Friday, August 1, 2014

Going Beyond US WDYTYA

Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA) is the flagship show for genealogy in the United States. In each episode, the ancestry of a celebrity is explored, with prominent narratives from their family history investigated. It first aired in 2010 and began its fifth season last week.

Those in the U.S. who have Irish ancestry might be disappointed with the relative lack of focus on celebrities with Irish ancestry. In the first four seasons there has been 35 episodes. Four participants had their Irish ancestry partly or fully investigated, with three episodes showing research in Ireland. They are:

Chris O'Donnell  season 4, episode 5         Did not do research in Ireland
Rashida Jones season 3, episode 10           Dublin
Rosie O'Donnell season 2, episode 3         Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow, Offaly 
Martin Sheen      season 3, episode 1         Tipperary, Dublin

This is a small return, considering Irish is the largest ancestry grouping in the U.S. after German. Personally, I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, it can be difficult to find the Irish place of origin. Other celebrities might have been considered, but their Irish place of origin might not have been found. Secondly, the Irish ancestors of some celebrities might not have been involved in something that was considered worthwhile for a TV show. Leaving a poverty stricken rural part of Ireland, living in a densely crowded tenement and dying of tuberculosis at age forty-five is not exactly going to see audiences flocking to watch the show. This could be called 'Cherie Blair syndrome.'

So, where can you get your fix of Irish genealogy on TV? Well, the US WDYTYA has an older British sister, as the show is also aired in the UK. The UK version is actually the original and has been on TV since 2004. The 11th season will begin in August, starting with a special show to mark its upcoming 100th episode

The close proximity of Ireland to the UK has seen many Irish celebrities move to the bigger British market and many British-born celebrities have Irish parents, grandparents, and other ancestors. So, the UK version can be a great place to get your fix of Irish genealogy TV. Below, I have YouTube links to some of these episodes:

Graham Norton                Cork, Antrim/Belfast, Wicklow
Dervla Kirwan                  Cork, Dublin
Chris Moyles                      Dublin, Mayo
John Hurt                            Sligo
David Tennant                  Derry/Londonderry
Amanda Redman             Cork/Wexford (parts of the episode)
Nick Hewer                        Antrim/Belfast (could not find video of episode)

The Irish Genealogy News blog reports that the upcoming 11th season of the UK WDYTYA will have two Irish-focused episodes. While you may have know about the UK version of the TV show, you might be surprised to learn that there was also an Irish version of Who Do You Think You Are. It broadcast for two season in 2008 and 2009. I managed to find one episode knocking about on YouTube:

Ryan Tubridy                      Galway/Mayo/Dublin

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Freeman's Journal Place Of Origin (Ireland Genealogy Project Archives) has been one of the most active volunteer Irish genealogy websites for a long time. Each month new transcriptions and pictures of many different types of records are made available, free of change. Some records in last months upload caught my eye as they give the Irish county of origin for immigrants in various American cities.

The transcriptions come from various editions of the Freeman's Journal newspaper, from 1841 to 1845. The cities covered include New York, Boston, Detroit, Newark, and Albany, among others. The newspaper articles contain information about members of organizations and subscribers to funds for various political causes, including the Repeal Association. The Irish county of birth/origin is given for many of the members/subscribers. You can view these names at this link, in the 1840 section.

Digitized 19th century editions of the Freeman's Journal are available on the various subscription FindMyPast websites.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Early San Francisco Newspaper Index

Recently, I came across a very interesting Irish genealogy resource for San Francisco. The Early San Francisco Newspaper Index was created by Thomas and Regina Wrin, descendants of Michael J. Wrin, a prominent businessman who was very active in the forming of Irish societies in early San Francisco.

This "database is an index of over 560,000 listings from San Francisco newspapers, 1849-1927, featuring the activities of Irish San Franciscans in over 2,300 Societies. This is equivalent to 112,000 pages of printed data. Each listing includes: individual's name, publication name, publication date, society involved, a brief summary of the individual's activity which generated a mention in that publication."[1]

Also known as "The Wrindex", this database is currently not available online but there are a number of ways that you can access the information.  Firstly, there is a free name search service available through the Wrindex website. Secondly, you can purchase copies of the index on CD from the same website. Thirdly, the CD's are also available at the United Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco (an organization I have previously profiled on this blog).

It is important to point out that this source is a index. It does not contain original records, or copies of them. Instead, it will allow you to take a very beneficial shortcut in your research and go directly to newspaper articles that contain information about those of interest to your research.

Access The Wrindex website here.

[1] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family History Library Catalog. 2002. : accessed 28 June 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Irish Research In Hartford, Connecticut

I've written before on this blog about how academic research can be very beneficial to genealogists, but can sometimes not be thought of as a potential source of relevant information or records. Therefore, I'd like to take another opportunity to highlight a useful and interesting piece of academic work.

Getting Their Share: Irish and Italian Immigrants in Hartford, Connecticut, 1850-1940 is the PhD thesis of Bruce Alan Clouette. It was submitted in 1992 at the University of Connecticut. A recent publication considers it to be the most definitive work on Irish immigration to Hartford, CT in the mid 19th century.[1]

Works of this magnitude can be particularly useful when they are about just one city, as opposed to the many academic tomes which have focused on the immigration of Irish people to the whole of the U.S. Individually named immigrants, migration patterns from Ireland, settlement patterns in the city, Catholic Church history and many other useful types of genealogical information can be found in the more locally focused publications.

You can read the abstract here.

[1] Xiangming Chen and Nick Bacon. Confronting Urban Legacy : Rediscovering Hartford and New England's Forgotten Cities. Lanham: Lexington Books. 2013. p. 44.

Friday, July 18, 2014

FMP's Irish Death Notices In American Newspapers

Following on from my post about the (FMP) database, Irish Marriage Notices In American Newspapers (scroll down to read or click here), this post will look at the database Irish Death Notices in American Newspapers. At 35,918, it contains a significantly larger number of records.

According to the FMP website, "each record includes a transcript of a death notice taken from an American newspaper. The amount of information listed can vary, but the Irish death notices usually include the following information about your ancestor: name, death year, place of death, newspaper, cemetery, birth place (emphasis mine), cause of death, death date, parish at death, spouse, parents, other relatives, age, and occupation."[1] The notices come from the following newspapers:

Chicago Citizen (1882-1897)
Chicago Tribune (1847-present)
Illinois State Journal (1848-1947)
New Orleans, Picayune (1837-present)
New York Herald (1835-1924)
The Baltimore Sun (1837-present)
The Brooklyn Eagle (1841-1955)
Phoenix (1859-1861)

Perusing the indexes, it can be seen that two different places often appear in the 'Where - Location' part of the index. Some examples:

Mary Jane Martin died in 1858 and the two places mentioned are Downpatrick (presumably Co. Down) and 9th Avenue & Ave. A (presumably New York City)
Henry Ford died in 1871; Sligo and 9th Avenue & 37th St.
Julia Duffy died in 1870; Dundalk and 99 Vandam St.

Without going through all records in the set, a very rough estimate of the number of death notices that contain an Irish place of birth/origin is somewhere between 30-55%, making it quite a useful database to do research in.

[1] Irish Death Notices in American Newspapers. 2014. : accessed 27 June 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

FMP's Irish Marriage Notices In American Newspapers

In May, Find My Past announced the release of two new record sets, Irish Marriage Notices In American Newspapers and Irish Death Notices in American Newspapers. This post will focus on the collection of marriage notices; my next post, in a few days, will look at the death collection in more detail.

Irish Marriage Notices In American Newspapers contains 2,550 records, taken from four different U.S. newspapers: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York Herald, New York World, and Phoenix. When the record set was released, Irish Genealogy News reported that these notices appeared in the newspapers from 1835 to 1860.

In total, 1,446 notices are for people living in the Unites States. Almost all—1,304—are for marriages in New York. The remaining 1,104 notices are for people outside the U.S., of which the majority—926—are for people in Ireland.

I don't have a Find My Past subscription so unfortunately was unable to look at the actual records and see if Irish places of origin are included for marriages occurring in the U.S. For marriages that occurred in Ireland, it is likely that the place where the marriage took place is included. Scanning through the surname of those in the records shows that many are for Irish immigrants with traditionally English and Scottish names, e.g. Adams, Allen, Brown, Greenswood, Jackson, Stewart, Thompson etc.

However, this is understandable. Firstly, some of the records are from pre-Famine years, and therefore from a time when non-Catholic immigration to the U.S. still made up a significant proportion of overall Irish immigration. Secondly, marriage notices cost money. Irish emigrants who could afford these notices were able to bring some startup capital to the U.S., were generally from a higher social class in Ireland, and were usually from an Anglo-Irish heritage.

MARRIAGES                     2550
Alabama                               8
California                            14
Connecticut                        4
Illinois                                   4
Indiana                                 2
Louisiana                            10
Maryland                             8
Massachusetts                    6
Missouri                               2
New Jersey                         64
New York                          1304
Pennsylvania                     10
Rhode Island                       2
United States                      60
Virginia                                 4
Washington DC                  2
TOTAL                               1446
Ireland                                926
England                               68
Australia                             16
India                                      8
France                                   6
Canada                                  6
Cuba                                       4
Windward Islands           4
Belgium                                2
Italy                                        2
Turkey                                  2
Scotland                                2
TOTAL                              1104

Link to Irish Marriage Notices in American Newspapers database.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Irish Police Officers In Chicago

There is a long tradition in many American  cities of Irish immigrants working in the public service. In particular, there has been a strong association between the Irish and various police departments. Therefore, police employment records and publications about police departments should be genealogical sources that people turn to for police officer ancestors (scroll down or click here to read about police records for San Francisco).

One example of the latter is History of the Chicago Police from the Settlement of the Community to the Present Time [1], published in 1887. This is a large volume that gives a detailed overview of the workings of the police, in all its various incarnations, up to the end of the 19th century. 

Patrolman James Conway[2]

The genealogical joy in this publication is derived from the profiles of police officers of all ranks that make up the last ten chapters.  Approximately 90 biographies state that the member of the police force was born in Ireland, with more than one quarter of these entries giving an Irish county of birth.

Patrolman Arthur Connolly[3]

You can access this publication on Google Books, by clicking here.

[1] Finn. John J. History of the Chicago Police from the Settlement of the Community to the Present Time. Chicago: WB Conkey. 1887.
[2] History of the Chicago Police, p. 529.
[3] Ibid.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Friends Of Irish Research, Brockton, MA

One of the things I always try and promote—especially to younger genealogists who often think they can find everything online—is the amount of help and information that can be obtained from a local family history group or society. At the most recent meeting I attended of the Fairfax County Genealogical Society Irish Special Interest Group (in Virginia), I learned a number of interesting tidbits about Irish genealogy in as far flung places as Washington, D.C., New Zealand, and St. Paul, Minnesota.

So with that goal in mind, I have previously profiled TIARA (part one / part two), probably the largest Irish genealogy group in the Boston/Massachusetts area. Next up is another group in the state: Friends of Irish Research (FIR), based in Brockton, MA.

While their website could do with an update (there is a notice saying it is under construction), FIR has a number of items of interest on there:

An indexing project that will compile all names found on headstones in St. Mary's Cemetery, Brockton, MA. This database is listed as 'coming soon' on their website.

A mention about their library of over 5000 publications.

Videos (downlandable files) of lectures concerning different Irish genealogy topics.

A list of publications you can read by FIR members, mostly about Irish, U.S., and Canadian genealogy topics.

So, if you live in the area, or are visiting, get yourself down to one of their Friday evening meetings!

P.S. This group is included in the Groups/Societies & Institutions section of this website. On this page you can find the details for many Irish family history organizations and institutions that have a large number of records relevant to Irish genealogy.

Friday, July 4, 2014

San Francisco Police Recruit Books is a website full of wonderful scanned genealogy resources. Buried down in all their millions of scanned images is the three volume Chronological Record of Police Appointments City and County of San Francisco. These volumes cover an almost 100 year period, from 1853 to 1947.

The three volumes are ledgers that start with an index of names containing the page number for the full entry. After the index, there is a chronological listing of new police recruits. If recorded, there is a fantastic amount of information included for each new recruit: name, date of birth, city or county of birth, state or country of birth, previous occupation, married or single, no. in family, date appointed, age when appointed, date removed, remarks, and length of service.

Two Irish immigrants in Chronological Record of Police Appointments City and County of San Francisco, part one

Two Irish immigrants in Chronological Record of Police Appointments City and County of San Francisco, part two*
Like many other American cities, San Francisco experienced a significant amount of immigration from Ireland in the 19th century. These immigrants were attracted to secure public sector employment and the police department saw large numbers of Irish recruits. Two samples from volume one show the prevalence of Irish immigrants:

Pages:                                                    1 to 15, covering the 1860s
Total # of new recruits:                  150
Total of which are Irish:                  45 (30% of recruits)
Total with county of origin:           27 (60% of Irish recruits)

Pages:                                                     49 to 66, covering the years 1884-1886
Total # of new recruits:                  180
Total of which are Irish:                   51 (28% of recruits)
Total with county of origin:            34 (67% of Irish recruits)

Any record set that has county of origin information for more that 50% of Irish entries is a very valuable genealogical resource. The rate of Irish-born recruits does fall off in the second and third volumes. However, they are replaced by first generation Irish-Americans, the sons of the first wave of Irish immigrants.

Chronological Record of Police Appointments City and County of San Francisco, Volume 1, 1853-1904, page 6, entries section, available online at : accessed 2 July 2014.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Introduction to Irish Canadian Genealogy

My knowledge of Canadian genealogy is somewhat inferior to that of what I know about the same topic for the U.S. Learning more is therefore important as many Irish settled in Canada over the centuries and countless others first arrived on Canadian shores before migrating south to the U.S. This inter-connectedness lends itself to a need for a holistic approach when studying the genealogy of Irish immigrants.

Every genealogist needs somewhere to start when it comes to learning about a new area of interest to their research. For Canada, there is a very succinct introduction to Irish genealogical research on the website of Library and Archives Canada.

You can access the webpage here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Passage Money Paid

This picture captures the most rudimentary but fundamental act during emigration: paying the emigration agent.

The various signs in the picture advertize: "G. O'Neil E[mig]ration [Ag]ent", "Direct from Cork", "For Quebec", and "Hibernia." In the right foreground, a woman sits on a box that says: Jack Sullivan Goin to Ameriky [sic]. In the background, there seems to be a woman and child in distress, possibly due to they or a loved one leaving Ireland.

The second and third paragraph make reference to a particularly busy time of year when many people left Cork: "Upon reference to notes and papers of my own, and to information afforded me by the emigration agents here, I am disposed to think that about the middle of May the great emigrational torrent ceases to flow from these shores. Looking backward for the last month, I find that, during the week ending April 11 the greatest rush for the season took place. The numbers who left Cork that week could not have fallen far short of 1500 souls…" The date May 10, 1851 has also been written on the picture.

Source: NYPL Digital Collections

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I'm Giving a Talk in New Jersey

Next Tuesday (24th) I will be giving a talk in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. The title is Finding Your Irish Townland of Origin: Research in the U.S. and Ireland. Full details are at the end of this post.

Basking Ridge is only about 30 miles west of Manhattan so hopefully the venue will be reachable for as many people as possible. I'm looking forward to the talk and would like to thank the Bernards Township Library Family History Interest Group and Morris Area Genealogy Society for inviting me. Hopefully,  I can help some people find their townland of origin.

The millions of Irish who came to the United States in the 19th century did not make it easy for their descendants to find where they came from in Ireland. Finding their townland of origin is the ultimate aim of anyone with Irish ancestry. If you have already combed through the census, searched vital records, written away for Church records, and scrutinized the city directories, only to find "from Ireland", then this talk is for you.

Firstly, the focus is on Irish genealogical research in America. Relevant strategies for breaking through brick walls will be discussed in detail. This will be coupled with records and sources where you can find the Irish place of origin. Then the focus switches to Ireland, with a explanation of the main genealogy record sets: civil registration, parish registers, tax records, censuses, and criminal/legal records.  This important focus on the past will be coupled with current developments in Irish genealogy, in the shape of the best books, blogs, and websites.

Tuesday, 24 JuneFinding Your Irish Townland of Origin: Research in the U.S. and Ireland. Hosted by Bernards Township Library Family History Interest Group and Morris Area Genealogy Society. Venue: Bernards Township Library, 32 South Maple Ave., Basking Ridge, New Jersey, USA. 6:30pm - 8:45pm. Free, no booking required. Email for more information.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

From Roscommon To Canada

The Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth is currently carrying out research on the topic of Famine-era assisted emigration from Strokestown, Roscommon to Canada. The focus of this research are the tenants of the Strokestown Park estate who were sent from Ireland in 1847. In May of that year, 1,490 tenants left Liverpool for Quebec in British North America (Canada). They traveled on four ships: the Virginius, Naomi, John Munn, and the Erin’s Queen.

Unfortunately, before 1865 there are few passenger lists for immigrants coming to Canada. However, sources such as the Filby's phenomenal Passenger and Immigrant List Index (available can help to fill the void. Library and Archives Canada also has a useful webpage about immigration before 1865.

Have you been able to trace your ancestors back to a May 1847 arrival in Quebec on one of those ships? If so, your next trip could be to county Roscommon.

To learn more about this assisted emigration, you can consult a news article from early May on the website.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Gathering. No, Not That One

Parts of Montana, particularly Butte, have long had large concentration of residents with Irish ancestry. In an effort to try and preserve their stories, traditions, and folk memories, the Irish Studies department at the University of Montana has carried out an oral history project since 2009.

 The Gathering: Collecting Oral Histories of the Irish in Montana is an online archive of interviews carried out with Irish-Americans who live in the state. As of June 2014, there are over one hundred interviews in the collection. Whilst the topics discussed with the contributors are wide-ranging, many talk about their recent and deeper family ancestry, including their knowledge of immigrant ancestors.

You can select and listen to all interviews by clicking here.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Diocese of Wilmington Cemetery Database

The Diocese of Wilmington was established in 1868 and today covers the state of Delaware and nine Maryland counties on the Delmarva Peninsula.[1] The three largest cemeteries in the diocese are Cathedral cemetery (Wilmington, DE, opened 1876), All Saints (Wilmington, DE, opened 1958), and Gate of Heaven (Dagsboro, DE, opened 2002). 

A searchable database is available on the diocesan website for these three cemeteries. Details in the database include name, date of death, and plot location. Existing headstone/grave markers in Cathedral cemetery have been photographed and are also available to view. The diocesan website also lists location and contact information for 18 current and 4 closed parish cemeteries.

Search the database by clicking here.

Cemetery Maps

[1] Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. A Brief History of the Diocese of Wilmington. Year Unknown. Available online at accessed 13 May 2014 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

From Tyrone/Monaghan To Providence, Rhode Island

A paper in the 1997 Clogher Record [1] has an excellent overview of chain migration from Tyrone and Monaghan to the city of Providence, Rhode Island. The author, Edward McCarron, outlines that “between 1825 and 1865, at least 475 persons from county Tyrone and Monaghan were recorded living in Providence and nearby Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The largest contingent, 148 or 37%, came from the parish of Clogher, with significant numbers hailing from adjacent parishes of Errigal Keerogue and Errigal Truagh, straddling the border of Tyrone and Monaghan.”[2]

These numbers are based on an analysis of naturalization records for the city, of which many give an Irish place of origin. More broadly, fully 53% of Irish people who naturalized in Providence between 1840 and 1860  were from Ulster counties[3] - Tyrone, Monaghan, Antrim, Cavan, Fermanagh, Donegal, Down, Derry/Londonderry, and Armagh (listed in order of percentage of overall total).

McCarron outlines a number of different reasons for this chain migration, two of which were economic decline in south Ulster in the 1820s and 1830s and cheaper tickets to Canada with the aim of crossing the border into the New England states. This 19th century migration had a long-lasting effect, and people from the Clogher Valley were “still trickling into Providence in the 1920s, over one-hundred years after the first Tyrone immigrant was recorded there.”[4]

An analysis such as this is an outstanding example of how local history knowledge in Ireland can be combined with a study of particular record sets in the U.S., to create clear evidence of migration from one part of Ireland to one city in America.

[1] This is the journal of the Clogher Historical Society. Their research focuses on the diocese of Clogher, which consists of Monaghan, much of Fermanagh, and parts of Tyrone and Donegal.
[2] McCarron, Edward T. Altered States: Tyrone Migration to Providence, Rhode Island During the Nineteenth Century. Clogher Record. Vol. 16. No. 1. 1997. pp. 145-161.
[3] McCarron, p. 146.
[4] McCarron, p 146.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Irish Immigrants in New Brunswick Census 1851 & 1861

In the years following 1845 New Brunswick experienced an influx of Irish immigrants due to the failed potato crop in Ireland. The wave abated by 1851 but is commonly remembered as the sole contribution of Irish to New Brunswick. Yet thousands of Irish were living in New Brunswick prior to these events. In 1851 and 1861 New Brunswick conducted full censuses which were to become invaluable records documenting the makeup of the province. In particular these records highlight the “Irishness” of the province, bringing to light a substantial number of Irish persons who made their home in New Brunswick prior to the famine in their homeland. Unlike previously gathered statistics, such as those from 1841, these returns enumerated the birthplace of immigrants living in New Brunswick, identifying those born in England, Scotland, Ireland.[1]

These are valuable census records beyond the obvious notion of looking for Irish ancestors who lived in New Brunswick:

New Brunswick shares a long border with the U.S. state of Maine. Therefore, there would have been a lot of migration to the New England region and vice versa.

The port city of Saint John is in New Brunswick. Irish immigrant who stayed in the city for an initial few years in 1849-51 and 1859-61 period will be recorded.

Many Irish immigrants might be captured in these censuses who then moved elsewhere in Canada.

For more detailed information about the Irish in New Brunswick in the mid 19th century, you can read this paper by P.M Toner - The Irish of New Brunswick at Mid-Century: The 1851 Census.

[1] Library and Archives Canada. Irish Immigrants in the New Brunswick Census 1841 and 1851. Date Unknown. Available online at accessed 22 May 2014.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Omaha Catholic Cemeteries

The Archdiocese of Omaha was originally founded as the Vicariate Apostolic of the Nebraska Territory in 1859.[1] Since then, it has decreased in size and increased in importance, becoming an archdiocese in 1945. Currently, the archdiocese consists of 23 counties in north-eastern Nebraska.

Since the late 19th century, the archdiocese has had five cemeteries under is auspices: Saint Mary Magdalene (opened in 1868, traditionally German), Holy Sepulchre (1873), Saint Mary (1883), Calvary (1952), and Resurrection (founding year unknown, but after 1952).

Burials at these cemeteries are available to search via the Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Omaha website. Where known, you will be provided with name, date of death and plot location. Click here to search the database.

[1] Archdiocese of Omaha. Prelate History. Available online at : accessed 6 May 2014.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I Found My Townland, Do I Have Any Long Lost Cousins?

After the joy of finding your townland of origin is realized, the next question on your mind can be: do I have any cousins in Ireland? Due to the nature of Irish social history, you might very well find some long-lost cousins still on the same piece of land that your ancestor left in the 19th century.

However, if you don't, tracing forward from some point in the 19th century to find modern-day cousins can be a difficult process. Last Monday, John Grenham provided a helpful list of resource to do just that in his weekly genealogy column.

Click here to learn about this "reverse genealogy."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New Irish Directories Database

City directories are one of the most useful genealogical resources in the Unites States. Did you know that directories, in various formats, have been published in Ireland since the mid-eighteenth century? Many of these publications have come online over the last number of years. However, one stumbling block to utilizing them for research is the fact that they are spread across a large number of free, subscriptions, and fee-paying websites.

Myself and Shane Wilson, a Dublin based family historian and owner of the excellent Irish genealogy website,, have created the Irish Directories Database. This database will allow you to easily find Irish directories that are currently online.

To access the database, click here.