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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 16, 2013 @ 9:42 am

    How Genealogy Should Work

    John Grenham

    Joe McSoap, a retiree in Arizona, got conflicting stories about his Irish grandfather from his family –names, places, dates that didn’t match – and wanted to sort out the truth, so he started research.

    One consistent part of the family story said his grandfather was born in Glasgow to an Irish couple, so he started, as he should have, with Scottish records. Using scotlandspeople.gov.uk, and a well-loaded credit card, he began.

    He found his grandfather Jimmy’s birth, in 1876, showing parents’ names and, crucially, the date and place of their marriage, 1872 (€1.70). Their marriage record showed their parents’ names (both mother and father), occupations and whether living or deceased (€1.70). The 1881 census for Glasgow revealed that Jimmy’s father had died and that he had a five-year-old younger sister (€1.70). A check of death records 1876-81 uncovered the death entry, confirming the names of both parents (€1.70). The 1871 census recorded Jimmy’s father and mother the year before they married, living with their parents, all giving their place of birth as Ireland, and the mother’s family (very helpfully) specifying “Galway” (€1.70).

    On and on through the 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 census he went (many, many €1.70s), eventually establishing that Jimmy’s mother had a second family that Joe knew nothing about. And, using online family tree sites, he made contact with the family in Glasgow, even connecting with someone who remembered Jimmy as a young man and how he had emigrated to America.

    Meanwhile, on the Irish side, Joe only had Galway to go on. The only research option was rootsireland.ie, with its transcripts of Galway parish registers. But even with the parents’ names confirmed in Scotland, the best he could come up with was that Jimmy’s mother was probably born in Oughterard and his father in Rahoon. Maybe.

    So scotlandspeople made lots of €1.70s and Joe is on his way to Glasgow, not Galway, next year.