Tracing your Irish Ancestry
Many visitors to Ireland are keen to trace their Irish roots and during the course of their vacation to Ireland, they invariably aspire to meeting up with some distant relative, or visiting the old family homestead.
Tracing your Irish Ancestry is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and discovering that some of the pieces are missing. This is particularly the case if your ancestors were Catholic.
It is vital you begin your search equipped with some basic information;
1. What was the name of the last known ancestor who left Ireland and the year of his/her departure? Name of spouse and date and place of marriage? One shouldn’t be surprised if the year of departure was between 1846 & 1852. Some 1 million people left Ireland during this period as a direct result of the Potato Famine. Many departed from the Southern port of Cobh, which was known as Queenstown prior to 1922.
2. What was the name of the last family member buried in Ireland, the burial location and if possible, the date of death. This should be easier to discover if the family were Protestant. I make this distinction because it tends to be a large black hole -metaphorically speaking- regarding Catholic records beyond the year 1820.
3. Where was the last known area of residence of Irish relatives before they departed Ireland i.e. Village, Town, City, County or Province.
4. Keep in mind the following (a) if you have an obvious Irish name which has or had O or Mac attached to the surname, there is a strong likelihood that your ancestor was Catholic, irrespective of your current religious status. (b) Many Irish who migrated to America could neither read nor write and the pronunciation of their names was often misinterpreted by officials and became corrupted, for example the surname O’Kelly may have evolved into Shelley, or Corcoran into Condren, neither of which are uncommon names in Ireland so be careful not to bark up the wrong family tree.
5. Finally, remember it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a member of your recent ancestry was adopted, so carry out as much research as possible before undertaking this kind of investigation.
When you are sure you have discovered definitive evidence relating to your family’s Irish background, further family connections can be unearthed by viewing Irish church records.
The satisfaction one feels having successfully traced an ancestor and reuniting a guest with a long lost relative is wonderful, however not all investigations are successful and attempting to achieve a positive outcome within a short period of time, may only lead to disappointment.