Irish Roots

December 20th, 2010

John Grenham

One of the most surprising features of genealogy is that it is seasonal. Even more surprising is the suddenness of its main seasonal change. December 24th is by far the least genealogical day of the year, but December 26th is one of the busiest. Something that happens on Christmas Day inspires a burst of interest in ancestry that carries right on into the New Year. What is it?

Cynics will say that all the enforced intimacy has people asking themselves “How in the name of God am I connected to this lot?” A likelier answer is that Christmas is the mother of all family gatherings, and such gatherings inevitably draw attention to the family itself, and to its history, and to any unanswered questions about its history. Or perhaps Auntie Bridie just tells everyone more than they want to know about the 2nd cousins.

Whatever the reason, everyone involved in family history now knows that the rush starts on St. Stephen’s Day. Despite this, there are still surprisingly few initiatives to capture and encourage that surge of enthusiasm. An exception, happening in Ireland this year for the first time, is “Start Your Family Tree Week”, which runs from December 26th to January 1st.

Users sign up at the website – www.startyourfamilytree.ie – and then for seven days from St. Stephen’s Day get a free daily e-mail newsletter with Irish family history advice and research tips. The aim is simply to channel the initial burst of curiosity towards easy-to-access sources that might give answers, such as the National Archives census website or the church records at irishgenealogy.ie or the civil registration indexes at familysearch.org. In the best traditions of such events, and of Christmas, there will also be daily give-aways such as books, CD-ROMs and online subscriptions.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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