Irish Roots: Seán Murphy

Seán Murphy is one of the unsung heroes of Irish genealogy.


An academic historian by training, he has worked as a professional genealogist for more than thirty years and has published widely in journals and magazines. Among his longer publications are The Twilight of the Chiefs: The MacCarthy Mor Hoax (Academica, 2001) and his annual Directory of Irish Genealogy (available free online at

He is best known for the courses he gives as part of the Adult Education Programme of University College Dublin (see At their simplest, these provide introductory classes to people who want to research their own family. However, Seán has also expanded and developed them to the point where it is possible to take a three-year course leading to a Certificate in Genealogy/Family History, an NUI qualification graded at NFQ level 7, the equivalent of an ordinary level Bachelor degree. The standards and principles inculcated in his students are high and enduring. Graduates of the course stay in contact, through a “Certificate Genealogists’ Alumni Group” (

There are reasons why Sean is unsung: suffering fools gladly does not figure among his talents. The scepticism and academic rigour he applies relentlessly in his work can sometimes make it seem that he is actively searching for toes to tread on, and he has few friends in Irish genealogical circles (or cliques, as he might see them). But he has done deep and valuable service to research standards in this country.

At 11 am on Saturday April 27th next, you can see Seán in action giving a talk on “Recent Developments in Irish Genealogy” at the National Library of Ireland. The event is free but voluntary contributions will be requested to the Cystic Fibrosis Hopesource Foundation. Registration is recommended: contact