Friday, May 27, 2016

Dispelling more myths about Irish genealogy

Anyone who has ever tried to do Irish genealogy knows that it can be challenging. Irish history has not been friendly to genealogist and many of the events of the last 500 years have affected the records that are available. In some cases, it has to do with records that were destroyed and in other cases, it is that records were not allowed to be kept. In spite of the challenges, Irish genealogical research is not impossible. 

#1 Myth No Census Records Survived 

The census returns for 1881 and 1891 were pulped during World War I. The returns for 1861 and 1871 were destroyed shortly after they were taken. The 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 were housed in the public record office in Dublin and on June 30, 1922, at the beginning of the Civil War in Ireland the PRO (Public Record Office)  was destroyed by a two-day bombardment and explosion that led to a fire. Very few records survived but fragments have survived of several counties especially Cavan and other northern counties. 

That is the bad news, the good news is the 1901 and 1911 census have survived and are available online. Now I am sure you are thinking but my ancestors left during the famine how is a census taken 50 years later going to help me. You might be very surprised. Just because your ancestor left, it doesn't mean that every one of their siblings left and some may have still been in Ireland in 1901 and 1911

#2 Myth If my Ancestor left Ireland in the famine no one stayed behind

I have recently found that this myth was false in the case of my family. I have always assumed that since my ancestor was a 15-year-old boy who came alone that none of his family survived the famine. Well, that turned out to not be the case. I was very surprised to find the younger brother of my ancestor alive and well and getting married in the parish records so naturally, I went looking for him on the census. 

#3 The information from the lost census' doesn't exist anywhere

The physical census' were mostly destroyed from 1821-1891. But, and this is a very important but, the 1908 Old Age Pension Act provided compensation for people 70 years old and older. At this point, the censuses had not yet been destroyed. for the next 14 years, people used census extracts to prove their eligibility. You can access their pension applications and it is filled with valuable information about your family and what was in the census record. 

So now that we have dispelled some more myths about Irish genealogical research it is time to see if these apply to you and how you can use them to continue or begin your research. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

How to begin researching your genealogy

At some point, every avid genealogist was a beginner. We all felt the same excitement and the the same confusion about where to start. Relax, genealogy is an obsession that lasts a lifetime and just getting started is the first step. 

1. Get a loose-leaf note book or steno pad. You will use this a lot. Even in this computer age, your genealogy is too important to trust to just a digital medium, have a paper back up. 

2. Source everything the minute you write it down. Put the page number and the exact name of the document or person who provided the information. Trust me, later when you want to know where the information came from, you will thank me. 

3. Create a family group sheet with what you know. You can download a sheet and many other blank genealogy forms from 

4. Talk to family members especially the oldest ones. It is important to ask the right questions but also important to listen to the stories that are part of your family lore. 

5. The census is a great source of family information. It isn't just the United States census either, England, Canada, Scotland, Wales and Ireland all have easily accessible censuses that can be a very valuable resource. 

6. Visit the town hall or court house in the towns that are part of your family history. They are a treasure trove of information and often contain the local public records. 

This is just the beginning of one of the most exciting adventures of your life. Many more steps go into creating the picture of your family but these few basic tips are enough to get you off to a good start.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Palatines to America National Conference

If you have Palatine German's in your ancestry, here is a great opportunity to take part in a conference that celebrates your heritage. 

Your Sources Awaken!
June 22-25, 2016         

The Hilton at Grand Wayne Conference Center
1020 S Calhoun St., Fort Wayne, In. 46802
(Rooms will sell out quickly, make your reservations now Cut-off date for hotel reservation is May 15, 2016)
Conference rate:$104 plus tax, free parking
Reservations open now!
Call 260-420-1100 use Group Code PAL

Palatines to America is pleased to welcome you to the 2016 National Conference, to be held in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Enjoy Our Speakers: Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, Carolyn Wright Whitton, Ernest Thode, John Beatty, and Melissa Tennant. Click here for more information concerning speakers and conference.

Wednesday June 22: Bus Tour of Zion Frieheim Church (breakfast served at the church, a tour of the home of Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken, St. John Bingen Church, which was founded through the missionary efforts of Rev. Wyneken (lunch served at the church), Emmanuel-Soest Chuch, the largest confessional Lutheran church body in America (dessert served at the church), and St. Paul's Church, established in 1837 and one of the founding congregations of the Lutheran Church. (Bus leaves at 8:00 am and returns at approximately 5:30 pm)

Thursday, June 23:  Research at the Allen County Public Library.

Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25 Conference speakers begin presentations.

NOTE: All pricing on the website includes handling costs for using the internet interface. If you send a check, the pricing on the brochure applies. Conference Brochure 2016  (click here)

Monday, May 2, 2016

What You See on WDYTYA and Reality

I thought that seeing this weeks episode with Chris Noth was particularly interesting. Last September when Kathy and I were in Ireland we went to the same library in Cavan Town. While the staff member we talked to was friendly, she went back into the bowels of the building to talk to the archivist and then came out and told us there were no records to help us. 

No one sat at a table and gave us the stories of what Kathy's family might have lived though like they did for the star. This is what bothers me about this show, it is entertainment but isn't reality. You are not going to get private help, you are not going to get someone to do the work for you by sending the information. You are going to have to do it yourself. Unless you sign up for a very expensive genealogy tour. This is not reality TV it is fiction TV and it does all hardworking genealogist a disservice by making it look so easy. 

Now having said that, it made me think about what may be my own Cavan roots. Chris Noth's ancestor joined the British Army in Cavan. My DNA says I have Cavan roots, my ancestor William Maloney joined the British Army. I have no idea where he is from in Ireland but suddenly Cavan has become a real option. Which is why I watch WDYTYA, to get ideas.