Irish Roots

August 1st, 2011

John Grenham


A few times over the past few years I've used this column to sing the praises of some of the individuals who are so important in Irish genealogy, people such as Albert Casey, Brian Cantwell and Stuart Rosenberg. For each of them, an initial interest in family research mutated into a lifelong mission to gather records, which ultimately proved of tremendous benefit to other researchers. But, for all our gratitude, there has often been small tinge of jaundice in our awe at these collectors, a slight whiff of the self-righteous "There but for the grace of God ..."

Now I realise that something peculiarly similar has happened to me. Over the past year, I've been putting together the fourth edition of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors for publication by Gill and Macmillan in Spring next year and, once again, I'm combing through obscure bibliographies, living in county libraries' local history catalogues, rooting around in the recesses of amateur websites, investigating any archived scrap of paper that just might have some names on it. And again, I'm astonished at just how much continues to emerge.

But that's not the point. What I've realised over the past few months is that the process has become personal. I really and truly want to know the publication details of everything published on the Irish in Nantucket, every gap in every parish register, every gravestone transcript in Co. Monaghan, every local directory published anywhere on the island in the 19th century, even if I'll never actually look at the things. Much as I enjoy using the records to uncover information, that's not the most important thing anymore. I just want the complete set.

As a boy, I collected stamps for a while, but never really understood the obsessive hold the hobby exerted on some people. I do now


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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