Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Book Review: Researching Your Irish Ancestors at Home and Abroad

Researching Your Irish Ancestors at Home and Abroad
By David R. Elliott
Dundurn
ISBN-13: 978-1459703971
May 2012
224pp, Paperback
$19.99 CAD

This book aims to help the reader identify the county and parish of Irish ancestors using documents and Internet sites in Canada, or more generally home country. It then guides through the process of researching in Ireland to build out the family story.

The author is a retired history professor who now operates a genealogy research company, Kinfolk Finders. I was impressed that the book is up to date to February 2012 and with the clarity of the presentation.

Chapter One: Understanding Religion and Politics in Ireland is a review of the island's often turbulent history, with an introduction to the main datasets you will encounter.
Chapter Two: Finding Clues to the County in Ireland explains where to look in Canada, and to some extent other diaspora settlement countries, to do the essential work of localizing the origin of your immigrant ancestors. It takes you through the various sources and reminds to look at records for relatives, and even those who settled nearby in case your ancestor was part of a chain migration.
Chapter Three: Zeroing in on the Parish and Townland, aims to help you understand the geographical organization of Irish records and rehearses the resources that will help you home in on the townland.
Chapter Four: Strategies for Travel to and within Ireland, sets this book apart with practical advice on travelling, accommodation, food (the $25 hamburger), utilities and currency. That's the type of issue that can make or break a genealogy trip but would not be covered in a book by an Irish resident that focuses on genealogical resources available.
Chapter Five: Sleuthing the Irish Archival Centres, picks up with more practical advice on which centres hold specific records. Sometimes two hold the same information and the book advises which archives to choose. There are maps of Dublin and Belfast showing archives and library locations, instructions on procedures to follow when first visiting, and insight on institutional idiosyncrasies. While finishing this review I found a short blog posting by John Grenham on the Register of Deeds in Dublin, a resource given three pages by Elliott. Grenham's description of its "back-breaking, tombstone-sized volumes" is more evocative than Elliott's "between eighteen and twenty-two kilograms" but none the less informative.
Chapter Six, Putting Flesh on Your Irish Ancestral Skeletons, delves into some less familiar records.
Chapter Seven, Digging Around in Irish Graveyards, helps you stay out of trouble and make the best of the adventure when you visit what you hope is the last resting place of your ancestral family.
The books ends with a conclusion, three appendices including a seven page collection of important historical and genealogical websites for Irish research. There is an annotated bibliography and comprehensive index.

Reading this book reminded me of lectures I've heard by Terry Findley, a BIFHSGO member, on walking in your Irish ancestors footsteps. With this book David Elliott takes you a step further with his experienced guidance on making the best of the resources available before and on your journey to discover your Irish ancestry.

Millions of Canadians have some Irish heritage yet many have scant knowledge of the connection. This book should find a ready market as they wake up to the urge to explore their Irish roots.

Researching Your Irish Ancestors at Home and Abroad can be purchased at a discount from Amazon where there is a "Look Inside" preview available to browse. Go to http://www.amazon.ca/Researching-Your-Irish-Ancestors-Abroad/dp/1459703979/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335754002&sr=8-1

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