3 Signs You Are making Progress as an Irish Family History Researcher (#409)

Do you wonder what it takes to really get your Irish Family History research REALLY humming? We interviewed Irish-based genealogist - Jayne McGarvey - and asked her to share 3 signs that you are making progress as an Irish ancestry researcher.

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3 Signs You Are making Progress as an Irish Family History Researcher (#409)

You can listen to the show on your computer/smartphone by clicking on the play button above (the triangle with the circle around it). You can also download the show onto your computer by clicking on the download symbol. Enjoy!

Episode Summary:

Welcome to Season 4, Episode 9 of the Letter from Ireland Show.

In this episode of the Letter from Ireland Show, we interview Jayne McGarvey – an Irish-based genealogist. Drawing on her expensive experience, we ask her to share 3 signs that you are making progress with your Irish family History research and she make made some very interesting suggestions that may surprise both those beginning their Irish family history and the more experienced researchers. See what you think!

The Letter from Ireland Show is a weekly podcast that goes out each Thursday from our cottage in County Cork. Tune in to this episode – and dive straight in to a bit of Irish caint, ceóil agus craic (conversation, music and craic!).


Carina: Hello everybody and welcome to the Letter from Ireland Show. We’re now actually on series four, episode nine. Time is flying! I hope you’re well wherever you are in the world today and ready for another great episode of our Letter from Ireland Show. I love having guests visit our studio and in today’s show we have a very special guest to introduce you to, listeners. She is Jayne McGarvey.

Carina: Now, Jayne is an Irish genealogist of 40 years. I know, she started very young and she is based in Ireland and assists our Green Room members in their Irish ancestry search. She also runs her own private business at jaynemcgarvey.com. 

In the show, Jayne discusses with Mike her experiences of being an Irish genealogist. She tells us what spurred her into genealogy as a very young girl. I was really interested to discover that. Then they both go on to explore three signs that show us we are making progress towards becoming an all rounded Irish family history researcher. Well, if three signs could break down those brick walls, I’m all ears.

Carina: So, listen out for those three signs listeners, and you’ll also make some surprising discoveries along the way and learn a bit about your own research techniques. Before we get started though, remember you will find all the links mentioned in today’s show in the show notes at aletterfromireland.com/409. I’ll mention that again later. But now it’s over to Mike and Jayne.

Mike: Right. Jayne, you are very welcome.

Jayne: Hi Mike. It’s great to be here.

Mike: Yeah. You’ve travelled all the way down from Belfast just yesterday. We had the pleasure of your company yesterday as well. To Cork, which is really across the island of Ireland, which I think is a very appropriate given that you are a genealogist who actually specializes in genealogy across the island of Ireland as opposed to just north or just south. Would that be about right?

Jayne: That’s correct Mike. I cover all of Ireland in my research. So yesterday I hopped the early train from Belfast down to Dublin, across Dublin and then onto the train.

Mike: You lucky thing ya! Lucky to arrive in Cork that is.

Jayne: A lovely, easy day journey. No driving required.

Mike: Oh good. Good for you! We’re absolutely delighted to get you, I guess, for the first time onto our Letter from Ireland podcast. It took a while to get to this point. But I’m really interested to, I suppose, participate in this conversation, see where it goes to an extent because I stand to learn an awful lot as well. What we’re going to cover in this podcast is not just a little bit about yourself Jayne, and your own background, but also, we’ve put a framework on things that you’d like to emphasize. Three signs you’re making progress as an Irish family history researcher. That’s kind of interesting.

Mike: So, we have three signs we’re going to go through and I’m sure that’s of a lot of interest to our listeners, many of whom are members of the Green Room, ancestry.com, my heritage, very interested in their own Irish family history research and are at different levels, if you like, of perplexity, complexity, or finished perhaps as far as their concerned. The family history is bound and actually delivered to all their descendants. But we’ll see as we go along. But before we get into that Jayne, I’d like to actually just find out a little bit more about yourself to share with the readers if that’s okay?

Jayne: It is Mike.

Mike: Okay. So question number one is, how did you get into genealogy in the first place?

Jayne: Because my family wouldn’t answer a single question. My father’s attitude was, “They’re dead.” On my mother’s side of the family was, “How dare you be cheeky?”

Mike: Okay. But what age were you roughly at that time?

Jayne: I was in my teens.

Mike: That is quite young, isn’t it?

Jayne: It was, but it was the only way I could get an answer.

Mike: Well, what scratched the curiosity in the first place to want to ask the questions?

Jayne: Sheer lack of knowledge. The fact that I think I saw my family knowing things that I didn’t know, I didn’t understand, I didn’t see where from. Both of my grandfathers had died before I was born. My paternal grandmother died when I was quite young at seven and my maternal grandmother wouldn’t talk about anything that was a bit older than about a year ago.

Mike: So we can take it that you’re into a challenge?

Jayne: Yes. That was the “cheeky little madam” who wouldn’t be told no.

Mike: From that point in your teens until now essentially, you’re after developing into a professional genealogist full time. I know you work directly with your own clients as well as with us here in the Green Room. I guess one of the questions I love to ask people who are into this because you’ve seen so much at this point, is do you actually have a very particular discovery or surprise you came across along the way which you’re happy to share?

Jayne: I think the biggest one was the loss of a client. That may sound funny, but, I had been searching professionally for a short while and another genealogist sent along a potential client, who had been searching for her husband’s family for about 20 years and constantly meeting brick walls and had run out of budget. The other genealogist knew I had done some research on the particular family name and suggested, well, he would pass Mary along in the hope that there might be something that I had already done, might provide a clue at something very, very cost effective.

Jayne: I read Mary’s email and went, “Oh! Around in my files, was your husband born on such and such a date and his parents and did he live at this address in the 1950s?”

Mike: Oh, my God, this sounds like you’re a clairvoyant?

Jayne: Her husband, Mike, was my second cousin once removed that I in fact was searching for. I had a profile of a man in BC in Canada sitting on my desk, that I had been lifting in and out of the file drawer and going, “Will I contact this man on the off chance he might just be the same person.” And he was.

Mike: How did that end up in the eye of the newly acquired client?

Jayne: Well, the newly acquired cousin.

Mike: Cousin client, yes.

Jayne: I was able to supply with the information, he had been desperately searching for, for 20 plus years. We’re still in contact, although he’s now very elderly. We’ve shared a lot of stuff. I’ve been able to send photographs of his grandfather across to him which he didn’t have and follow a lot of the details forward for him. It’s just been fantastic.

Mike: I have the feeling that you have versions of that story right along the way as well with different people and different clients at different times as well. That is quite Irish though, isn’t it? That sort of connecting.

Jayne: It is. I find that at several times I have two or three clients that further down the research road have turned out to be distant relatives. Some of them quite distant.

I’ve one lady I’ve been working with for quite a number of years, she’s a very experienced researcher. So most of my work is fetch documents and look at small areas of research where she cannot access the records. But other than that, she does all her own research. She asked me would I spend a little bit of time looking at one particular line that she was a little bit stuck on. I looked at that, I went and I then compared that to my own family tree and found the ancestor there. So, she probably 10.

Mike: Cousin number two.

Jayne: Probably cousin 10. 10 generations, 8. Goodness knows how many removed. But then we were also able to confirm it by DNA.

Mike: Oh, fantastic. Actually, that leads me to an interesting question. If I was to do my calculations right, if you started this in your teens and where you are now, that’s at least 10 years of experience.

Jayne: That’s right. 21 plus VAT!

Mike: 21 plus. Very good. Exactly.

Jayne: Do not ask the percentage of VAT!

Mike: So, the question I have for you though is, in that time to where we are now, what do you see is the biggest definition or the biggest change with regards what’s available to people now?

Jayne: Availability of records is the biggest change. When I started it was gravestones.

Mike: As in go to the gravestones?

Jayne: As in go to the headstone, walk the grave yard, go to land registry, look at maps, go to ordinance survey, spend lots of time in the Linen Hall Library and the newspaper library turning old newspapers page by page. No indexing.

Mike: Well, of course that was a strength in what you were offering as well, the fact that you had access to those. Plus, you had an ability to navigate all this stuff. Whereas let’s face it, if somebody was offline in Australia looking to contact or figure out something, you’re a God send so to speak and able to go in and find that stuff.

Jayne: It was very different back then. Back then I wasn’t researching professionally. I have to say I was certainly helping people, but it was very much on a case of, “Yes, I’ll give you as much help as I can, but I’m not doing this professionally.” It really wasn’t a career option. Back then there wouldn’t have been the work or the wide interest.

Mike: So it was really the online access to records, I guess, well, from our point of view as well anyway, that blew everything up in terms of people wanting to be involved.

Jayne: It’s made it accessible to everybody. Mike, when I started really, it was the prerogative of retired people and people who had deep pockets who could hire a researcher. Because the records were so difficult to get. To reach the next level without indexing was quite often a matter of weeks spent pouring through townland indexes, and guessing or methodically working parish after parish, after parish.

Mike: Now. Can I just stop you there? Because I think that leads very nicely into the framework we’re just about to discuss. Because, take your own experience. As you say there, it took somebody with a fair bit of mettle or somebody who actually had a professional ambition to plough, and have access to plough through all that stuff you’re talking about there, Jayne. But, of course as you say nowadays and for maybe the last three to 10 years, the increase in availability of those records online has turned an awful lot of people into enthusiasts at the very least, right up to semi-professional family history researchers.

That’s what we’re going to look at now, especially in the Irish context because we talked about this particular model and we’re going to go through it step by step. It’s going to be all about how you might actually move. Three signs, that you’re moving from being that enthusiast at the beginning, right through to being the person who actually asked the right questions at the right time with the right people in the right place to get the best answers and therefore become much more accomplished Irish family history researchers. So will we give that a go now?

Jayne: That sounds good Mike.

The 3 Signs You are Making Progress as an Irish Family History Researcher.

Mike: So, let’s have a look at this framework. The three signs you are making progress as an Irish family history researcher. Now, by way of introduction of course, the reason we met yourself Jayne and actually why I really wanted to work with you is because we really wanted to help people inside the Green Room become better Irish family history researchers and we felt that you could offer an awful lot to this process, guiding and helping people along the way.

So, as we were talking through this yesterday, we’re very excited to uncover a particular framework that we’re going to go through now. So these three signs, you’re making progress as an Irish family history researcher. Well, I know we started off by talking about where people typically start off when they come across family history research in the first place. Would you like to say a little bit about that?

Jayne: Well, quite often Mike, people start becoming interested in the Irish culture. The culture, the heritage, the background. They maybe know a little bit of facts from family tracings, family tellings, family stories, how the family came to leave Ireland and end up in what country. Sometimes they don’t have that knowledge. It’s just the cultural background that there is something Irish in the background.

Mike: We see that a lot Jayne by the way as well with the letter and so on. Otherwise, people just feel a connection and it’s been passed down maybe through a line or it’s just how they’re brought up, the stories, the music and so on, they’re exposed to.

Jayne: It does Mike. You get a lot of people are – and they’re very happy there – they love the culture, they love the stories, they love the songs, the background, and then they start to become a little bit more curious and want to expand that a little bit. Sometimes they want to expand that an awful lot.

Mike: When you say expand, what you mean by that?

Jayne: Expand the knowledge. You’re starting to begin exploring who your relatives were, who came out of Ireland, why your relatives came out of Ireland.

Mike: So you’re interested very much in, I suppose you’re starting at the family tree in a more specific way and understanding how far back your folks went and where they came from?

Jayne: Yes. Genealogy has become very, very popular and there’s almost, if I said a nonspecific, how far back can you get? I can go back 10 generations. I can go back 12. I can go back to 1752, but it’s so much more than just the names and deaths.

Mike: Yeah. Now, I want to go through that in more detail. I know we’re going to go through that in each one of the “Signs” that you’re making progress. So let me just reassert this. So what we’re saying is, let’s give it a box. Let’s say when somebody typically starts off with this tickle, this interest, this scratch that needs to be itched in their Irishness, let’s call them “the culturalist”. So they’re ready to start off. They might join Ancestry, they might sign up for the Letter from Ireland, whatever it might be at that point in time.

Now if that’s one side of the scale and they want to move towards something over, let’s say months or years, what’s at the other side? How would you describe somebody who has actually, I suppose, accomplished, somebody who actually has made the discoveries and started to connect all the dots?

Jayne: Well, I think at the far end of the balance you have the experienced family history researcher or historian.

The “Culturalist” vs the “Family History Researcher”.

Mike: Okay. So, family history research, let’s call it that. So, two sides, on one side you’ve got the Culturalist, the enthusiast and then somehow a lot of those people want to progress over time towards becoming more accomplished family history researchers. How would somebody know if they’re accomplished if you like, as a family history researcher? How would you look at somebody and say, “Oh that person knows their stuff.” Or, “That person is really on top of it.”

Jayne: Well you see that coming through in quite a few stages, Mike. The first sign is you’ll see that somebody’s actually prepared to edit their tree.

Mike: Okay. I’d like to just pause it there just a little bit because I’m a little bit kind of, I’m curious about this. Because in one sense I suppose services like Ancestry, have given us the impression, and sorry to pick on you Ancestry.com, that all you need is to sign up, start a tree and just start of merrily collecting bits of branches from other people’s tree and lo and behold, you have a history and a genealogy and so on. It’s easy and people are led in with that impression.

Jayne: Yes.

Mike: Of course, I think what you are going at here, you’re inferring, well, actually it’s a bit more serious than that if you really want to get both the truth and the story in harmony, so to speak.

And if you see the family history researcher, on the positive side of that person, we’re going to go through some of those things. But, do you come across other people then? I do want to explore this a little bit because, on the one side of our scale with the Culturalist, somebody starting off, it’s lovely just immersing yourself in your Irishness and so on. But there’s a slightly negative side to that as well, which I know that we’ve come across let’s say, in people joining in the Green Room a little too soon along their journey. You can tell me if I’m maybe being unfair when I say this, but you do get some people that I characterize as, dare I say it out loud, “genealogical flight tippers”.

Mike: So, in other words, they just have a whole bundle of information and they throw it out there into a forum and say, “Can anybody help me with this?” 

Jayne: Yes, you’re correct, Mike. There is a bunch of people who through lack of knowledge, it’s not a deliberate trait. It’s that often they know what’s been passed down in the family, what they have picked up from sites like Ancestry and they haven’t stopped to explore how that information came about, what is authentic, what is correct or what is a fantasy family fairy tale.

Mike: Oh my gosh. I know. This is part of the issue because from Ireland, where we’re sitting at the moment, I guess where we’ve always lived, you can pick up certain fantasies very, very quickly because they just don’t make any sense whatsoever based upon, I suppose our local knowledge and so on.

But of course, it’s so difficult when you’re the other side of the world to understand some obvious things. When you could make a bit of inquiry, it’s quite unlikely that a person from County Antrim, met and married somebody from County Cork and then they had their first child up in Galway, now I know I am being extreme here, in the mid-1800s and so on.

But it seems to me that part of the thing about being a Culturalist and your revelling in it and you’re quite happy to have the Irish connection, that’s one thing. But if you really want to make progress, there is an element of needing to get serious about it, isn’t there?

Jayne: There is Mike yes. There were a lot of pedigrees and genealogies that were completed back in the early 1900s through to the mid-1900s. They were unsourced. So, as they were printed, they were accepted as fact. Now, some are true. Some are very, very good, some are incredibly accurate, but some are flights of fancy.

Mike: Okay. Now, we’re going to be talking about this in just a little bit more detail. So we’re talking about, let’s just remind ourselves folks again, we’re talking about a scale here. We’re starting off with this idea of the Culturalists, with somebody who has lots of exposure to Irishness, perhaps a dark side to that as well where there might be too many flights of fancy in there.

But then on the other side you’re going to the accomplished family history researcher. That sounds like it’s all positive and good as well but I think we’ve discussed as well, there can be a bit of a dark side to some of the people who spend 12 hours a day online doing the records and appear to be very accomplished family history researchers. Do you want to expand a little bit more on that?

Jayne: That’s a difficult one. Have a life!

Mike: Oh, I like that. Have another life anyway!

Jayne: Have another life!

Mike: You’ve not finished your present one yet.

Jayne: Me included. I can be guilty of that only too easily. Working, particularly working in the field and also wanting to research my own family history. Yes. Sometimes a day can get too long and sometimes there can be just too many records, too many possibilities and it can become less about who the people were and more about names.

Mike: Now this is really, really interesting to me because I know we’ve talked about this quite a lot in the past, but you do come across people and they are meticulous and wonderfully brilliant at actually having all the dates, having all the facts, having all the correct records lined up, but there seems to be no context whatsoever. There seems to be no depth, no richness, if that makes sense. Sometimes of course it’s just about one particular line which they have, they dived into it 100% but their knowledge, if you like, it’s just limited to that.

Jayne: I think part of that is, it used to be a standing joke in our household. I kept an old pedigree given to me by a client as my bedside reading material when I couldn’t sleep. A begot B, B begot one, two, three, four and five and you never got halfway down the first page of a story.

Mike: Well that’s a very, very useful piece of pedigree in that case. Worked brilliantly for another reason. Do you know Jayne let’s just rephrase this a little bit, as the listeners want to advance and to get signs that they’re becoming better, more rounded, I think is a good word to introduce in here, family history researchers, let’s dive in now into maybe what you figure are three of the main signs that you’re actually starting on your journey or maybe progressing on your journey from being a Culturalist to being a rounded family history researcher. So what’s the first sign?

Sign 1: Being Prepared to Edit Your Family Tree and Cite Resources. 

Jayne: The first sign, I would say Mike, being prepared to edit your family tree and cite your sources.

Mike: Okay. Well this feels like a comment on those trees on ancestry.com just about to come up.

Jayne: Yes. There are a lot of trees. Some of them are again, like the old printed pedigrees, some are incredibly accurate and some are flights of fancy and everything in between, but they are unsourced. There’s no knowledge of where the information came from.

Mike: Okay. Well, let me just challenge that a little bit.  On the one hand, you might for argument sake have a marriage, and I can then see that I can connect that marriage to a very specific record and if I’m on Ancestry.com, I can literally click a button and say now that’s connected to that event. That’s what we mean by citing a source. Would that be correct?

Jayne: Citing the source is simply giving the address of where you find the piece of documentary evidence.

Mike: Okay. But should you get rid of everything on your tree that you cannot attach a piece of documentary evidence to?

Jayne: No.

Mike: Tell me more.

Jayne: Because some is good family information. If you have a piece of evidence that is oral family history, then you cite that as oral family history, who told you, when they told you, where they told you, who they were. So, great-aunt Mary may have been in her ‘80s, but if she’s sound of mind and sprite of spirit, then that’s what you want to record.

Mike: Great. So she said that, in this particular way at this particular time and it’s cited.

Jayne: Correct.

Mike: You have a source, cite it. So, it’s not as black and white as literally, either it’s connected to an official record or it’s not, it’s much, much wider and richer than that.

Jayne: It is Mike. It’s the whole… Put very simply, a source citing your sources is simply recording the address.

Mike: Now, I know we’re going to move on to another step, in just a few minutes, or a sign, I should say, and we’ll talk a little bit about that with regards research and so on. But let me ask you, because when people join the Green Room first, for example, if they’re on ancestry, we ask them to attach their tree. We do have a look at it when they’re asked questions and so on.

I notice, I’m not a professional genealogist, but I notice that it’s as likely to find somebody who’s actually quite an accomplished researcher as much as somebody just starting, to have whole sections of their tree that haven’t cited sources that perhaps are maybe even proven not to be true anymore.

As soon as you question this, they kind of fall down, if that makes sense. So what do you recommend people like that, who’ve gathered all these barnacles, if you like, on the bottom of their boat over time on their ancestry tree, what do you recommend they do? Should they go back and look for sources or just get rid of whatever? How should they proceed?

Jayne: Go back and look for sources.

Mike: And if they can’t find them?

Jayne: Question them. Try and prove, could it be incorrect? I always say, if you go back to is it feasible, is it likely, is it probable, does it belong?

Mike: And if it doesn’t belong, what you do with it?

Jayne: Detach it or remove it.

Mike: Is it easy enough to detach something?

Jayne: Yes. We’ve worked through that in the workshop where we looked at Pam Carroll’s tree and we merged a number of duplicate records and we detached one or two others that were proven not to belong to where they were.

Mike: So, for our Green Room members, just to say, we’ll put a link below this particular podcast to where you can actually find out how to do this. All right. So, let’s just say, and I know there’s a lot more than just that Jayne and it’s just scratching the surface, but that’s the first of the signs you wanted to share that people are actually advancing from being that enthusiast Culturalist towards becoming a more rounded family history researcher and it’s being prepared to edit your family tree and cite sources.

Jayne: Correct, Mike.

Sign 2: Gaining Knowledge of the “Dash”.

Mike: Okay. So once you’ve done that folks, give it a go and we’re there to help as well. Just remember that. But now I’m very, very interested to move on and see how to move up long scale. So we’ve done that. We’re relatively happy that we leave in our family tree, what you want to leave in there. We’re making good progress on citing the sources. Now what do you think is another sign that you’re making progress as an Irish family history researcher?

Jayne: Knowledge of the dash.

Mike: The dash?

Jayne: The dash.

Mike: Not the dot but the dash.

Jayne: Correct. There’s an old saying, birth certificates show they were born, death certificates show they died, but it’s the dash in between that shows how they really lived.

Mike: Oh that’s really good. So if you see something as we always do, 1906-1956, you have two facts there, but you have a lot of richness in between in the dash.

Jayne: That’s where the real interest, the curiosity and the information lies. What I think is much more roundness rather than just birth, married, died.

Mike: Okay. So, not just the events, births of kids, marriage and so on, but something more. So what are you inferring there? What else might there be apart from the events that are recorded?

Jayne: Who the person was.

Mike: How do we know that?

Jayne: Who was your ancestor? What did they do for a job?

Mike: Jobs. Okay.

Jayne: How did they live? Did they have hobbies? Did they play cricket? Did they play hurling? Were they a member of the GAA? Were they an orange man? Were they Catholic? Were the Protestant? What did they do? How did they live? What did they eat? Where did they live? What was their house like?

Mike: Do you know what strikes me Jayne, as you start to talk about this? There is a very important word that we’re including in this, which is Irish family HISTORY researcher. Really, you’re talking there about the history, which is about the richness of their existence as opposed to just the researched dates.

Jayne: Yes. It’s much more about the family, the family and its context and what was happening in the local culture around them, what was happening in the wider world. Ireland didn’t survive in a bubble.

Mike: Well let me ask you this question as well Jayne because I get that. You obviously get that as well. It’s just the pursuit of knowing more about your individual family members, it’s just a wonderful feeling. Okay. But let’s say you just have a few hard nose people out there. They say, “Well how’s that going to help me get more dates?” Is it something that can help them?

Jayne: Absolutely, Mike. An awful lot of that information, knowledge about your family, what your family did as a living. Just, for an example, the linen industry evolved as did many other industries. They evolved from cottage industries, into industrial industries, technology changed even then, new farming implements became available or designed, new methods of doing all sorts of, even making shoes, medicine right across the board. Technology changed. As technology changed and farming practices changed, where our ancestors lived had to change.

Mike: The economy changed with it.

Jayne: The economy changed with it. New roads were built, new bridges were built, some old churches were knocked down, more were built. Where they were moved to, all makes a difference.

Mike: I’ll just give you a couple of examples I’ve come across anyway in the past because there’re a couple of intriguing examples which are obvious when you hear them.

The first one is the introduction of the bicycle. Suddenly you had couples capable of actually meeting each other at a further distance than they might’ve done in the past, just for example. You literally start to see that widening of the gene pool, maybe not as much as today and across continents, but the bicycle actually counted an awful lot towards that particular freedom. That’s one thing.

Another thing is actually the introduction of the credit union system in Ireland in the 1920s, down south at least. That gave people the means for the first time to actually put a headstone on their grave. Because up to that point, it was just literally for the most part stone markers, but now suddenly it became something that became more of an aspiration to actually make sure that you looked after your family members or yourself as the end approached and you had enough money put aside to do just that. People will often wonder, my grandfather, great grandfather died in 1916 and I can’t find their gravestone in County Cork or whatever?

Quite frankly, that’s because there wasn’t one. There was a marker of some sorts. Yes. But really if you start to look post maybe 1930, you will find grave markers and that’s attached to the actual introduction of the credit union system to the best of my knowledge. They’re just two examples of the wider context and the effect it actually would have had on people and their lives and the events around them.

Jayne: Oh, absolutely, Mike. They’re very good examples of changes. The same with put a bridge and you can cross a river. So where, as a crow flies the next village may only have been a half a mile, but to get there could have been seven or eight miles. So, new context, new dances, new introductories, new careers that took one family member out of the home, out of the village and many miles away, they then brought home a new bit of blood to be introduced round the family connection.

Mike: Ma, I have somebody I want you to meet!

Jayne: Yes. We’ll marry him or her off to somebody in the family.

Mike: What are they bringing with them?

Jayne: Exactly. Introductions went further. Distances went further. More options were available. The first train from Belfast to Lisburn was put in by 1830s, and that opened a vast array of a network. As you say, much bigger of the distance the same that bicycles had continued to expand.

Mike: Absolutely. Yeah. You just reminded me of one there as well Jayne, when you were saying how back in the 1800s, I mean, where you were in County Down, was so close to Scotland, there were x number of boats going back and forth every day. You could literally almost go over in the morning, come back in the evening and go over that night again. When people talk about migrating between countries or between Scotland and let’s say Ireland, it was that simple for some people and it was that attainable. Understanding those sorts of things relative to where people were living really just gives you that richness of understanding the events, which is, I think what you are saying there.

Jayne: It did indeed. Well the early days of Presbyterianism when it was illegal here, the boat used to go from Donaghdee over to Portpatrick every Sunday morning.

Mike: Roughly what distance was that?

Jayne: About 18 miles.

Mike: Okay. So there were talking about from the island of Ireland over to Scotland.

Jayne: Correct.

Mike: About 18 miles every morning. And what happened?

Jayne: Well, certainly, the boat went daily, but certainly the parishioners used to hop aboard on a Sunday morning, go over, have the baptisms, marriages, confirmations, whatever and back again on Sunday evening.

Mike: Isn’t that amazing? So that was their local parish so to speak, the water in between?

Jayne: Correct.

Mike: Fantastic. So Jayne, I know we could speak about these for a long, long time, but there we have just so far in moving yourself along the line to a rounded Irish family history researcher.

Sign 3: Organising Your Research.

Mike: Number one. We’re saying one of the signs was being prepared to edit your family tree and cite sources and just there, I love the way you put this, having a better knowledge of the dash. Now, let’s move on to a final sign that I know you want to share this morning with our listeners. So what’s the actual last sign you’d actually like to share?

Jayne: Organizing your research.

Mike: That’s a big one, isn’t it?

Jayne: It’s a very big one and it’s one Eileen Shay brought up fairly recently.

Mike: In the Green Room, yeah?

Jayne: Within the Green Room, and a great topic. We’ve had a great lot of input from a lot of members with a lot of different ways on how to organize your research.

Mike: But surely there’s one perfect way?

Jayne: No.

Mike: Surely there’s two perfect ways?

Jayne: No. Dozens of ways. What is best is what works best for your mind and your hand.

Mike: But, isn’t that, that’s so difficult to get your head around? Let’s face it, you’re faced with an avalanche of information and possibilities, probabilities, whatever the heck. Stuff you can’t even pronounce yourself, not a mind write it down. So how, I do understand that you will eventually find something that works best for yourself, but how do you start Jayne? What’s the best way to start organizing your research?

Jayne: Well that very much depends on you. If you’re an individual who likes spreadsheets and likes tables, then use those. But if the very thought of using an Excel spreadsheet horrifies you, terrifies you, you’re not going to use it. You will only pay lip service. It’ll be a horrible task to do. So don’t do it. Use a mind map instead.

Mike: As in a mind map connects ideas and people and things. Yeah?

Jayne: Yes. Use sticky notes.

Mike: Do you have some tools, I guess, Insight, Ancestry and so on. You have your boxes and you have your various attach notes and so on?

Jayne: Yes. There’s notes there, there’s comments there. You can print stuff out or you can print to file and hold a family tree of documents. You can use binders with coloured sticky labels. It’s very personal.

Mike: What have you personally evolved into at this point?

Jayne: I’m very much a mind map person. I like the mind map. I’m very experienced at using Excel, Microsoft Word. I’ve used it in business for years.

Mike: But your brain works in such a way that the mind map jumps out at you more. Would that be right?

Jayne: Absolutely. I’ve recently switched to Good Notes, thanks to yourself.

Mike: Which is on the iPad.

Jayne: On the iPad.

Mike: In this case, an Apple iPad.

Jayne: That allows me very much as a visual person to, I can print and I can scribble over my documents again, but it’s much neater than, well, not so much neater. It’s more contained because it’s digital, rather than the piles and piles, and piles and cupboards and piles of notebooks that currently clutter my cupboards and my outside office, which has just piles of books.

Mike: I remember Jayne, when in the early days when I used to be involved in time and organization management and all that sort of stuff (for my sins), one of the rules was, if you had to retrieve a file, a piece of information you needed for a research, number one, it should be within reach of wherever you’re sitting. So that might be a filing cabinet right beside you.

Mike: Number two, you should be able to retrieve it while you are on a call to somebody. So you can literally, you have such a good system, you could just put your hand on exactly what you want and pull it out there and then because, of course, one of the problems of research and so on is the fact that it’s easy enough to put stuff in there, but getting stuff back out again can be the problem.

Mike: But what you’re saying here now is that’s really a function of just what you prefer to do yourself and you will eventually find something that suits you the best. Would that be right?

Jayne: It is Mike. Yes. You may love Gantt charts. Some of our project managers will be used to working with a Gantt chart and they’ll set their timelines.

Mike: Timelines and things, yeah.

Jayne: They’ll work with their spreadsheets and they’ll be in seventh heaven. But for other people who don’t work that way, that would just be a sheer nightmare. Therefore, they’ll not do it. Or they’ll only do it reluctantly. If it’s not going to work for you, find another method. If sticky notes or lots and lots of different coloured notebooks, whether you use electronic notebooks nowadays, as in good notes, or you use manual notes, is entirely down to what you will use to record.

Mike: Do you know, what I find as well as, I know we’ve talked quite a lot about this, as you quite rightly say, it is down to the individuals. We put the research wheel into the Green Room so as people make the way around the modules, ideally, I find myself, for example, taking notes on what is essentially pencil and paper, but just related to the module.

So it might be a particular person, as I go around, I just like to scribble and I like to get stuff on my brain, then look at it afterwards and see how it fits into things. Most of it is just scratch work. Most of it is not going to be used, but some of it will very much be put into, for example, a tree on ancestry or to be put aside as you say, onto a spreadsheet or a table of some sort.

But it does strike me though that we will actually refer in the links below to inside the Green Room, just where we pulled together those different research approaches because it’s a really important point here. We’re putting it forward as a step, as a sign that you’re advancing as a rounded researcher, let’s make sure that we actually put some more emphasis on this in the Green Room, where we’ll start to share more of those approaches. So I look forward to that.

So, we have three signs there, Jayne. We have prepared to edit your family tree and cite sources. Again, we linked to training on that. Having a knowledge of the dash, which I find hugely intriguing because that is about the stories in between the dates so to speak. Again, we will start to, I think emphasize that more for people in the research.

Finally, then another sign, organizing your research. Again, we’ll put a link into that. So is that it? Is it as simple as that? If you start to get stuck into those three areas, do you think that… have you seen that moving people forward?

Jayne: I have. I’ve seen that moving people from typing in a name and seeing where it takes you through to planning research.

Mike: So let me ask you a question in a different way. If anybody was to leave out any of those, would it hold them up? So, if they weren’t going to edit or cite sources, if they weren’t going to develop a knowledge of the dash, if they weren’t going to organize their research, is it going to halt their progress?

Jayne: Not necessarily halt it, but it may slow it down. There will probably be brick walls that will be very hard to get past. Sometimes that brick wall is knowing more of the content of the person. Were they educated, were they not educated? You won’t find, for example, an uneducated laborer in Irish leases. It’s very, very rare. But somebody who is educated, who maybe has a larger farming background, may well turn up in the lease.

Mike: Right. Understanding that you are going to spend time looking for something that just isn’t there is an important step.

Jayne: Absolutely. It’s a case of looking what survives, where is it, when was it, where do I find it? John Grenham is one of the most useful tools we use in the box to begin that-

Mike: That’s johngrenham.com. A set of tools there, yeah.

Jayne: Correct.

Mike: We’ll listen Jayne, I’m absolutely delighted that rather than just, although it would have been perfectly pleasant just having a general conversation with everything in your past and so on, that we actually asked you to share this framework. Which I think is going to be hugely useful to people who are already, let’s face it, because you’re listening to this, are interested in pursuing Irish family history research. But it’s very, very useful to understand where you are yourself, if you’re listening to this and understanding maybe hopefully getting an idea or a hint or clue as to what you might need to spend some more time on folks if you want to actually progress towards becoming a more rounded Irish family history researcher. Or perhaps you’re quite comfortable and happy to remain a generalist, a Culturalist as we call it.

But again, going back and being prepared to edit your family tree and cite sources, having a knowledge of the dash and organizing your research. Sounds obvious on one level, but it’s just that reminder when you say it. It really struck me at least and I could certainly go back to my family tree and start editing it.

I can certainly remember now to ask more questions about the dash. And likewise perhaps just pursue an even better way of organized my own research. So Jayne, I really appreciate that. Now Jayne, where can we actually find out a bit more about you and your work?

Jayne: Well, my website is www.jaynemcgarvey.com.

Mike: That’s, www, hard to say all that but it’s, J-A-Y-N-E-M-C-G-A-R-V-E-Y.com.

Jayne: Correct.

Mike: Jayne actually looks after the island of Ireland, not just the north of Ireland. Also, we must say, Jayne is also a resident genealogist in the Green Room. So you can also, if you’re in the Green Room already, you can actually engage directly with Jayne and ask questions there and indeed work with some of her excellent reports she’s already produced for us, pointers and training. Believe me, if you’re in the green room, you’re going to bump into her constantly in any case.

So Jayne, thank you so much for spending the time today. I look forward to, actually, I look forward to getting you back on the podcast again in the future.

Jayne: Yes, indeed Mike. That will be great fun again.

Mike: Thanks a lot.

Carina: Jayne, you’re most welcome to come back to the studio at any time. We’re delighted that you popped in today to share your expertise with us on today’s show.

Carina: When we were preparing for the interview today, I was delighted to hear Jayne say, and she said I could quote her, that the model offered in the green room is unique among the many genealogy sites that are out there. Now that’s high praise indeed. But you know it’s thanks to Jayne and of course her depth of knowledge and clarity around the records. This is pivotal too to the uniqueness of the Green Room.

Carina: As Mike mentioned, you’re going to find Jayne at www.jaynemcgarvey.com and of course you’ll also find her in the Green Room. We’ll let a link below in the show notes to Jayne’s address. That brings us on to the end of today’s show. A warm thanks to you listeners, for your company and also for those listening from the green room and also all our readers on the Letter from Ireland. Anybody wondering about their Irish ancestors and maybe wanting to start on that road to becoming an Irish family history researcher, you’ll find all the links from todays’ show in the show notes at aletterfromireland.com/409.

Carina: So, everybody, so long, thanks for listening and we look forward to you joining us again next time on the Letter from Ireland Show.

Carina: If you’ve enjoyed today’s Letter from Ireland Show, we’d like to invite you to check out our special membership area, The Green Room. You hear us mention it a lot during the show. You can find full details of the green room at aletterfromireland.com/greenroom. Our Green Room is the essential resource for anybody at any stage in researching their Irish heritage because it’s where we delve into all the good stuff to help you break down those brick walls and really connect the pieces in your Irish ancestry puzzle.

Carina: In the green room, you get access to online genealogist’s extensive research tools, quick wind training as well as member only access to johngranum.com and a very supportive active community to help you along the way with feedback and advice. The green room is the perfect place to be for anybody starting or continuing their Irish ancestry search. So why don’t you come and join us there at aletterfromireland.com/greenroom.

Carina: That’s it for me, but I’ll be back next time with another instalment of the Letter from Ireland Show. I really look forward to chatting to you then.

Slán, Carina.


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