Monday, June 29, 2015

Great News For Irish Genealogists

National Library of Ireland launching online genealogy resource in July

The National Library of Ireland’s complete collection of Catholic parish register microfilms is to be made available online for free later this year.

On 8 July 2015,  the NLI launched a dedicated website with over 390,000 digital images of the microfilm reels on which the parish registers are recorded. 

The NLI said it has been working for over three years to digitize the microfilms.  

According to the NLI, the parish register records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history before the 1901 Census.  Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,091 parishes throughout the island of Ireland and consist mainly of baptismal and marriage records.  

“We announced initial details of this project last December, and received a hugely enthusiastic response from people worldwide with an interest in Irish family history,” said NLI’s Ciara Kerrigan, who is managing the digitization of the parish registers.  

“This is the most significant ever genealogy project in the history of the NLI.  The microfilms have been available to visitors to the NLI since the 1970s.  However, their digitization means that, for the first time, anyone who likes will be able to access these registers without having to travel to Dublin.”

Typically, the parish registers include information such as the dates of baptisms and marriages, and the names of the key people involved, including godparents or witnesses. The digital images of the registers will be searchable by parish location only, and will not be transcribed or indexed by the NLI.

“The images will be in black and white, and will be of the microfilms of the original registers,” explained Ms. Kerrigan.  “There will not be transcripts or indexes for the images.  However, the nationwide network of local family history centres holds indexes and transcripts of parish registers for their local areas.  So those who access our new online resource will be able to cross-reference the information they uncover and identify wider links and connections to their ancestral community by also liaising with the relevant local family history centre.”

Friday, June 26, 2015

More about My Genealogy Journey: Persistence Pays Off

I usually refer to myself as a bulldog. I will chase after something endlessly and rarely give up. This a very good trait in a genealogist and I am going to explain why.

Brickwalls are a part of every genealogy. You get to a certain point and can't seem to get any farther. When you are Irish, it is inevitable. By a couple of happy circumstances, I have been luckier than most.

My great-great grandfather, Cornelius Donoghoe was married and naturalized in Massachusetts. I was able to get a copy of his civil marriage record from the state and on it I found his father's name and his wife's father's name. This is a really big deal.

Additionally, the naturalization document in Massachusetts is much more detailed than Connecticut and not only tells where he was born in Ireland but when he arrived in this country. To anyone who has done Irish genealogy this is the this is the "mother lode".

I have been to Ireland, found his parents marriage and two sisters and that was pretty much that for the last almost 20 years. Last night, I was searching around on  Family Search and as usual was checking what records they have.

I wanted to check the 1850 census for Massachusetts to see if there was any new information on where Cornelius might be. I searched Geoffrey just for the fun of it and found two more siblings for Cornelius that I never knew existed. I also found a death record in Boston in 1860 for a Jeffrey Donahue 50 years old. Is this my Jeffrey? I don't know but if it is, it changes everything I thought I knew.

What the lesson here is, it is never over. We just need to keep looking and going back to the same sources because you  never know when new information will be added. 

Just for the record, the spelling that I used for Geoffrey and Donahue are not misspellings, these are the variations I have found in the records. At Cornelius' birth his father's name is spelled with a G and the Donahue was spelled with all o's and the g. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 New York State Family History Conference

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The second New York State Family History Conference will take place in Syracuse, NY, September 17–19, 2015 and bring together hundreds of researchers from across the country who want to learn about their New York roots.

The Central New York Genealogical Society and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society are cosponsoring the 2015 New York State Family History Conference.  This year’s event will also be a Federation of Genealogical Societies Regional Conference.

The three-day conference will be held September 17–19 at the Holiday Inn & Conference Center Liverpool, just outside Syracuse, New York.  It will attract hundreds of researchers—both amateur and professional—and top experts in the field.

Nationally known speakers, Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL, The Legal Genealogist; Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, FASG; David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA,; Curt B. Witcher, Allen County Public Library; D. Joshua Taylor, and President, Federation of Genealogical Societies; Dick Eastman, author and publisher; James D. Folts, Ph.D., New York State Archives; Henry B. Hoff, FGBS, editor of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register; Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., The Genetic Genealogist; Ed Donakey,, VP of FGS; Eric G. Grundset, Library Director, DAR Library; Jim Ison, CG,; Matt Knutzen, New York Public Library; Jen Baldwin,; and, New York-specialist, professional genealogists Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, FGBS; Karen Mauer Jones, CG, FGBS; Terry Koch-Bostic and Jane E. Wilcox will give lectures.

 he registration fee for the three-day conference (excluding meals and printed syllabus) is $140 for the first 75 registrants (available through March 31 or until sold out); members of the CNYGS or the NYG&B receive a $25 discount. Purchase tickets in the online store at

The conference responds to the rapid growth in interest in family history research and, in particular, the demand for information about families who lived in New York State.

Attendees will have an opportunity to advance their skills in researching New York families, to build general skills and through 30 lectures in three parallel tracks and learn ways to build their local genealogical and historical societies through the FGS Focus on Societies day. In addition there will be three luncheons and a dinner, all with riveting speakers; and open-to-the-public Society Showcase; and exhibits by vendors and societies. The conference program and exhibitor information may be found on the conference website,

New York State poses numerous challenges for even the most experienced family history researcher.  The New York State Family History Conference will break down research barriers and provide a forum that brings people together to share their research knowledge and problem-solving experiences and to collaborate on key research issues.

Sponsors of the conference include the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the Capital District Genealogical Society,,, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the New York Public Library, the New York State Archives and New York State Library, and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.
About the CNYGS
The Central New York Genealogical Society was formed in 1961 for the purpose of preserving, publishing and sharing genealogical information and resources.  Towards that end, it has published Tree Talks, a highly respected quarterly which contains abstracts of significant records from upstate New York counties and is fully indexed, annually. The CNYGS holds six meetings yearly, and members engage in record preservation projects to preserve and report information for the future.  Its official website is located at
About the NYG&B
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society has been a primary resource for research on New York families since 1869.  The Society’s mission is to help people of all backgrounds find their places in American history through family history and genealogy. The NYG&B offers educational programs, including a biennial, three-day statewide conference, of which the NYG&B is a co-founder; two essential quarterly publications, including its scholarly journal, the NYG&B Record; and extensive resources online at In January 2015, the NYG&B published its monumental, 856-page New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer, the first and only comprehensive guide of its kind in the United States.
About the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS)
The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) was founded in 1976 and represents the members of hundreds of genealogical societies across the United States and in other nations. FGS links the genealogical community by helping genealogical societies strengthen and grow through a variety of online resources; through its FGS FORUM magazine published quarterly; and through its annual national conference which provides societies and family history enthusiasts four days of excellent learning opportunities including one full day devoted to society management — all delivered by nationally recognized speakers, educators, and regional experts. To learn more about FGS, its member societies, and its upcoming conferences, visit Find FGS on Facebook, on Twitter @FGSgenealogy and on the FGS Voice blog at

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Flasback: My Journey to Find My Grandparents

I thought I would go a little different direction today and tell you about my genealogy journey. Where I started, where I have journeyed and where I am still going. 

When my father died in 1984, it was brought home to me in a momentary flash of regret that I had lost the last chance I had to find out about my grandparents. As the oldest child of a second family, I had never know any of my grandparents and now had lost the last link to that side of the family.

Poor timing to be sure to decide to start trying to trace my genealogy and find out about my grandparents when I had no one left to interview. I began at that time a search that has spanned more than thirty years and continues to this day.

Starting from scratch is what I called it. I knew my grandparents names but my grandmother was born in England and whenever I asked my father as a child where she had been born, he would say something like Yorkshire, Berkshire or Derbyshire. The words Cambridgeshire never came out of his mouth and after many years of searching I have found not only the village of my ancestors but several villages on the Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk border.

Looking back after thirty years, it is hard to imagine that these people, my grandparents, were such a mystery to me. I feel like I know them so well now. It has been a long haul but here are a few of the steps that I took in my search.

The very first thing I did was to become a registered genealogist. In my state that is required to have access to birth information and while my grandmother wasn't born in the US, my grandfather was. I went to the town hall with my card and looked at death records. I needed to have the death dates of my grandparents. With that information I went to the local library and went through the copies of the newspaper on microfilm and photocopied the obituary notices. This gave me family names and another place to go with my research.

My grandmother was Edith Hunns. I learned that this is a name that is usually found in Cambridgeshire and that there are many thoughts about the origins of this name.

I called the church that holds the records of religious events like baptism and marriages and was allowed access to the records which I have to tell you would not be as likely to happen today. Be prepared to be told that you can submit questions but will not be allowed to look at the record yourself. When you ask them for information, ask for all the information during a time period for anyone with the same last name. You may end up with information that doesn't apply to you but you may also find out about family members you had no idea existed. Be sure to make a donation as well, this will get your research done much quicker.

My next step was the US Census, it became one of my favorite tools. I found my grandmother as a young woman living with her father, brother, sister, brother-in law and nephews in the 1900 census. I also found out where she was working which explained how she met my grandfather who worked for the same company.

From the names I found, I went looking for some of my father's cousins and luckily I found a few who were quite a bit younger than him and were able to give me valuable information and family lore that I was missing.

Over the last twenty five years I have pieced together a much better picture of my grandparents than I ever had while my father was alive. I have gotten photographs, visited England and seen the church where my grandmother was baptized, found the cemetery where her mother is buried and needless to say have gone back about three hundred years farther into the story of my family. And it all started with my grandparents and my desire to know who they were.

What I wanted to show everyone is that while it is great to know a lot about your ancestors when you begin your research, it isn't required. You can learn a lot with the resources that are available to you. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Palatines to America Genealogy Conference

June 24-27, 2015, PALATINES TO AMERICA, 2015 NATIONAL CONFERENCE, HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA, To be held at the CROWNE PLAZA HOTEL, 23 S 2nd St, Harrisburg, PA 17101, 717-234-5021

Bus Trip Wednesday June 24 to Conrad Weiser Homestead and Lititz Historical Foundation and Museum

Library Research Thursday June 25 Pennsylvania Archives

Jun 26-27, 2015 Crowne Plaza Hotel Enjoy Our Speakers
Michael D. Lacopo, D.V.M., Jonathan R. Stayer, Katheraine Lowe Brown, Ph.D., Iren Snavely, Ph. D., M.S., Joe Lieby, Kathleen Hale

Online registration at this website 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Review on Friday: Organizing Your Genealogy

By now hopefully, you have lots of information. If you remember back in the beginning I suggested getting a lose leaf notebook and clear plastic sheets. It is now time to take all the information you have collected and not only put it into a genealogy program or into your family tree on Ancestry but organize it.

Like most of us, you have more than one branch on your tree. You will want to keep the information separate for the different lines. How you do this is up to you. You can add a tab to the front page for each family name or you can make a header page with the name. What ever makes it easiest for you to find the information you want easily.

I print off a pedigree charts with the names already on them from my genealogy program and they become the front page of each section. I then place any documents or pictures I have found that relate to the people on that pedigree the pages behind them. Keeps it easy to find and neat. I also never only have one copy of anything. Ever since our house fire, I always make sure to have multiple copies stored in different places including in a container under the bed which is what saved mine.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Determining Country of Origin from Surnames

Much of our identity is wrapped up in our names. When it comes to determining the country of origin of your last name you have to be very careful. Some names seem so obvious that you may jump to a conclusion that is totally incorrect. Not all names are what they seem to be. 

The first thing to look at is the ending of your name. Certain name ending are more likely to come from one country than another. When it comes to France, there are several ending that are seen quite often, they are ier and eau or oux.  Names such as Grenier, Boudreau, and Theroux fit this pattern. Now given the fact that France colonized all over the world, you may find names that would seem to be of French origin which really belongs to native peoples and also Africans who were enslaved and took the names of their masters. Switzerland has a French-speaking area where the language and the names are French but the people may or may not be ethnically French.

You can see by these examples that there is much more to determining the ethnicity of a name and its owner than just what it sounds like.

Another example is the name Esteves, which is Portuguese. There is also a name Esteve which is French and Estevez which is Spanish. They are all taken from the name Steven and at least in the Portuguese version mean son of Steven. In the Scandinavian countries, names such as Svenson and Larson have the same meaning. But how do you tell if it is Norwegian, Swedish or Danish? You need to have more information than just the name.

When it comes to Irish names, if you are lucky enough to have the O in front of your name that is pretty obvious but there are other names that are shared with Scotland and England and even Normans which is the case with the Fitzgeralds.

Another problem with determining the country of origin of a last name is that the name may have been totally changed. In some cases, it may have been shortened but in others, it is a new name. This happened quite often as immigrants tried to fit in and also the local authorities in a town when they could not understand what a name was, they often spelled it phonetically and that often comes out quite different. 

Something like Bushy for Boucher or Gonye for Gagne. In another case, LeRoi which means "the king" became King. In other cases the names were just Americanized, Drajewicz became Drake and Shalamuck became Palmer. These are actually people that I personally know so this is not just a rumor, these are true family stories. 

While it may be interesting to try to determine the country of origin of a given name there is no guarantee that it won’t be taking you down the completely wrong road. It is more efficient to do a little research first to try to get a handle on the family story and then have fun trying to understand your name.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Vital Records and how to use them

You are now ready to enter into the world of public records. The first thing you are going to need to do is to figure out where the records you want are. Records may be stored on a town, county or state level. Once you figure out where you ancestor was born, married or died, you need to figure out where the records are held.

I can't tell you where yours will be, there are just too many variables. There is a book, however,  called "The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy" which your local library may have or be able to get for you and it tells you in every state where the records are stored.

Before you go looking for records, you may want to join a local genealogical society. Some states require that you be a registered genealogist to be allowed access to records, especially birth records that are under 100 years old.

Some places may let you make photo copies of records and other places may require you buy a registered copy. This can start to get expensive but it is worth it to have the hard copies. You want to try to get not only your ancestor but all of their siblings. You never know which record might have that gem of information.

Always treat any books you are looking at respectfully and politeness goes a long way when you are visiting places where people are trying to do their job at the same time.

Before heading off to look for records, check to see if they might be available online. Some states have digitalized their records. Some of them, especially older records are available on and

Happy hunting.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Finding That Elusive Maiden Name

It is hard to imagine today, not knowing what a woman's maiden name was. Some women chose to keep their maiden name or hyphenate their name with their husbands name. Women have only had the right to vote for 100 years and that before that, they were considered their husbands property. When you are property, your maiden name is often lost. 

It is bound to happen to you at some point, you are going to be dealing with Mary. She is your ancestor and you have no idea what her last name is. Is this the end of the road, are you doomed to never find her maiden name? 

I know you are probably tired of me saying maybe but it isn't always possible to find the name but before you admit that, there are a few things you can try. 

First, especially in the south, the mother's maiden name is often used as a fist name. So if you find a child with what obviously could be a last name, you may have hit pay dirt. That Bryant, Montgomery or Tremont may just be your clue. 

In England, the middle name is often the clue. I found one of my own ancestors this way. The last last ancestor I knew was Catherine Watson Worn. I found her birth and her father is John Worn and her mother is Mary. After much research I found the marriage of John Worn and Mary Watson. 

A will is also a place to find a maiden name but it is more difficult. You need to know which will to look at. You will need to search for hints to the name perhaps in the marriage witnesses or in sponsors at religious ceremonies. In a will fathers often refer to their daughters as Mary, the wife of John Worn or something of this nature so you know that she is the right one. 

Look at the neighbors and people living close by. Family often lives near each other. 

Cemeteries are also an option. Look for names on stones and also look at the families who are buried around your ancestor. Families will often be buried together or near each other. 

If you ancestor remains unknown try to use the information you may have about people they interact with to see who might actually be related. Look at land records, work records just about any piece of information that may relate to this family. You may find the maiden name mentioned in a pension record. Just keep trying until you run out of ideas and then try to think of another idea. 

Not all names will reveal themselves. Move on for today and come back another day with new ideas.

Monday, June 1, 2015

English Genealogy: GRO

For many Americans, your genealogy search is going to take you back to England. Depending on the time period you are dealing with, this can be easy or it can be difficult. 

In 1837 civil registration was mandated in England. What this means is at this time all births, marriages and death were registered with the Civil authorities. These registers can be accessed for free online at . All the years are divided into four quarters so while you will not get exact dates, you will get the quarter in which the event was recorded. Once you have the information about the quarter that the event took place you can order an official certificate from the GRO (General Register Office). 

A work of caution, it is easy to end up ordering a bunch of certificates for people who are not really your ancestor. Many people have the same name, Unless you have a very unique name, the possibility is high that you will make at least one mistake. 

I have ordered many certificates over the years both through the mail and in person in England and I have ended up with several that are relatives but not the person I was looking for. The good news is, to date, I have never got someone who was not related to me at all. Be sure in a marriage that you find both spouses in the same quarter.

If your ancestors are prior to 1837 then the process is entirely different and I will write about that in a future post.