Irish Roots


March 11th 2013

Family History Year

John Grenham

In the build-up to St. Patrick's Day, Tourism Ireland recently christened 2013 "Family History Year". To the grizzled veterans among us, for whom every year is another (bloody) Family History Year, this might seem less than startling. But some interesting things are emerging. The first act of the Year was to set up a dedicated Facebook page in mid-February, facebook.com/IrelandFamilyHistory, with an aim of reaching 50,000 followers by the end of 2013. After a month they've already reached 10,000.

Keeping an eye on the page as it updates is fascinating, if a little scary. Wave after wave of people announce their irishnesss and give a few details of their ancestry. As a professional, I feel a bit like a mother bird watching a nest fill with thousands of little chicks screeching to be fed. The first impulse is just to run away.

But the site's success demonstrates more powerfully than any market survey ever could just how tenacious identification with Ireland remains among the 80 million. Making it as easy as possible for them to find the records of their ancestors should be one of the main concerns of our public administration, and not just because they might give us a few bob, but because we owe it to them, and to their and our ancestors. Even if a sizeable proportion will remain poor lost souls, no matter how much help they get: "My grandfather's name was Ryan. He came from Tipperary." Well, yes.

A valiant attempt to unlose some of them takes place at The St Patrick's Festival Irish Family History Centre in the Discover Ireland centre in the old St. Andrew's church in Suffolk St. in Dublin from March 14th to 18th next. Run by Eneclann and FindMyPast, and with six other groups participating, the Centre is designed unapologetically for beginners, with a rolling programme of talks every day and free on-site access to FindMyPast's records. More information is at bit.ly/XXVrCJ.

The Centre also offers personal advice from experts who won't run away.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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