Throughout the ages, the Irish have found themselves leaving our own Emerald Isle in search of a better life. America, Canada, Australia and of course our neighbours in the UK have been on the receiving end of the influx!
We know that Ireland is known for being notoriously difficult for tracing up records but over the coming weeks we are going to investigate the best and easiest way for YOU to find your Irish ancestors. In the first part of our series, we give you our top tips for beginners tracing your family roots.
1. Write down as much as you know
Before you begin your adventure you need to sit down and write down as much information as possible. Start with yourself and your parents before continuing to work backwards. Most of you will be aware of your grandparents’ names and perhaps even great grandparents. This will also allow you to see any gaps and questions that need answering.
2. Talk to as many relatives as possible
Retrieving information from your oldest relatives is arguably the best way to trace your roots. After all, their memories would give you more information than a birth or death cert for example. Hearing family stories and memories will help piece together the jigsaw puzzle. Don’t forget to bring a pen and paper or perhaps even a voice recorder to capture the information.
While family stories can be a good source of information and a starting point, it has to be taken into account that the memories may not be 100% accurate and may have been the victim of embellishment throughout the years. For the sake of your search, it is best to only deal with FACTS at this stage of your search.
3. Locate your ancestor’s Irish origin
This is arguably the most difficult task. Your Irish ancestors may have moved centuries ago and there may be no clear link. Unfortunately, you will need to try and get an idea of where in Ireland they came from before taking your search any further. If you already know the area you are good to go!
Awareness of Irish historical landmarks such as the Great Famine will help you here. This is an example of a time when many had no chose but to flea the country or face starvation.
4. Beware of the Truth!
When people trace their families they often come across some truths or skeletons that were previously hidden. Unfortunately not every family tree is attractive. Be honest with your findings and record an accurate account.
5. Decide on who you will research
Pick one research area in your family and focus on that to begin with. There are many lines one could follow but to avoid confusion, stick with one at a time. It’s traditional to follow the male line from your father’s side and the female line from your mother’s side. You may want to use this tradition as a starting point.
6. Record, record, record!
Record every piece of information possible as you will be given so much it will be near impossible to remember everything. The information may even be conflicting and confusing making the recording of information detrimental.
7. Don’t be TOO ambitious
You will need to be aware of the reality before you begin your search. Most of you will find your Irish roots began as poor landless farm labourers. As such, their lives were not well documented and very few records exist. You may find that the first half of the 19th century will be as far back as you can go.
Once you have followed the above steps and know the place in Ireland your family originated from, it is a good idea to plan your Ireland vacations around the search. You may not find what you are looking for on your first trip so working the search into a vacation may be wise.