The Irish Connection 
by Laura Grover

[Shamrock]So you are searching for your elusive Irish ancestor? Join the crowd. So is almost everyone else I am meeting these days! We all have a bit of the Olde Sod still clinging to our shoes, a tendency to wear green on St. Patty’s Day and we are a great mass of very frustrated individuals. Why? We know that our ancestors came from Ireland but we do not know where (exactly) they lived and we don’t know where to begin to find their trail.

 It seems to me that the reasons for our anxiety are threefold:

  1. a very unfortunate fire in the Public Records Office in Dublin in 1922 caused many of the records that would have pointed our way to the homes of our forefathers and mothers to literally go up in smoke;
  2. the Irish have a penchant for boundaries -- a modest little farmhouse would be part of as many as six or more different partitions, and
  3. in parishes of Ireland where there were large concentrations of people with the same surnames, some church record keepers would not list yet another Murphy (for example) into the parish register, because everyone in the parish was a Murphy -- so the record keeper would use an identifier, e.g., John, the redhead, or Colleen of the third valley. That can make you crazy when you think you are looking for Murphys.



So how does the Internet help? It probably doesn’t, at least not yet. But mark my word, and you all probably know this, but as soon as I have written this article, my statements will be obsolete. That is really an understatement regarding the growth and expansion on the net. So, this information expires as of October 8, 1996.

 According to the experts on Irish research, what we really need to know about our immigrant ancestor is his real name and the townland where he lived in Ireland. That will get us a long way towards discovering his ancestors. Can we find this information on the net? Maybe. Sources in America are more likely to give us that information.

 So what can you expect from the net? Probably some clues that will point you in the direction of some further research and the possibility of connecting with other people who are looking for the same person you are. To me, that is the truly wonderful part of research on the net -- getting to meet live relatives (probably fifth or sixth cousins) who are on the journey with you! This gives us the possibilities sharing both the burdens of research and the joys of discovery.

 The temptation for all researchers is to skip the hard stuff -- DOCUMENTATION. It is even more important to keep the issue of sources in mind when working on the net because most of the records that you are able to find are just pointers or secondary sources. You are typically not looking at original documents on the screen. Therein lies the opportunity for further research. When you find that possible kernel of truth, you should verify it at the townland source in a record that was made contemporaneous with the event. We should never forget the best principles of genealogical research even as we encounter new and better web sites and newsgroups to peruse. It is so easy to get caught up in this incredible process and forget the basics.

 There are four web sites I would recommend to you for starters. You will want to visit them periodically to keep up with any updates made to the sites:

The Irish Family History Foundation

This is the home page for the network of research centers in all 32 counties of Ireland. It provides information on their holdings and general research aids. Features vary by county. The Ulster Guild provides a "Subscribers’ Interests Database" with names and addresses of those interested in particular surnames.

The UK & Ireland Genealogical Information Service

A "virtual reference library" of genealogical information, with an emphasis on primary historical material." Much general information, with links to regional pages and resources with information related to all the British Isles. Selecting "Ireland" links to the following page:

IRLGEN: Tracing Your Irish Ancestors

Provides links to some One Name studies of Irish surnames, the Irish Family History Foundation, the Family History Project (University of Cambridge/Trinity College, Dublin), the National Archives of Ireland, the North of Ireland Family History Society, GENUKI and "Family Tree’" a weekly 15-minute radio program in RealAudio format.

The National Archives of Ireland

Provides information on census returns, Tithe Applotment, Wills and Administration, Births Marriages and Deaths, and a list of genealogical and historical researchers.

Usenet groups

The two usenet groups that are most useful in our Irish research efforts are soc.genealogy.surnames and Check with your ISP if you do not see these two in the list of groups you can subscribe to. The surnames discussion group allows you to post a query referencing your specific elusive Irishman and to review a list of postings of queries by other researchers. I have personally have had a great deal of luck with this list. It has connected me with several people who have become friends and/or colleagues. I have followed several clues to a fruitful resolution.

 The other newsgroup, is focused on everything Irish -- history, surnames, geography, wars, heroes, etc. and their relationship to genealogy. To make the best use of these two groups, get the Genealogy Meta FAQ. It used to be posted every 22nd of the month. Print it and read the instructions. Then keep the FAQ for future reference. You will come back to it from time to time for further pointers. It is an invaluable net reference piece.

 In the Meta Faq there are two excellent tutorials: one for researching overseas, (it is heavily British, but a great reference tool for the serious genealogist), and another for use of the civil registration (which was used for Northern Ireland since 1921).

 This just touches on my subject. I hope this has given you some new ideas to pursue or challenged your current research methods. You might consider attending the Genealogy SIG meetings if you want more challenges. Or you might think about joining our local San Antonio Genealogical and Historical Society (210 342-5242) to associate yourself with other serious genealogists. In any case, whatever you do, do not give up hope. You will find you elusive Irish ancestor one of these days. It will take a lot of work and the luck of the Irish!

 Laura B. Grover is an Irish researcher concentrating on the names Carberry and Candler. She recently attended the Irish Genealogical Conference in Boston sponsored by the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. Some of her comments herein are attributed to Steve Kyner, author of the NEHGS computer interest newsletter and a speaker at the conference. Ms. Grover taught the "Genealogy on the Internet" course at the recent Internet Odyssey and performs professional heirship searches. She can be reached at