This is all about getting your KNOWN FACTS together - which come in the following four flavours:
Where can you find these facts? There are two primary sources:
SOURCE 1. LIVING RELATIVES: In Ireland, if you want to find out something - you ask someone who knows already. The original Irish Google! This might sound a bit obvious, but through the centuries, we have placed a lot of emphasis on the oral tradition.
So, after you have jotted down the facts that you know - and you want to go back a step, say find the maiden name for your grandmother - it’s a good idea to ask someone who is alive already. And follow THAT question up with a “what do you remember about her”. You can then corroborate the memories you uncover with records at a later date. It is also useful to ask for photographs (often showing a date and place) as well as private correspondence.
SOURCE 2. RECORDS: Records in the country of immigration and records in Ireland.
- Obituaries in papers.
- Civil records: Births, marriages and deaths.
- Census records.
- Immigration and passenger lists.
- Naturalisation records.
- Military and military pension records.
- Passport applications.
- Church records.
- Local newspaper articles and histories.
- Gravestone and burial records.
- Transportation records for convicts (Australia).
MORE ABOUT RECORDS.
How do you gain access to these records? Presuming you have uncovered some records in your extended family possession, I think its a good idea to take the following approach - starting with number 1 and seeing how far you get:
1. GO TO YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY. Local libraries are often your gateway to local knowledge AND the online world - staffed by librarians who have been asked the same kind of questions many times. Libraries also often have access to memberships of online ancestry sites.
2. SIGN UP FOR A PAID, OR FREE, ANCESTRY SITE. These sites typically do 3 things for you.
- They give you a place to "plant and grow" your family tree records.
- They help you to connect with other amateur genealogists - maybe even potential cousins - and compare notes.
- They give you search-access to many of the records mentioned above. Remember, your local library can often give you free (sometimes limited) access to these services.
The big Ancestry sites include:
- FREE SITES: familysearch.org This is a free-to-use genealogical record site run by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. It allows you to build a family tree and search through a wide range of worldwide civil records, church records, census data and other record types.
A lot of local libraries offer free access to most of the services offered by one or more of these ancestry sites. Many of our readers have found membership of (or a visit to) their local historical/genealogy society a wonderful way to connect with like-minded people in their localities.
Alternatively, you can access your local records more directly e.g. go to your local census site online, check out online grave records sites and so on. As you search progresses, you will probably go directly to the source site for records more often anyway.
3. ENGAGE THE SERVICES OF A GENEALOGIST. This won’t be for everyone - but there are professionals out there who can accelerate your search by carrying out some, or all, of the research on your behalf. However, be aware that having something disproven can be just as valuable as something proven - but you may feel disappointed and wish you did not know!
WHAT YOU SHOULD IDEALLY END UP WITH AT THE END OF STEP 1.
The aim of your preparatory research in this step, is to find as many facts that will differentiate your ancestor from someone else of the same name.
So, let’s say you have worked your way back to your earliest arriving Irish ancestor. Ideally, you will uncover their:
- Full name.
- Approximate date of birth.
- Parents names.
- Place of birth.
- Name of spouse.
- Date and country of marriage.
- Names of children.
- Date and Country of birth of children.
- Names of siblings.
Be sure to differentiate between the facts you have evidence for - and the “facts” that are guesses!
However, even just some of these facts may be enough to start working with Irish records in Step 2.
A note of caution: you will come across many “guesses” presented as facts on ancestry sites such as ancestry.com . This does not mean they are useless - you just need to have a little due diligence, especially as you start to gather facts from others.