02 September 2020

Book Review: New Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy

It's a book with a history — first appearing in 1991 with two subsequent editions before the current one which prepends NEW to the title. If longevity is a sign of strength the content of Brian Mitchell's "indispensable tool for tracing ancestors in Ireland" confirms it.

Being no expert in Irish genealogy, I hesitated slightly when offered a review copy. Ignorance turned out to be an advantage as the book is suitable for the newbie to research on the island. As Mitchell states, "The basic aim of this book is to overcome the perception that genealogy is only for experts." 

The book is divided into three sections. 

Background and Getting Started has a chapter on Irish History and Genealogy which looks as far back as where history melds into legend and forward to immigration and the Irish diaspora. That's followed by advice on finding Irish origin information from records of the diaspora and a reminder to make the best use of family sources.

The Sources section starts with a chapter Major Record Sources examining civil registration of births, marriages and deaths; parish records of baptisms, marriages and burials; gravestone inscriptions; wills; 1901 and 1911 census; Griffith's valuation; and title books. For each, except for the last two, Mitchell shows how a 2-3 generation family tree can be constructed with the information. Mitchell claims that using these seven sources together "you should be able to construct a family tree on most family lines going back six or seven generations." There follows a 20-page chapter Other Record Sources, from surviving earlier census fragments to newspapers, directories and many more to extend or fill out the family story. I didn't notice a mention of dog licences!

The final section, Insights and Strategies is a mixed bag. Starting with chapters on geography and placenames, then surnames, it covers passenger lists and DNA. There are resource lists and case studies.

The strength of the book is the way case studies are woven into the presentation. Web sources are clearly indicated and well-integrated in the text.

Be prepared to find considerable repetition, not a bad thing in a guide which will likely be used more for reference once the organization is grasped. However, it went to an extreme with a paragraph on the 1641 Rebellion on page 115 much of which was repeated on page 120.

I'm glad I accepted to review the book — I learned a lot.

NEW Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy
by Brian Mitchell (Author)
Paperback : 124 pages
ISBN-10 : 0806359080
ISBN-13 : 978-0806359083
Product Dimensions : 17.78 x 0.66 x 25.4 cm
Publisher : Clearfield (March 17 2020)

Amazon price $ 32.93 Cdn

Brian Mitchell's other publications are: A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, A Guide to Irish Parish Registers, Irish Passenger Lists 1847-1871, and Genealogy at a glance: Irish Genealogy Research.

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