Irish Roots

January 10th, 2011

John Grenham


Among the many urges stimulated by genealogical research, the need to identify long-unknown 4th and 5th cousins looms improbably large. Itís not as odd as it might seem: if your great-great grandparents had 10 children and you know the descent from only one of them, a potential army of distant cousins awaits discovery. And some at least of the 9 other lines will have done research or have family traditions you know nothing of. So how do you go about finding them all?

Thereís the rub. Researching forward is much more difficult that going back, for the simple reason that documentation records the present and the past, and doesnít foretell the future. So a marriage record may name the parents of the parties marrying, but it can hardly tell you who their children are going to be. Nonetheless, there are some records that can help.

The most important of these are the General Register Office birth indexes from 1903. These record the motherís maiden name, making it possible, with a bit of work, to pinpoint members of a particular family. (Unfortunately, the online transcripts of these indexes at familysearch.org are of a different set and exclude mothersí maiden names until 1928). 20th century electoral registers are also very useful. Local authorities remain responsible for them, with the best and most easily searchable collection at Dublin City Library and Archive (dublinheritage.ie). Revised annually, they provide a record of change rather than the usual simple snapshot of a particular point in time. The revision books of the Valuation Office in Dublin (valoff.ie) supply a similar record of change from the mid-19th century Primary Valuation right up to the abolition of domestic property taxes in 1977. Both electoral lists and Valuation Office revisions are especially useful in providing starting points for on-the-spot investigation. And at that point genealogy shades off into detective work.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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