Monday, January 24, 2011

SLIG 2011 ~ Irish Family History Research ~ Day 1

In the better late than never department, I have finally had a chance to process the Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy 2011 ~ Irish Family History Research Course ~ that I attended the week of January 10th.  In my defense, I stayed on in Salt Lake City through January 19th and on my return had to get back to real life.  That said, I continue to have the utmost respect for those blogging gurus who post daily while at a conference.  But now, let me share with you the highlights of SLIG 2011.

Bright and early (8:00 am) found all the SLIG attendees at a breakfast to kick off the week of genealogy education!  There were general introductions of the Course coordinators and several of the instructors as well as some general information about the Institute as a whole ~ vendors, administrative and logistical matters, and lunchtime and evening lectures (only for true genealogy warriors).  After breakfast and with binder in hand I searched for my "classroom."

Promptly at 9:00 am our coordinator for the week, David Ouimette, had us introduce ourselves and share our family surnames, county/regions of Irish ancestry, religious affiliations, locations in the Canada and/or the USA where our immigrant ancestors settled, and amount of previous research/current status of our research.  It was a great way to "break the ice" as well as give us a sense of each other's research interests.

The remainder of the day consisted of the following lectures:

  • Introduction to the Course/Week
    • The good news is that there are records both in the USA and Ireland that can help you find your Irish ancestors (not everything went up in smoke in 1922 or otherwise got destroyed through the years).
    • Before you even think about crossing the pond to perform research in Ireland you need to do your homework here in the USA and find out everything you can about your ancestor who came over from Ireland with the records right here!
    • The later your ancestor came over from Ireland the luckier you are because the records are better (on both sides of the Atlantic).
    • There are several excellent resources, including and some other great websites, that continue to post information on a regular basis ~ be sure to check them out regularly!
    • At some point in order to answer your research questions, you will "get to go to Ireland" (rather than "have to go to Ireland") ~ and there are a number of quality research facilities in Ireland.
    • At the outset, he suggested several books that provide a road map for the beginner, intermediate and advanced Irish records' researcher.
      • Grenham, John. Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2006. 
      • Mitchell, Brian. Finding Your Irish Ancestors: Unique Aspects of Irish Genealogy. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield, 2007.
      • Ouimette, David. Finding Your Irish Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2005
      • Ryan, James G. Irish Records: Sources for Family & Local History. Dublin, Ireland: Flyleaf Press/Ancestry, 1999.
      • Ryan, James G. Sources for Irish Family History: A Listing of Books and Articles on the History of Irish Families. Glenageary, Co. Dublin, Ireland: Flyleaf Press, 2001.

  • Irish Immigration - North American Sources and Methodology
    • We were all in for a history lesson as the first part of the lecture covered the Irish immigration experience ~ the time frames, the reasons, and the experience once the immigrant arrived in America.  For those without a historical context this lecture was extremely useful.  The concept of chain migration was explained and discussed ~ another great reason why it is so important to perform cluster research!  
    • Ouimette discussed in detail several excellent resources to check out to find evidence of Irish ancestral origins in American records (the list below is only a sampling):
      • Naturalization papers
      • Land records
      • Probate records
      • Church records
      • Census records
      • Tombstone inscriptions
      • Birth, Marriage & Death records
      • Newspapers
      • Military records
      • Family records
      • Railroad Retirement records
      • School records
      • Published histories
      • Ship passenger lists
      • Church and civil records in Canada
      • Employment records
      • Social Security applications

  • Irish Emigration - Irish Sources and Methodology
    • This lecture took us across the Atlantic to find learn about the Irish emigration experience.  If you have not had an opportunity to hear David Rencher speak there are two things you need to know ~ he talks at lightening speed and he packs two hours of information into a one hour lecture! 
    • Rencher discussed the principle ports from which the Irish emigrated, the costs involved and the effect that the Poor Law Act may have had on the emigration experience.  I was not familiar with the history of the Poor Law Act and workhouses in Ireland ~ definitely something to research in greater detail.
    • One of the interesting and oftentimes overlooked research areas (especially during the famine years' emigration) is the use of the following records:
      • Land records
      • Church baptisms
      • Poor Law documents
      • Estate papers
      • Directories
      • Ordinance Survey lists
      • School records
      • Church records ~ we need to keep in mind that no matter our ancestors' "professed religion" the Church of Ireland was the State church for a significant period of time and our ancestors (no matter their religion) may be recorded there

  • The Scotch-Irish in America
    • This lecture focused on the available records in Ireland and Scotland to assist the researcher in locating his/her American Scots-Irish families.  Dean Hunter laid out the records as well as the indexes that are available and provided a list of the surname records maintained by the Family History Library.
    • Since none of my "people" were Scottish and/or from the North of Ireland, this lecture held less interest for me than the other lectures.

  • Irish Surnames and Given Names
    • In this lecture Ouimette provided us with the history of Irish surnames and how to determine the possible source of an Irish surname.  
    • Some things to keep in mind when researching your surname or given name:
      • Many surnames are identifiable with certain locations or regions in Ireland
      • Spelling is not particularly important (as there was no fixed spelling until the 20th century).  As a result, researchers will want to conduct their research using all known variants!
      • The use of O or Mac in surnames ~ view these are simply a variant.
      • When searching records realize that given names could be in English, Gaelic, Latin, abbreviated or a nickname and be prepared to research using all known variants!
        • By way of example:
          • English = Patrick
          • Gaelic = Padraig
          • Latin = Patricius
          • Abbreviated = Pat, Patt, Patk, Patrk
          • Nickname = Paddy, Padric, Pat, Patty, Paudrick
        • Another example ~ sometimes an Irish given name has (to our mind) unusual variants:
          • Bridget = Delia
          • Jeremiah = Darby
    • As in several cultures, there may be "naming patterns" and the Irish, in particular, used traditional naming patterns (although there are always exceptions to the "rule").
By the end of the day on Monday, I was glad the Family History Library closed at 5:00 pm so I didn't feel guilty about not racing over to get in any research time!

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