So you're ready to find out what makes you "you". By now you've determined "why" you want to launch into this Irish
genealogical research project, but you also need to ask yourself, "What exactly do I want to know?"
You are not just searching for names and dates, I'm sure you want to know personality characteristics,
professions, and much, much more. Through documents such as birth certificates and marriage licenses, you
can piece by piece put together an image of what your ancestor's life and personality was like. Now, this
also brings up the important fact that our ancestors WERE human, and therefore acted like humans.
This means specifically that they were not perfect. You need to understand that you may find out some very
disturbing things about them, but also understand that you will find out many things to be proud of!!
So now you know the "why" and the "what". Now comes the most important step. The "HOW". And that is what this Irish genealogy guide will explain to you. This Irish genealogy guide will set you on the right path to finding your Irish ancestors. It probably isn't the only resource that you will need, but it will definitely get you headed in the right direction. It will explain where to begin your search, how to search, what you need to search for, how to analyze what you've found, and how to record what you've found so future generations can easily access your material. Well let's get started!
Start with Yourself
Where to Begin
Remember when you were in school, and you asked your parents, "But why do we have to learn this history stuff, it happened sooo long ago, and who even cares now?" Do you remember what the answer was? "Well, little Jimmy, its because to learn about ourselves and our future, we have to learn about the past." Well, the same sentiment holds true for genealogy, for in fact, history and genealogy are intertwined. So that is where our search begins. It begins with oneself. Genealogy research is about self-discovery. It's about why you are "you". So of course the best place to start is with you. Have you ever really looked at your birth certificate? Well pull it out and have a look. There is a wealth of information on this document:
WOW, that's a lot of information from one document! Here's a list of other records that you should compile about yourself:
In addition to these official documents why don't you pull out those old photo albums and scrapbooks? They should tell you a lot about yourself, and most likely you will remember things about your childhood that you had forgotten.
See how much information is available about you? This should get you very excited about your search. Now compile all of your records together. It would be a great idea for you to keep a journal. Even better would be to write an autobiography! Imagine the tears of joy your great-grandchildren will feel when they are digging through old boxes and find that treasure! An autobiography may be a daunting task, but at least keep a journal and record notes and anecdotes that come to mind during your search. Remember, your search for your ancestors is a journey of self-discovery. Its not just about finding out who your ancestors were, it's also about finding out who you are!
The Next Step
You started with yourself, now its time to expand your search and find information about your family members. The next step is to search your home and immediate family for information.
Family stories are perhaps the greatest resource around. Every family has certain legends and stories that are told over and over again. The key word here is "told", as in verbally. Why not write these stories down? With each verbal telling, a story seems to get somewhat distorted. Remember that game you played when you were a kid and you started off with a phrase. Everyone sat in a circle and whispered the phrase into the next person's ear. Eventually it got back to the first person, and when the phrase was repeated it was COMPLETELY different that the original phrase? Well the same holds true for verbal stories in a family. With each generation and telling, the story gets more distorted. The important thing here would be to ask every family member to repeat the story. Especially seek out your older relatives and ask for their version of the story. Then you, the unbiased third party, would record the story, and all of its different versions. That way it gets written and documented for your family's future generations.
Family cemeteries are another great Irish genealogy resource. Many families have a certain day or time of year that they designate for cleaning up the family graves. Other families just visit whenever they are in the area. Depending on the location of the cemetery, there may or may not be ample research material. Newer graves would of course be in better condition, and they would have dates of birth and death that you could easily see. Also, most spouses are buried beside each other, so that makes things easier also. Make sure you look around in the areas right near your family graves, because other branches of the family are often nearby. Most Irish cemeteries are beside a parish church. If this is the case, then you should be able to talk to the parish priest and obtain more research material, such as:
He may even invite you into his rectory to sip a whisky and reminisce about your Irish family history!!
Old family papers are another great genealogy resource. Take a trip up to the attic in your house, or in your aunt's house, or your grandparent's house. You may be surprised at what you find! Another place to look for these documents is the old family Bible. If you actually find one, you will feel like you just hit paydirt because of the wealth of information at your fingertips. Look for these items in particular:
Some special things to note here are that when looking at old photo albums, look on the back of pictures. Many say the date and who is in the picture. You may find long lost great aunts or uncles. And their descendents (your long lost cousins) would love to see those pictures, I am sure.
Well, now that you are done scouring your house, attic, and family members for Irish genealogy information, you have reached the point where you have run out of living resources. This is the point when you have to analyze and document what you have found so you know where you are in your study. The free pedigree software program is quite possibly the most valuable resource in this package. It is windows based, so it is very easy to navigate. You can enter almost every kind of information you want (dates of birth, marriage, death, etc…) about each person in your family history. Also, you can write unlimited notes about each one. This would be a great place to document your family stories and legends. Take a lot of time to do this because remember, you are documenting information not only for yourself and your living relatives, but also for future generations. Therefore it is a good idea to do a very thorough job now, so as to make their job easier!
The Next Step
Now that you have documented your family history from as much information from living family sources, now you must broaden your search to libraries, Internet sources, and archives. Another good thing to do that goes hand in hand with this broadened search is to contact distant cousins who may be working on other branches of your family. That way you can share ideas and information, and hopefully make both of your jobs easier.
The old way to do genealogy research was to go to your local library, or a library where your family used to live, make friends with your librarian, and begin to tackle the daunting task of searching census records, periodicals, and journals. But with the Internet, genealogy research is made much, much easier. At your fingertips you have access to databases of information that in past times, you would have to trek halfway around the world to find!! The Internet is perfect for this type of research. Here is a list of great Internet resources that I have compiled during my own personal genealogy search. Some are completely free resources, and some may charge a small fee to access their database:
Browse the World's Largest List of Surnames
These are all very good genealogy resources and the best part, in my opinion, is the fact that most allow you to add the work you've done to a huge pedigree- style database. Hopefully you will find part of your work already done for you!
So now you have a more complete picture of your Irish family history, and I hope, yourself. Your journey may take you months, or even years, but a journey of self-discovery is well worth the effort. So now what do you do? Well share your information with everyone! Maybe you would like to organize a family reunion and pass out your family tree in a booklet form. Maybe you would like to build a webpage. Most definitely you should upload your family tree to the above websites. After all, we are all part of this world, and are most likely related, right cousin?