Monday, March 17, 2014

Preserving Ireland's Genealogy

This was just sent out from on St. Partick’s Day.

Website Gathers St. Patrick's Day and Other Irish Family Stories and Photos by Glen Greener

“St. Patrick died on March 17, 481, but St. Patrick's Day lives on all over the world demonstrating how prolific Irish roots have permeated cultures globally over the years. A sampling of the many areas St. Patrick's day is celebrated in includes: Argentina, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, Malaysia, Montserrat, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United States. is celebrating St. Patrick's day by encouraging descendants of Irish immigrants to preserve and share their Irish family memories online through photos and stories. Family historians can also freely search over 30 million historic Irish records online or begin building their Irish family trees.

Ireland provides one of the most interesting and challenging genealogies for family researchers, and there are a lot of them. Over 100 million people worldwide claim some Irish heritage. 

A loss of records by fire and problems recording Irish emigrants who boarded ships after the original departure can seem like barriers to genealogists trying to "get back across the pond." The family histories are often available in the emigrant's new country, but finding the lines back in Ireland can be difficult.

Chris Paton, a former BBC television producer, author, and a professional genealogist, says, "Ireland has probably experienced more tragedy when it comes to the preservation of resources for family historians than any other region of the British Isles. Many of the nation's primary records were lost during the civil war in 1922 and through other equally tragic means." 

There is good news, says David Rencher, Chief Genealogical Officer at FamilySearch. "The government of Ireland now considers genealogy an economic resource. It is one of the main reasons for tourism. In the past five years, more resources have been made available than were in the previous 15 years."

Rencher comes by his love of Irish ancestry naturally. Both sides of his family hail from the Emerald Isle. And he's always fascinated by the traditions of celebrating St. Patrick's Day all over the world.

There are good resources online:,,, the public records office of Northern Ireland, and the national archives of Ireland. Counties are coming forward with quality publications of local histories, and the Irish government wants to help those with Irish roots to plan their search. 

Rencher says, "People need to find out specifically where their Irish ancestors hail from. County records are important. Parish records are becoming more available." 

Finding the home town and county of your ancestors is helped by surnames which are often good indicators of where in Ireland someone is from. Employment records in America can contain a birthplace in Ireland. Cemeteries in Ireland are valuable because it was not uncommon for relatives to have a tombstone erected in Ireland although the deceased was buried in another country.

The names of neighbors and friends in a possible village of origin could open up help and hospitality. "The Irish are very generous with their time when people are searching for their Irish roots. Most towns have someone who people regard as the local historian who wants to help. Local libraries are also valuable resources. In any case, people on a pilgrimage to find their family's history in Ireland are welcomed with open arms," Rencher said.

According to Rencher, the best method is to, "Start with what you know and branch out to what you don't know. What artifacts do you have in your home? A Presbyterian Church token has a mark that can tell what congregation in Ireland it's from. Other members of a family might have naturalization certificates or church records. Irish families are so large that artifacts could be with any number of cousins."

It's also important to document the ancestors you find along with any stories or pictures. With 100 million Irish descendants around the world, it's a strong possibility someone you don't know can add details to your history if they can find your photos and stories on free preservation sites DNA results can also help identify where others in your family line are located. 

Because of death and emigration to other countries, the population of Ireland was the same in 1900 as in 1800. Irish emigrants went all over the world for many reasons—mostly looking for new opportunity and a new life. Many had to leave when their landlords moved a tenant off the property so a new tenant could pay higher rents. Others went into military service or worked as indentured servants, working for seven years to pay off their costs of emigrating. Many moved to England, Canada, and America to work as miners and laborers. 

Some got a new start in a developing country. If you had to guess the name of a founder and first president of a newly independent nation in South America, would you guess O'Higgins? If you did, you'd be right. Bernardo O'Higgins became the Supreme Director of Chile in 1817.

On St. Patrick's Day, the saying is, "Everybody is Irish for one day," and that might be literally true. Irish is the second most common ancestry in the United States. It's the fourth largest in Canada. Mexico has 600,000 Irish descendants. And this just names a few. 

Whether you're marching in a St. Patrick's Day parade, helping turn the Chicago River green, wearing garish green socks, or just having some corned beef and cabbage at home, take the time to share your favorite Irish family photos and stories online at So even if you don't think you have any Irish in you, it's now a lot easier to double check”.

Canadian Week in Review 17 March 2014

I have come across the following Canadian websites, social media posts, and newspaper articles this past week that were of interest to me, and I thought you might be interested in them, too.


MacMillan Bloedel Limited fonds
The records of MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. are part of University of British Columbia Library's Rare Books and Special Collections, and now they have put it online.

Capilano Timber Company fonds
The Capilano Timber Company Collection forms part of University of British Columbia Library's Rare Books and Special Collections. These are images – photos – that were originally from a single photograph album, and depict the daily operations of the Capilano Timber Company.

Social Media

10 Top Tips for How to Bust Through Your Genealogy Brick Wall
This was posted before in RootsTech 2013 news blog, but I think it bears reposting again, because the information given by Dave Obee in this YouTube video is important to those people researching Canadian roots.

News Stories

Nova Scotia-Maine ferry to start in May
It’s good to see ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland again. In my younger years, I took the ferry many a time on our summer jaunts down to the 'Boston States’ to visit relatives.

Historic stick staying in Canada Stick believed to date back to early 1800s pulled from eBay, destined for museum
Apparently, the so-called “Moffatt Stick,” a curved hunk of maple that experts have confirmed matches the style of sticks used for games of shinny (pond hockey) in eastern North America in the early 19th century, has been sold.

Saint John to become home port for cruise to Portland in 2015
This sounds just wonderful - Blount Small Ship Adventures will offer a 10-day tour of the Bay of Fundy on a 98-passenger ship, with stops in Saint Andrews, GrandManan Island, and Campobello Island.

Irish history in Canada and Quebec is far from timid
Irish-Canadian history is about a lot more than the Great Famine and coffin ships. Jane McGaughey, a professor of Canadian-Irish studies at Concordia University, is investigating Irish participation in the 1837-38 Rebellions.

Reclaim island airport, install Canadian Air and Space Museum: Shirley Bush’s Big Idea
An interesting article - see how she plans to do this!

Newfoundland’s viking connection: Recreated villages and re-enactors heat up history
A group of Greenland Vikings emerged around AD 1000 to establish a settlement on the island of Newfoundland. 

Ed Coleman's history: The Irish started the Town of Kentville
Read the early Irish history of Kemtville, Nova Scotia. 

Alberta offers free admission to museums and heritage sites to recognize military service
The free admission will be permitted to past and present members of the Canadian Forces at five major museums, including the Royal Alberta Museum and the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and 14 historic sites and interpretive centres, such as the Ukrainian Village, the Oilsands Discovery Centre, and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

Manitoba wants panel to rule on costly census dispute
Manitoba wants the federal government to appoint a panel to rule on whether Statistics Canada undercounted the population by 18,000 in the last census — costing the province $100 million a year in transfer payments.

A historically significant photograph turns up in Nova Scotia
Read what this photo has to say about the 1870 Red River Rebellion when a 1,200-man militia was sent to the Red River district of Manitoba.

Picturesque Lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest Designated under Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
The Nootka lighthouse, located on the ancestral territory of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht Nation on Vancouver Island, BC, is now protected for years to come under Canada's Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (HLPA).

Council considers historic designation for Hotel
Canmore's town council is officially considering municipal historic resource designation for the Canmore Hotel.

The lost post: Leslieville man finds letters from a WWI soldier under his Bertmount Ave. porch
Larry McLean hopes to return the stack of old mail discovered during renovations to soldier Leslie Currell’s family.

Montreal Diary: Temporary typhoid hospital helped scuttle 1910 epidemic
At the corner of Lucien L’Allier St. and Overdale Ave, Robert N. Wilkins discovered an abandoned building that was used in 1910 as a provisional facility for those who were suffering from typhoid fever. (This story was first seen on Gail Dever’s blog, Genealogy à la carte, at

Story of the Week

I have been in discussions with various people who will have books published this year on the two anniversaries we will be honouring – the centennial of the beginning of the First World War, and the 75th anniversary of the Second World War.

And now I see where the Canadian government has put a new site on the heritage department called Commemorations of the First and Second World Wars. There isn’t much on the site right now, but I am sure more will be added as we get closer to the actual days the wars began.

In the meantime, there are articles starting to appear in the newspapers about the First and Second World Wars, as there will be ceremonies which will take place all over Canada, and on the battlefields in Europe, and the staging stations for the troops as they arrived in Great Britain.

The Heritage Canada website is

Reminder: Check the Canadian Week in Review next Monday for the latest in Genealogy, Heritage, and History news in Canada. It’s the ONLY news blog of its kind in country! The next post will be on 24 Match 2014.