Irish Roots

November 29th, 2010

John Grenham

Why can't you find your great-grandfather in that blasted database? You know he's there, so why won't he come up? The number of possible reasons is finite:

1. You're putting in the wrong information. This is by far the most common cause of failure. It's all too easy to end up cursing the stupid website and kicking your computer around the room before you realise that you've put a forename in the surname box and vice versa. So check that what you're entering is accurate.

2. You're being too precise. A database only contains what's been put into it and, to be polite, that can be extremely variable. Your family may have been fanatical about the precise spelling of your surname for six centuries, but all it takes is a slightly deaf record-keeper or an ink-blot or a puzzled transcriber and that fanaticism is worth nothing. Trawl as wide as possible to start with, and only then begin to narrow down your options.

3. You're being too picky. Maybe your great-grandfather isn't there but what about his brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws? Whatís on-line is still very limited, so you need to squeeze it for every last bit of information you can get.

4. The information isn't in the database. Does the record-set you're searching actually cover the relevant period and area? Many sites with Irish information are partial: the Mormon Familysearch site only includes transcripts of Irish birth registrations from 1864 to 1880; the IFHF site rootsireland.ie omits the church records of a number of counties, doesn't have complete sets for all the counties that are there, and doesn't even have all the records it gives in its on-line sources lists. It is essential to be aware of exactly what is and isnít in the collection of records youíre searching.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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