12 March 2011

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE CHANGING FACE OF IRISH GENEALOGY

     A big THANK YOU to all the readers of Help! The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancestors! for voting the blog as one of Family Tree Magazine's Top 40 Genealogy Blogs 2011. I truly appreciate your support, and am glad that you enjoy my blog!
     When I began this blog, I wondered if I could find enough topics to keep it going for a couple of months. Thanks to my fellow Irish family historians, especially those who attend the talks I give in the Philadelphia/NJ area, I am learning something new about Irish genealogy constantly. I find that the Irish researchers I meet are invariably friendly and always happy to share their knowledge and discoveries with me, and each other. From being a rather lonesome hobby done in dark microfilm rooms, genealogy has become a social activity in itself, which is a boon for Irish researchers. Because of its degree of difficulty, Irish researchers benefit greatly from interacting with each other. When I began my family history research in earnest in the 1980's, it was difficult to find a lecture on genealogy in the Philadelphia area, now I have my pick of one or two a month. The audiences for my own talks have grown from a handful of diehard researchers to rooms of engineers, lawyers, and Hibernians--all wanting to know how they can begin keeping their Irish family history.
     Genealogy in general has emerged from being the realm of those who belong to lineage societies to encompass those of us who search for more recent immigrants. So many people tell me that they never expected to find any records because their ancestors were "simply" hard-working immigrants who arrived in the US in the 1800's or 1900's. But today, thanks in part to online resources, our salt-of-the-earth Irish ancestors have not been lost to memory. The Irish government, archives, libraries, and heritage organizations also deserve credit for preserving and making available their records for our research, especially for increasing the amount of online databases.
     I remember, in the days before Al Gore invented the Internet, when it took me a few months and a few "snail mail" letters back and forth across the pond to find out where in Ireland the townland of Innishatieve was located (in County Tyrone). Today, thanks to the legions of researchers helping each other online and in person, most researchers can locate an ancestral townland in a few minutes.
     I like to think that we are doing good by discovering the stories of our ancestors' hardscrabble lives and by preserving their memories. Their "ordinary" lives were far from mundane. These people fought hunger and poverty just to stay alive and to keep their families from disappearing. They left all that was familiar to them to set off for foreign lands in order to grab the future. Their stories are epic and mythic, no less so than the tales in storybooks and histories. So join me in telling them and start your own family history blog!
LINKS 
If you are interested in finding more blogs on genealogy, or want information on telling your ancestors' stories in your own blog, check out GeneaBloggers:
To read about the Family Tree Magazine's Top 40 Genealogy Blogs: