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Thread: [Req] Tips for Researching Family History

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    Default [Req] Tips for Researching Family History

    Hi All,

    Iím planning to research my family history to fullest extent that records will allow. Any help with the below questions from people with experience in the area will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in Advance for all responses.

    1. Iíve so far compiled the below list of Places to look for Family History. Can anyone recommend other places to look that may be of value?
    2. If any of the below places allow you to look up information by internet, is there any advantage in actually visiting the records office itself? (eg getting a feel for a document)
    3. In the event I have to travel (eg to London), can anyone give me pointers on how to ensure I can get everything done efficiently in one visit?
    4. I am inexperienced in this area. Any general pointers on how to go about this project in the best way will also be appreciated.

    Places to look for Family History

    County Library (Wexford, Roscommon,Mayo)
    - Tithe of Applotment Records
    - Griffith Land Registry

    Dublin
    - National Archive Office
    - National Library
    - Birth and Death Register

    London
    - Public Records Office

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    Politics.ie Member Aindriu's Avatar
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    I have successfully traced my family roots right back to the late 1780's in Co Roscommon. PM me your email address and I will send you some useful links and other information.
    If you continue to elect idiots in elections, don't be surprised when the result is an idiotic government.

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    British Library
    PRONI
    "The thing that always annoyed me about traditional Irish historiography was the paradox of its Anglocentrism. People are now prepared, I think, to confront the possibility that many Irish problems are, in a sense, indigenous to the Irish situation." Roy Foster (1989).

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    Politics.ie Member bagel's Avatar
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    Wink

    maybe you could try the website of the irish prison service?

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    Politics.ie Royalty toxic avenger's Avatar
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    The Mormons have a website devoted to world-wide ancestry tracing (part of their religious mission, apparently), though I can't remember the name of it. Many records were destroyed at the Four Courts during the Civil War, so parish registers tend to be the way to go...

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    Plus, some links from the Irish Times:

    Routes to the past Researching your ancestors here and abroad
    National Archives, Bishop Street, Dublin 8, 01-4072300, National Archives.
    Resources include 1901 and 1911 census records, which you can view on microfilm. The Dublin section of the 1911 census is also searchable online at National Archives: Census of Ireland 1911
    Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, by John Grenham (Gill Macmillan)
    The local library in an area where your ancestor lived
    The National Library of Ireland, National Library of Ireland - Homepage
    The Irish Times ancestry section at Irish genealogy search: research family history at The Irish Times
    RT… Television - Who do you think you are?
    tracing_index.html
    TheShipsList: Passengers, Ships, Shipwrecks
    Ellis (immigration to New York from 1892 - it closed in 1954)
    Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild
    Castle Garden (immigration to New York, 1855 to 1890)
    Resources for Genealogists and Family Historians - National Archives and Records Administration (US)
    Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet
    FamilySearch.org - Family History and Genealogy Records
    Ancestry.com -- Browser Upgrade

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    The records destroyed in the Four Courts would be fantastic to have today.

    I can trace mine back, with no missing links, to the 1790s. Managed to find my ancestors on the Hearth Tax records of 1664 and the Muster Rolls of c.1630. So for me it's patchy from the Plantation of Ulster (when they arrived) to the 1790s.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MartinP View Post
    The records destroyed in the Four Courts would be fantastic to have today.

    I can trace mine back, with no missing links, to the 1790s. Managed to find my ancestors on the Hearth Tax records of 1664 and the Muster Rolls of c.1630. So for me it's patchy from the Plantation of Ulster (when they arrived) to the 1790s.
    I haven't gone about mine properly, I know orally of my ancestors back to about the Famine. I think it's slightly more difficult to trace peasant-farming West of Ireland ancestry from remote areas, so I wouldn't hold out much hope of getting very far beyond that...

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    If you are looking for family members who might have gone to USA, Ellis Island has a fantastic site listing all those processed, the ship they travelled on and dates. That information is free but more details may cost. Couple of pieces of general advice, be prepared with every possible alternate spelling for the names you are researching and assume nothing.

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    1. One of the most important things to do, and the place to start, is talk to your relatives. Many people don't, but often they can give you crucial information.

    - check if any family members has ever done family research. Often there is a cousin, an aunt, a grandparent or someone who already did it. If you find someone did but they are dead, contact their descendants and see if they left any notes, a draft family tree or anything in their papers when they died. Many people don't check this and spend months and money researching the family tree only to find that your uncle Matt or cousin Mary has already done all the work. Even if they left nothing but did something, talk to their descendants to see if they remember ever being told anything. Often you will find someone somewhere will know an amazing lot of information and you never realised that. Also write down personal colour information someone may remember. My late grandmother told me as a child that her earliest memory was of sneaking out the back window of her house one frosty winter's night with her brothers and sisters and all going to a lake in a field to skate. The year was 1899! She also could remember the local priest coming into the school to say the Titantic had sunk, and hearing someone read in the Freeman's Journal how Queen Victoria had died. (She remembered some people crying at the news). She herself was involved in the IRB but she remembered seeing local lads forming a long queue outside the RIC barracks to join the army at the start of the First World War. She also remembered what she called the 'fury' in the locality when the Easter Rising was reported, and then how the conscription crisis changed public opinion. Come to think of it, as a kid I remember meeting a very old woman - she must have been in her eighties and I was only six or seven but already hooked on history - and she telling me of seeing the great Parnell address a meeting in the local in 1891. She also remembered the local bishop fleeing the town when he was pelted in his carriage with horse sh1te by Parnellites for preaching an anti-parnellite sermon in the cathedral. He upped sticks, downgraded the cathedral to a church and moved to live in a new town, building a new cathedral there!!! And then there was the grief when 93 year old Pope Leo died, the black crepe around his pictures in houses, and then the witchhunting of the new very bigoted and ignorant Pope Pope Pius X who hunted women out of choirs and threatened women who worked with excommunication! She hated him! The point is, write down family stories as well as simply dates. You'd be amazed how many interesting pieces of human history people will remember. Also, you don't have to talk to very old people. I'm only in my 40s and I grew up in a thatched house with no running water, in a parish full of thatched houses. My youngest sibling never remembers any of that. When he grew up the parish was full of bungalows. I remember an old unused trap in the farmyard, unused since the 1950s, well before it was born. It was long since gone when he was born. I am also just old enough to remember the end of the Latin Mass, meat on Fridays, President de Valera, and have known people who were adults at the beginning of 1900s. So you'll find if you are into social history that your 40 and 50 year old relatives will be able to tell you about an Ireland light years away from the Ireland you know. It wasn't just my grandparents and great-grandparents who grew up without electricity and used horses for travel. It was my parents and even if I am not old enough to remember those things - I was born over a decade after the local area was electrified - I am old enough to remember an Ireland where few people had cars, where there still were old gas lamps, even if no longer used, in houses, and where some old people still were not using electricity having lived all their lives using oil lamps and not fully trusting the new-fangled electric light. [Bugger. Now I'm remembering the old black plugs and light sockets we used to have, and having a supply of candles for the frequent power cuts! )

    - If no-one ever did any research (and usually someone somewhere will have done something sometime), speak to your oldest living relative and ask them information. Old people often used to be aware of family connections that later generations had no interest in. Talk to as many people as you can and find out a couple of key questions

    a. the names of as many generations as is known.
    b. their birth year (preferably month or even date. BTW some people often will have long forgotten the date but remember the day - 'your granny was born on a Sunday, I was told. Her mother went into labour at Mass'. I heard that from a relative once. Then check a calendar so if you know that person was born on a Sunday, or Halloween, or Christmas, or whatever you can work out what day that was, or if you know they were born on a Sunday in February 1922 check the dates on the Sundays on the calendar on the computer. You can go back to 1922. (Most computer calendars go back to 1900). Working out the date can really make the search for information far far quicker.
    c. Draw out a very rough family tree. You can fill in all the extra details as you go along.
    d. Start writing down everything you find as you find it. That is crucial. You can forget some nugget of information you learnt at the start and find later on it was crucial. So write it down. (If on the computer, print out a hardcopy in case you lose the file on the system, or the system crashes, or it becomes corrupted. A computer failure meant I lost the family tree I had done once. To my relief some months later I found a typed note I had in which I had written up everything.)
    e. Finally, don't forget to check any old documents at home. For example my great-great grandfather ran a stud farm when be bought the land from the landlord under one of the Land Acts. He kept a good where he reported the local farmers who brought their mares for siring. Someone in the family, possibly his daughter (his wife seemed to be illiterate, or else blind later on as she could only mark her will with an 'x') recorded in the back of the book the dates of the births of his children, right down to 'Jane born this morning. Snowing heavily.' She also recorded such things as 'bought a suit for Tommie's confirmation, May 1890'. (Tommie was my grandfather!) You'd be amazed what snippets of information are at the back of some old book sitting in your granny's house, something no-one even knew was there. So look.

    2. Once you have gleaned all the information you can get from your family (names, years, dates if possible, family folklore. For example I discovered my great grandfather died at the end of the year and was the first person laid before a new altar in the local church. So I was able to find out from the local priest when that altar was installed - December 1925 - and so knew what dates and year to start looking for information) work out what time periods you are starting to look. If the person you are looking for was born after the early 1860s - I think 1863 or 1864) you can check with the General Registry Office for their birth cert. That will then contain the names of their parents.

    The main things to look out for are

    - civil records like births, marriages and deaths post 1863. If they were Church of Ireland the civil marriage records should date back to around 1845. You will get civil records in the Civil Registry Office in Lombard Street.

    - what parish they were born in. If you know that then you can check the parish records for that parish if they still exist. (Some don't. Some have blanks, etc.) If you find that your parish records only go back to say the 1860s, check in neighbouring parishes. Often if your family's parish wasn't keeping records, births, marriages and deaths will have been entered into the register in a neighbouring parish. (You can go to the local parish, or a local history centre if there is on. But many parish records where microfilmed and are now available for free in the National Library in Kildare Street. The staff will help you there. They are fantastic. (But don't believe that handwriting in the 'old days' was always good. I was checking some microfilmed parish records and my God the parish priest had the worst handwriting I have ever seen! It took ages to decipher it.)

    - Griffith's Valuation (1850s), which will show the property owners or tenant. The National Library will have that too, as will many local libraries. But you will need to know the name of the tenant. So don't go near Griffith's until you know who was the tenant in your family in the 1850s.

    - records of tithes paid to the local Church of Ireland civil parish.

    - copies of wills, etc in the General Registry Office I think, or maybe in the National Archives.

    - estate records. (From Griffith's valuation you may be able to find out who the local landlord was. Check to see if his family is still living in the estate. If they are, ring them up and see if they still have the estate papers. If they haven't they will know if they were given to some museum, library, university. Remember also, check also in your research if any member of your family worked on the estate either in the big house or in the attached farm. If they did, and the papers still exist, you may find direct references to your ancestor, the years they worked, their pay and conditions, maybe family references, etc.) The burning of estates in the 1920s did destroy many estate records so for many that possibly crucial source of information is lost for ever.

    If family members either worked for in the police (DMP, RIC), were monitored by them, or were convicted of anything, their records should survive. Check with the National Archives. Those papers would have previously been in the State Paper Office in Dublin Castle and are now in the archives in Bishop Street.

    The trick is to use generations to find the earlier generations. So if you don't know your grandparents' names, check your parents' birth certs. It will be on there. If you know when your grandparents died but not their ages, check their death cert, get their ages from that, work back and seek their birth cert. Don't however rely on census returns for ages. The old age pension was introduced in the early 20th century and people miraculously suddenly found they were supposedly much older all of a sudden to quality. (You'll spot that if you compare ages from the 1901 and 1911 census returns. People aged 51 in 1901 strangely became 70 in 1911 for pension purposes. Those who got pensions would have been born before civil records so their rapid . . . em aging could not be disproved!!!)

    When you run out of civil birth records (1860s) use church records, but remember people will have been baptised a week or two, or longer, after their birth. So if you find someone baptised at the start of January they probably were born in December the previous year.

    One serious problem we have is that the IRA deliberately blew up the Public Records Office in the Four Courts, boobytrapping one thousand years of records that were stored securely in the basements of the Four Courts. The basements were constructed so that even if the Four Courts was levelled the records would be safe. Unfortunately no-one expected someone would be so stupid as to deliberately place bombs in the files to destroy them. So the odds are you will not be able to get any information beyond the late 18th century. Ironically for safe keeping many of the Church of Ireland records had been placed in the PRO only a couple of years before the PRO's destruction so the country lost 90% of our records. Even the US has more records than we have!

    A civil servant idiotically destroyed many of the early census returns during the First World War - no one is sure why, whether he was trying to save space or re-use paper or something. The census returns that did survive were then blown up by the IRA. So the only complete sets were have are from 1901 and 1911.

    But that does not there are no records. Some miraculously survived the explosion. For example, I found out recently that my mother's records for the local civil records from the 1821 census survived, quite literally the only records from that county from the 1821 census to survive. How they did is a complete mystery. (They survived completely undamaged while everything else around them was incinerated.) Even more remarkably, someone in that parish turns out to have kept Catholic parish records back to the 1780s. So using the census returns I can tell my ancestors there for 1821, and work back to their grandparents. It was purely a hunch in the National Library that led me to check just how far back those parish records went.

    Remember also to use the internet. Many of the surviving records, particularly civil and Catholic records, are also to be found on the Mormon website. The LDS church believes that it can 'save' the dead by rebaptising people into its faith. It is bunkum but they have been getting copies of civil records worldwide for decades and they are all freely available for use on the internet. It is a brilliant service and they have a reasonably good search engine. I used it to track down a grand-uncle involved in the Old IRA who moved to Chicago in the 1920s. They also have most Catholic records supplied by the National Library so you can do a lot of research from your computer. One problem though: one or two idiot bishops refuse to allow the National Library microfilm their parish records and insist you must travel to them and pay them money to access your family records. In my case I could trace most of my family through a combination of the National Archives, the National Library, the General Register Office and th Mormon website. But one branch of the family is a blank because the local bishop insists I must travel down to his diocese a long distance away and then pay him to be allowed to research my ancestors. I'm damn well not going to pay him for the entitlement of researching my family. Everyone else, from the National Archives and Library to my own local parish to the Mormons to the local former landlord could not be more helpful. (The former landlord invited me to stay for free for as long as I wanted in his home totally free of charge to go through the family papers, while one bishop wants to blackmail me into paying him to see the records of when family members died!!!)

    One final thing you might want to check, and it is also on the internet - the British parliamentary Register contained detailed reports about Ireland, with some names and a lot of local information. My late grandmother told me that just across the road from where she was born there had been a village that had been wiped out in the famine. (Her father, who was born during the family, told her that.) I came across British Parliamentary Register entries for 1841 and 1851 that showed me that was correct. There had been a thriving village (at least in terms of population) in 1841. By 1851 the surveyor recorded that the population had dropped so much by 1851 that the remaining population no longer met the minimum number of houses being lived in to be described as a village, dropping from over 100 houses to just 20. Unfortunately it is proving very difficult to establish how many there died and how many emigrated. Local folklore said it was primarily emigration and that there were few evictions but I cannot verify that because the Land Commission bought the estate that had owned those lands in the 1930s, demolished the house and burnt all the records! The local mediaeval cemetery were famine burials were rumoured to have taken place in (all the mediaeval headstones had been used for building over the centuries) was bulldozed by a local farmer in the 1970s so their is no archaeology left to access whether it was used as late as the 1840s for burials. (That is the most frustrating thing about research in Ireland - so much of our history, from the Public Records Office in 1922 to estate records in the burnings, to lack of planning controls at archaeologically sensitive sites, to the odd greedy bishop, is unavailable or lost forever.)

    I hope some of that helps.

    If you are into history, the fun of the search is almost as much fun as the discovery. For me one of the fun bits, as a gay man, was discovering a relative of my grandmother who was clearly gay, but no-one in the family dared mention the obvious. (He travelled widely having made his fortune, returning to Ireland every two to three years from San Francisco with the same male 'travelling companion' who he always 'just happened to meet', their curious tendency when no-one was watching (or they thought no-one was watching) to be rather em . . . touchy feely with each other, the fact that the male friend through put sleeping somewhere else who always happened to be found in the relative's bed the next morning, etc. When I saw the photos of them I pretty much guessed the truth but it was not until years later I found an old letter from a grand-aunt to my grandmother that I realised they all knew (and curiously seemed to accept it in Holy Catholic Ireland in 1910), not being the least bit surprised when the mysterious 'travelling companion' Uncle Denis would always just happened to meet, who just happened to me with Uncle Denis when he died suddenly in bed in 1913. I later discovered another gay relative who fought in a war and then emigrated with a soldier from the other side to the US, where they lived together for 60 years, naming each other as next-of-kin and buying all property jointly. He had left Ireland because of an attack from a priest for being 'one of those'! So you find all sorts of things in family history.
    Last edited by Myles_per_hour; 19th November 2008 at 02:47 AM.
    Myles per Hour has left politics.ie.

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