Townland of Origin is
delighted to welcome back professional genealogist Lisa Walsh Dougherty. Her
previous posts, How a Professional Genealogist Found Her Townland Of Origin
(Part 1 & Part 2), were widely read, with the part one post having the
highest number of views since the blog was launched. In this post, Lisa
writes about using a Proof Argument in your research. On Tuesday (21st), you
will have a chance to read an example where she used a Proof Argument in her
family history research.
Lisa has been an avid
family history researcher for nearly 20 years.
Since 2009, she has shared her knowledge and experience with many
through her volunteer hours, workshop trainings, and commissioned
research. A member of the Association of
Professional Genealogists and a graduate of the ProGen
Study Group, she specializes in
helping people with Irish roots discover their “Townland of Origin”. Lisa is based in Upstate New York near
Albany, and provides a free consultation toward assisting you in finding your
own unique family story! You can find out more about Lisa's work on her website,
Upstate NY Genealogy and
her Association of Professional Genealogists
To say the road our ancestors took to get from Ireland to
the United States (or the UK, or Australia, etc) was a long and winding one
would be an understatement. They endured
many hardships and obstacles along the way, but still they persevered. The road back from the 21st
century to the Ireland our ancestors knew can be just as long and in many ways,
more complicated. The return journey is
not for the faint of heart, only the most persistent and determined will reach
their ultimate goal of a townland of origin.
Sometimes the luck of the Irish will be on our side, and we will
find that long-anticipated place name in the first document we examine. Others may unearth record after record over
many years before even the smallest clue is yielded. Either way the Irish family historian is all
too often left with questions about the place they have found. What does it all mean? Is it a townland or parish? County or Poor Law Union?
The real work in Irish genealogy begins once that mysterious
location is found. Then the researcher
must make the effort to find out what they can about that place. What type of place is it? Does it still exist? Where can it found on a map? What kinds of records exist for that
place? What is the corresponding parish
for that place and when do those records begin?
There is rarely a single document that gives all the answers
about an ancestor. Most often there is a
combination of documents and sources, a variety of items that together form the
circumstantial evidence those of us researching our Irish origins get used to
seeing. Melding these divergent pieces
into a comprehensive whole that tells the story of our Irish ancestors takes
real skill. In genealogy, this
gathering, analysis and summarizing is called a proof argument.
The Board for Certification of Genealogists defines a proof
argument as "a detailed, written explanation of the evidence and reasoning used
to reach a genealogical conclusion."
If ever there was a genre of genealogy made
for the proof argument, it would be Irish genealogy. The majority of the records pertaining to our
ancestor in their adopted country usually say nothing more specific than
“Ireland”, records kept in Ireland itself vary greatly in quality and scope, and
the names of our ancestors are so common it can be nearly impossible to tell
one “John Ryan” from another. Assembling
and analyzing large amounts of data is an essential procedure toward
discovering our ancestor’s home, and to skip these vital steps would do our
research a great disservice.
In the computer, tablet and smart phone era that we live in,
we get used to instant gratification.
The proof argument simply is not something that can be achieved by
plugging a surname into Google. Its
origins involve gathering, sorting, categorizing, contemplating, analyzing,
savoring, and finally, recording information that sometimes takes years to
accumulate. While sources for Irish
genealogy and other ethnicities are exploding online and are far more readily
available than they were even a few years ago, an effective proof argument, and
therefore an accurate family story, can only be achieved with patience and diligence. Our ancestors would have been familiar with
these qualities; they mastered them and started a new life that we are all