INTRO:

David Fallon and Jonathan Lucey are two of the people behind Tourism Ireland’s Ireland Family History Facebook project. During Ireland’s Family History Year they are aiming to provide a useful link for those people who’s ancestral search leads to the island of Ireland. We spoke to David and Jonathan about the Facebook project and the idea behind Ireland’s Family History Year.

Jonathan Lucey: I think if a lot of us are honest, we don’t realise how your country or your home has affected us until we leave. And I understand that has almost be come a cliché, but it’s really true. In the case of Ireland, I think that kind of way of lodging itself in your consciousness and your personality is quite unique. I think it’s why people are so deeply passionate about their Irish heritage, no matter how far back it goes.

David Fallon: I’d have to agree. I think that’s why the core theme of the Gathering Ireland 2013 (http://www.thegatheringireland.com/), for the diaspora to come home and to reconnect, is such a good one. Of course it’s not only a year of genealogy festivals. The Red Head Convention on Cork, A Left Hand Festival in Mullingar etc (they don’t want anything to ‘go right’ on the day…) I can’t remember seeing an initiative like it before.
At the core of the year, though, you have these family and clan ‘Gatherings’ where families in Ireland want their family abroad to know just how eager they are to meet. Sometimes, the way it’s talked about, it’s easy to get the impression that only the American or the Canadian cousins who are keen, but the reality is that we’re just as intrigued and fascinated by the idea of our distant family here in Ireland, too. And that’s really where Ireland’s Family History Year came from. It’s a perfect tie in – a year when people are already being invited to the island to reconnect with family is just the time to help them on their way. I strongly believe that the lectures, Gatherings our (you’ll forgive a little plug here) extremely friendly and helpful Facebook page, and events planned for 2013 will guide people toward that missing link and their family in Ireland.

Jonathan Lucey: What David and I have found since starting the project is that the amount of people actively searching for their Ireland ancestors is staggering. A quick search on Google will tell you that approximately 70 million people on earth currently consider themselves descended from relations from Ireland. Look, that’s an almost unbelievable number, but just dip a toe into the world of Irish ancestry and it becomes a lot more plausible. The interaction we’ve had on the Ireland Family History page has been astounding and surprising in equal measure. In some ways, too, it’s been moving.

David Fallon: Absolutely. Actually, when I was chatting to people on the page yesterday a message came in. It was from a lady in the U.S who mentioned that her father was a famous cross-country runner from Tipperary. She didn’t have clear dates from him but knew that he was active during some time in the first half of the 20th century. Seconds later, with that bare knowledge in my head, I found a website with a picture of him and his athletics club. There he was, tall, hair quiffed standing smiling with all the other young men. Right away I was imagining this man leaving his parish, his athletics club and his family and stepping on a boat to the US. Now, I had no connection to the family or the man, and that was a special moment for me. Can you imagine what it was like for his daughter? She wrote back to say she was in tears. That’s something I can’t verify, but I do hope it made her happy!

Jonathan Lucey:
And that’s the joy of the Internet for ancestry searches. But the bottom line is that the Internet is a big place, and it’s a place where people are very understandably trying to make money. If you reconsider that sizeable 70 million figure I referenced earlier, then you can see it being a lucrative business. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with paid research sites. They’re doing valuable work and places like Ancestry.com and Find My Past do incredible things and the professionals there really know what they’re doing. But don’t think that those two are the only resources. We give our top five online resources below actually, but I still maintain and being on the ground, being able to actively walk into a parish church, visit the National Archives etc or even to pick up a local phone book – that’s where the real secrets are found.

David and Jonathan’s online ancestry Top 5
Since Jonathan and David have been working with Ireland Family History they have found the following sites to be especially helpful, especially to the novice.

“Well, aside from the Ireland Family History (https://www.facebook.com/IrelandFamilyHistory) Facebook page as well as the excellent Genealogy section of www.Ireland.com (http://www.ireland.com/en-us/what-is-available/genealogy-and-ancestry) we’ve found truly excellent and unsurpassed assistance and advice from the following five pages. Take note, these really will help:

Irish Times Ancestry Page – (www.irishtimes.com/ancestor)

An incredibly well researched resource and VERY user friendly. Their surname search is an excellent way of narrowing down the locations where surnames were popular. Also, the blog (www.irishtimes.com/blogs/irishroots), written by the very witty and extremely knowledgeable John Greenam is a must read.

National Library of Ireland (www.nli.ie/en/family-history-introduction)

As well as hosting one of the most beautiful rooms on the island of Ireland, the National Library hosts some of the greatest genealogy specialists, too. Their ancestry page is utterly illuminating and sets out how to go about your search in wonderfully plain English. Don’t leave home without their ‘How To’ PDF.

Public Records Office Northern Ireland (www.proni.gov.uk)

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