Thursday, September 25, 2008

Top of the class: Family historians set goals for Irish research


Ring-a-ling!


The school bell is ringing for the 8th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture. This is the "Back to School" edition, so get your pencils sharpened and put your thinking caps on as we scroll through the research plans and to do lists of others seeking to get a better grip on their Irish heritage and/or to learn a little more about the culture of Ireland.

Why would you want to read through an assortment of other people's to-do lists? Why, it’s fascinating reading! (After all, there is even a popular blog that is devoted solely to To-Do Lists.)

Let me give you a few reasons why you might want to spend time reading through the assortment of to-do lists and itemized Irish genealogy plans that make up this edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture:

  1. To be inspired in your own research by seeing what others are trying to accomplish
  2. To gather ideas for your own research and/or gain interesting perspectives on the quest for your personal family history
  3. To be introduced to resources you might not be aware of
  4. To help keep these family historians accountable to the goals that they have set

If you are working on your own to-do list of Irish genealogy and family history tasks and don't currently manage a blog of your own, please use the comment section at the end of this article to share your goals. We hope you’ll join us: the more the merrier!

The bell has rung and it’s time to begin, so without any further ado let’s get on task and scroll through our submissions.

Colleen Johnson is on a mission to seek out her roots in County Monaghan and possibly County Mayo. As she shares on The Finegan/Donahue Quest, two branches of her family are the focus of her plans this year. She hopes to find the original Irish townland for the Finegan family and to learn all she can about the Donahues, working at least once a week on both family lines. As Colleen puts it, “I’m such a Type A personality. I better not fail.”

Apple’s search for her Irish ancestry takes her back to Ireland during the 18th-century. She plans to work further back in her family tree on the following lines: Carlisle (of Massachusetts), Graham (of Virginia) and Kelly (of New York and Ontario). She will also focus on learning about the history of Ireland during that time period. Read Irish Homework posted at Apple's Tree to see the detailed “assignments” that she has laid out for herself, broken down by fall and spring semesters.

First-time carnival contributor Melody LaSalle is not new to Irish genealogy. She has done much research in the past on her family tree, but still finds that she is stumped on several lines. As Melody puts it, she “has her work cut out for her”. When she found herself at a “brick wall” in the past for one particular family member, her approach was to search for every known document for that person. Her persistence paid off when she discovered a probate file with the names of many family members from various branches. Check out Melody’s plans to search for information on her elusive Kelly and Dolan ancestors of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and California at Getting My Irish Ancestors Back to Ireland posted at The Research Journal.

Julie Cahill Tarr is another first-time contributor to our carnival. Her quest is to find the home county in Ireland of her great-great-great-grandparents, Michael and Anne (Hale) Cahill. Julie outlines what she knows about later generations of the Cahill family and lists the resources she plans to use to make further progress, including a nice assortment of Michael O’Laughlin’s books. Julie also plans to focus on learning more about Ireland’s history using some popular history books. Read more at GenBlog: Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture posted at GenBlog.

Bill West of West in New England shares his goals at "BACK TO SCHOOL" ON MY IRISH GENEALOGY. He is focusing on searching for information about one couple in his family tree: John & Anna (Kelley) McFarland. Bill hopes to learn about his great-grandparents using archived newspapers, passenger lists, vital records, employment records, and records from the Archives of the Archdiocese of Boston when they open again in 2009. He also plans to contact some older relatives in the family for more information.

Her Scotch-Irish branch of the family is one line that Jessica Oswalt has not yet focused on since she began writing about her personal search for family history at Jessica's Genejournal. She plans to familiarize herself with Scottish and Irish records and use the British census along with probate, vital and other records to pinpoint her family’s history in the United Kingdom. Read more about her plans at Searching For My Ancestors: My Research Plan and Goals For My Ancestors Born in Scotland and Ireland.

A collection of family photographs dating from 1850 is the focus of M. Diane Rogers’ project related to her Irish genealogy. At CanadaGenealogy, or, Jane’s Your Aunt she writes IRWIN and MOFFAT, County Cavan, Ireland - 8th Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture and shares a beautiful portrait of James and Mary Ann (Moffat) Irwin who immigrated from County Cavan, Ireland to western Canada. Diane plans to scan and organize all of the photos in her collection related to this couple and their descendants. She shares a book written by a relative on the history of the Irwin family and provides a nice list of links relating to County Cavan, Ireland. Diane is another first-time contributor to the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture. Thanks to all of you for joining us!

Donna Pointkouski found that in doing research for others on their 19th-century Irish immigrant ancestors she may have found a more difficult type of “genealogy coursework” than that of researching her more recent immigrant ancestors of the early 20th-century. She has worked back through several generations of her niece’s Irish ancestors in America: the McGeehan and Lee families. Donna details the work she has done thus far using census and vital records, and shares the difficulties that she ran into looking for accurate information on these American immigrants that arrived before the days of consistent vital records and comprehensive passenger lists. Read The Challenges of Researching Irish Ancestry posted at What's Past is Prologue.

When lost in the assortment of notes, documents, and other family history information that I've accumulated, I've found that the best way to refocus has been to create a family timeline for the ancestral branch that troubles me. That is at the top of my priority list as I revisit some of my Irish family lines that have been elusive lately. Visit Filling in the gaps on the Irish side of my family tree here at Small-leaved Shamrock for an introduction to my search for the Cowhey, Foley and Donnelly families of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.


I often receive carnival submissions that are not quite within the realm of the topic covered by the current edition. They are sometimes items that I’m interested in sharing, but because they don’t fit with the theme, I have chosen not to include them in the past.

This month, since the scope of our "Back to School" edition has covered the “study” of all aspects of Irish heritage and culture, I’ll include the additional submissions that I received on Irish topics.

Smoky Mountain Family Historian Lori presents a review of a children’s book dealing with an Irish family’s heritage in Review: St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh. She suggests it as a reminder to families to tell their own stories. I wholeheartedly agree.

Peter presents a gallery of photos he has taken on his travels by motorbike throughout Ireland. See we overstep for a photo tour of the Emerald Isle.

Kerry Dexter of Music Road shares the story of Cathie Ryan: Irish and American. The daughter of Irish immigrants living in Michigan, Cathie's love for Celtic music eventually led her back to Ireland. Cathie is a singer and songwriter (the lead singer for Cherish the Ladies) and as Kerry puts it, "builds bridges between Ireland and America, between past and present, and between the stuff of daily life and the spiritual and emotional dimensions that give that day to day another dimension".

Thanks for reading this, the 8th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture. We hope it has inspired you to join the class and get to work on your personal Irish heritage & culture coursework!

For a little fun and a break from your serious studies, plan to join us for the upcoming 9th edition to be hosted by Bill West. See The luck of the Irish: Superstitions and the Irish people for details.

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