I have to admit it, but I have mainly been a heads down do-it-yourself sort of genealogical researcher. I have looked into attending conferences before, but never had the drive to attend for various reasons. This attitude has changed for me due to my recent attendance of iFest in Boston during the weekend of the Sept 27th. Essentially iFest is a celebration of all things Irish. The event showcased Irish culinary, music, sports, drinks, and tourism. It was very good event and well attended as well. It is supposed to come back to Boston next year as well. However one of the most beneficial parts of the event was the genealogy presentations by John Grenham. The session I attended was an interactive Q&A with Mr. Grenham where audience members asked about various topics such as birth records, church records, how to find this, surnames and other areas of study.
I have always struggled with making connections over in Ireland mainly because I wasn’t sure where to start. It has always been my understanding that the Irish are notorious for incomplete and/or missing records. This is true to an extent, but Mr. Grenham provided website databases where you can work on your Irish ancestry. One detail Mr. Grenham revealed was different birth records in Ireland. I was always under the impression that if you have an ancestor born in Ireland in the 19th century that record would most likely be a church record. I was right to a degree.
In Ireland if someone was born after 1864 there is a civil record recording the birth. Prior to 1864 a researcher would have to rely on church records. Once I heard this during the presentation I immediately thought of which of my grandparents where born after 1864. I thought of a few, but one stood out in particular, my somewhat mysterious great-grandfather, Patrick Regan (later changed to Reagan).
Through census records and a death certificate I knew Patrick was born in either 1865 or 1866. I also knew through his marriage record to my great-grandmother, Margaret Driscoll (b. Feb 1867 in Skibereen, Ireland. Daughter of William Driscoll and Margaret E. Collins), that his parent’s names were Patrick Regan and Honora Hegarty. With this information in hand I searched a few of the sites that Mr. Grenham discussed during his session. I will outline a few of these below and not get bogged down on my own personal family research.
- http://churchrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/ – Remember that prior to 1864 the Irish Government did not keep vital records. Prior to 1864 you have to rely on church records. This site is free, but only has records for County Cork and Kerry. Mr. Grenham provided a paid site: http://www.rootsireland.ie and this has records both vital and church outside of Cork.
- https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1584963 – If you had any Irish ancestor born and/or baptized after 1864 this is the site you should conduct your search. This database contains mainly government records.
- http://www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/surname/ – This site allow you search for your ancestor’s surname and provides visuals on household locations where that name was present based of Griffiths Valuation record.
Each of these sites opened some new doors into my research. I first started on FamilySearch.org searching for my great-grandfather Patrick Regan and came across a birth record with an actual birthdate April 30th, 1866 in Union Hall, County Cork, Ireland (the location may be Kilmacabea, County Cork). I then took this information and conducted a search on churchrecords.irishgenealogy.ie and found his baptismal record. I also decided to give a shot to see if Patrick had any siblings. I conducted a search on church records using Patrick’s parent’s name (Patrick Regan and Honora Hagerty) and range of years around Patrick’s birth year 1866 . I discovered that Patrick had siblings which I never knew existed. In fact he had 6 siblings:
- John Regan – Bapt. Nov 1862
- James Regam – Bapt. Jan 1868
- Honora Regan – Feb 1870
- Ellen Regan – April 1864
- Bridget Regan – Jan 1868
- Margaret – Feb 1857
This is amazing discovery since I never knew a tremendous deal about Patrick. I can now trace Patrick’s siblings lines and see what else I can dig up my great-grandfather. Would I have come to these discoveries if I didn’t attend Mr. Grenhams presentation? I am not sure, but I do know that I discovered family information sooner which allow me to spend more time on tracing Patrick’s sibling’s lines. So get out and go some Genealogy conference, events, lectures, or whatever!.