Irish Roots

January 4th, 2010

John Grenham


Strange as it may seem, genealogy is a seasonal affair. There are uncomplicated reasons why it should be of interest to particular groups, older people, for example, or emigrants cut off to some extent from the wider family. But why should a specific time of year bring out the desire to look up ancestors?

If there has to be a rise in awareness at a definite period, you might imagine it to be around St. Patrick’s’ Day. But no. The biggest upsurge of interest in family history research and all things related begins as regular as clockwork every year on St. Stephen’s Day. Immediately after Christmas, the traffic to genealogical websites spikes and for five or six weeks thereafter the number of research enquiries and of visitors to archives and libraries grows and grows.

Why? What is it about Christmas that drives people to research their ancestors? It is hard not to imagine someone locked up with their family for three days emerging with the burning question, “How in the name of God am I related to these people?” But the reasons are probably more prosaic. For all the commercialisation, Christmas is really the only fixed point in our year when families are more or less obliged to gather. Inevitably family talk across generations will touch on the common past, an elderly aunt will intrigue someone with unknown names and places, and light the spark of research.

In the days before the internet, the post-Christmas rush to genealogy was less visible: it took weeks to organise research. So we saw only a general increase in interest spread over early spring. But when traffic to a genealogy site quadruples over 48 hours, the same 48 hours year in year out, it becomes crystal clear that Christmas is the spur.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

Current column

2014

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
6
3
3
7
5
2
7
4
13
10
10
14
12
9
14
11
20
17
17
21
19
16
21
18
27
24
24
28
26
23
28
 
 
31
 
 
30


2013

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
7
4
4
1
6
3
1
5
2
7
4
2
14
11
11
8
13
10
8
12
9
14
11
9
21
18
18
15
20
17
15
19
16
21
18
16
28
25
25
22
27
 
22
26
23
28
25
23
 
 
 
29
 
 
29
 
30

 
30


2012

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2
6
5
2
7
4
2
6
3
1
5
3
9
13
12
9
14
11
9
13
10
8
12
10
16
20
19
16
21
18
16
20
17
15
19
17
23
27
26
23
28
25
23
27
24
22
26
24
30
 
 
30
 
 
30
 
 
29
 
31


2011

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
3
7
7
4
2
6
4
1
5
3
7
5
10
14
14
11
9
13
11
8
12
10
14
12
17
21
21
18
16
20
18
15
19
17
21
19
24
28
28
25
23
27
25
22
26
24
28
26
31
 
 
 
30
 
 
29
 
31
 
 


2010

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
4
1
1
5
3
7
5
2
6
4
1
6
11
8
8
12
10
14
12
9
13
11
8
13
18
15
15
19
17
21
19
16
20
18
15
20
25
22
22
26
25
28
26
23
27
25
22
27
 
 
 
 
31
 
 
30
 
 
29
 


2009

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
6
2
2
6
4
1
6
3
7
5
2
7
13
9
9
13
11
8
13
10
14
12
9
14
20
16
16
20
18
15
20
17
21
19
16
21
27
23
23
27
25
22
27
24
28
26
23
28
 
 
 
 
 
29
 
31
 
 
30