Irish Roots: genealogy overdose

Are these your symptoms?

Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 01:00

Here are some of the signs that you’re doing too much genealogy. You see names. So many many names. As a result, in order to stay sane, you have trained yourself to give every name you encounter a half-life of just 10 minutes. In other words, after 10 minutes they all vanish. This can create personal problems. There are times you find yourself sitting across the breakfast table from someone you know is your spouse, but whose name has just evaporated.

Years of dealing with dodgy transcripts and half-baked, unwarranted assumptions mean that you have difficulty believing anything, a scepticism that can make small talk difficult. Your response to, “That’s a nice day there” is likely to be, “Prove it.”

The devil lives down there in the detail, and you live down there with him. Your focus has narrowed to the point where you spend a year investigating the history of a stone wall along the north east corner of one field in west Mayo. And then button-hole complete strangers to tell them all about it.

You regularly decide to check just one thing online before going to bed, and then find yourself emerging from a research trance five hours later. When you finally make it to bed, bleary-eyed, with a throbbing head, your spouse (what’s her name again?) most unreasonably threatens divorce.

Or you emerge from an online session furious at a database. How could they possibly not know that Mulderg is a variant of Redington? And they’ve left out all the commas! One symptom of a more advanced stage is bruising to the forehead, caused by repeated banging of the head against a computer monitor.

And then there’s the worst sign of all. You’ve read right to the end of the Irish Roots column. There’s no hope. It’s terminal.

irishroots@irishtimes.com irishtimes.com/ancestor