used an example of two surnames he knew of a married couple who had children in Ireland. By using the geographic clues, he was able to narrow the search so that he found the family in the third parish. A great time saver! To be honest, it might not help with Murphys or Kellys, but check out John Grenham’s website. Enter an Irish surname and a distribution map will appear along with other information including variant spellings. This website offers a limited free surname search as well as subscription features, so check it out!

Second, early in his career Rencher was influenced by co-workers when they told him “[a]ll the records in Ireland were destroyed.” This is one of the myths in genealogy. It is true that the Public Record Office experienced a fire in 1922 that destroyed many records that would aid genealogical research, but there are records that help compensate for this record loss. 

So, what were the key record losses?

  • The 1821-1851 Irish Censuses (a few fragments for some counties survive). In 1821 Ireland began to enumerate every person in the household and took note of who had died. It is a significant loss! 
  • Two-thirds of the parish registers of the Church of Ireland
  • Original wills and administrations dating to the 1500s (fragments and copies did survive)
  • Court records prior to 1900

But, there was a massive effort to recover lost information so there are potential substitutes. Rencher briefly discussed the work of antiquarians and genealogists who made abstracts and transcriptions from the records housed in the Public Record Office before that fateful date. These files are listed on Family Search wiki, “Irish Genealogical Collections by County,” by the name of the collection (antiquarian), its repository(ies), whether or not the collection is found at the Family History Library, and the associated diocese(s).🍀

Finally, Rencher wished that he had paid attention to friends, associates, and neighbors, commonly referred to in genealogy as the FAN club. He admonished listeners to note the factors that brought their people to America. If they landed in New York and head to Kansas, there was a reason. He recommended that a researcher note all those who served as witnesses, godparents, etc, and the localities from which they came. The social circle might just hold the clue needed to advance the research.

Other sessions currently available on the Family History Library Facebook page are:

Once again, these presentations are available for a limited time. Although St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated one day each year, ancestors can be found all year long!

Good Luck!!! 🍀

© 2021 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

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