Hi there, my name is Mike Collins and you are welcome to “Introduction to Researching Your Irish Ancestors”. This is an eight module course in which we cover certain principles, tools and approaches relevant to researching an ancestor of Irish origin.
Whether you are a total beginner when it comes to Irish ancestry research – or a champion genealogist (well done to you!) – I have put this course together so that there is plenty for all levels of experience. In short, we will aim to fill in some of the knowledge and process gaps you currently experience when researching one of your Irish ancestors.
This course will bring you on a tour of the most common Irish record sets available online. Along the way we will introduce tools to help you decide on the best Irish records to search for a given situation.
I will then illustrate any theory discussed with a real-life case-study and, most importantly, ask you to replicate the same results that I uncover in the case-study. As a result, you will become familiar with which Irish record sets are available, where to find them and how to access and interpret them BEFORE searching those Irish record sets for your own Irish ancestry research.
Two other points to consider before we start:
So, who put this course together? Well, I wrote it based on the Green Room “Irish Research Roadmap” – as well as reading all sorts of questions received our Letter from Ireland readers over the last 10 years.
This course has also been audited by our resident Green Room Irish genealogists, Jayne McGarvey and Pam Holland in terms of content and learning objectives. Jayne and Pam also had major input into the “Irish Research Roadmap” I mention above.
You are probably taking this course as you have at least one Irish ancestor about whom you would would like to discover more. Maybe their origins are a complete mystery to you – or maybe there are just some unknown facts that you would like to uncover.
In either case, it is useful to understand the unique challenges presented by Irish ancestry research and how to navigate those challenges as you progress your research on an individual or couple.
To help understand these challenges a little more, let’s remind ourselves of the typical process we follow as we research any ancestor – no matter what their ethnic origin.
It’s always a good idea to stay focused by choosing just one individual (or a couple). We will give examples by choosing a single individual in a case-study I will introduce later in the course.
Some of these facts that you gather will be backed by associated records, other will be based on family stories and hearsay while still others may be only guesses at this point.
Gather them all – and then assemble them into a timeline.
This step produces “discovery questions” that will help guide your research e.g. “when and where was my gr gr grandfather Thomas Murphy born in Ireland?”
So far, so good? The steps I have outlined above are useful for researching any ancestor – no matter their country of origin. However, the next two steps often differ depending on which country of origin you are researching.
In our case, we are searching for Irish ancestors – so, as we reach back into the Irish records it is useful to have some knowledge of which Irish record sets are available to search (and which are not available), where to find them and how to read them.
You have already have selected “discovery questions” such as “when and where was my gr gr grandfather Thomas Murphy born in Ireland?” So, next you need to consider questions like “Which Irish record sets are available for Ireland?” or “Which Irish record sets should I be searching for the best answers to my questions?” or “Where do I find them?”
This is the point where many of us get frustrated, lost, impatient – and sometimes lucky!
As you browse different Irish record sets, you might wonder “how do I read this – what is this record telling me?”.
As this course is about Irish family history research, we will spend a lot of time on steps 4 and 5 above. These are the two steps where things can get confusing. You might find yourself as you wondering about things like:
By the way, these questions address real situations from my own Irish family tree. In case you are interested, here are my quick answers to each:
These are just some of the concepts that we will come across over the duration of this course.
Next, what is contained in this course – how is it laid out?
Each module in this course covers an “essential” aspect of Irish family history research. From the beginning we use a real-life individual so you can test out the various research tools mentioned in real life – and see if you get the same results.
In the next module we emphasise how it is essential to gather as much information as possible about an ancestor in your own country before making the leap back to the Irish records. We introduce an approach to help you do just that.
We introduce you to our case-study individual and his family and start to gather all we know about them. We then compose a number of discovery questions that will help keep us focused as we choose and navigate the Irish record sets later in the course.