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National Archives to host Irish genealogy webinar

Photo by Curt Yeomans
The Friends of the National Archives Southeast Region is set to host a free webinar next week that is aimed at helping Irish-Americans figure out which Irish townland their families came from. Archives officials are touting it as a must-attend event that people should participate in before visiting Ireland.

Photo by Curt Yeomans The Friends of the National Archives Southeast Region is set to host a free webinar next week that is aimed at helping Irish-Americans figure out which Irish townland their families came from. Archives officials are touting it as a must-attend event that people should participate in before visiting Ireland.

Soldiers are we, whose lives are pledged to Ireland. Some have come from a land beyond the wave. Sworn to be free, no more our ancient sireland shall shelter the despot or the slave.” —The Irish National Anthem, “The Soldiers’ Song.”

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Countless numbers of people descended from Irish ancestors will don green outfits and drink pints of Guinness next week in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Some of these people can tell you exactly which Irish county, and maybe even which town in that county, their family came from.

National Archives at Atlanta Regional Director Jim McSweeney can tell you, for example, that his family came from County Cork, Ireland.

But, for other people, they may only have the foggiest of ideas about where their roots are planted in Ireland. So, the Friends of the National Archives Southeast Region — the National Archives at Atlanta’s support group — is planning to hold a free online program next week that could help clear the fog away.

“Much like we did a program on tracing African-American ancestry for Black History Month, we thought it would be a good idea to something similar in time for St. Patrick’s Day, to honor our Irish brethren,” McSweeney said. “So, the Friends of the National Archives will be holding an free webinar on how to find out which Irish townland a person’s family is from.”

The program is scheduled to take place on Monday, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., on the Friends of the National Archives’ web site, www.friendsnas.org/. The program is open to anyone with a computer, regardless of where they live in the world. It is set to be led by Donna Moughty, a Florida-based genealogist who specializes in Irish ancestry research.

Although many people claim to have Irish blood running through their veins — especially whenever St. Patrick’s Day rolls around — finding out where in Ireland their family came from is not exactly an easy task.

The archives’ regional director said it is important to have as much information as possible about an Irish ancestor who came to America from Ireland, before going over to the Emerald Isle to do genealogical research. This includes knowing birth dates, and places where they were born and lived in Ireland.

Knowing the exact townland where your family came from is important, he added, because that is the place which is most likely to hold documents (such as marriage, birth, baptism, and land records) that chronicle a family’s history in Ireland.

“The more information you have about your ancestors, the better,” McSweeney said. “All of that helps point you in the right direction when you do your research.”

McSweeney said a person needs to first figure out which Irish county his or her family came from. Then the person has to whittle down the search a little more, to figure out in which barony the family lived within the county. The research has to then be narrowed down — again — to the exact parish, and finally the precise townland, in the barony.

“You really need to dig a little,” McSweeney said. “It’s a little like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.”

But how does a person figure out where his or her family came from?

Moughty’s web site, www.moughty.com, includes links to several other genealogy resources that people can use to trace their family roots, including 20 databases, and genealogy web sites, such as ancestry.com, cyndislist.com, and familysearch.org/.

The National Archives, however, has digitized federal records which can come in handy, according to the regional director. He explained the archives has naturalization records, U.S. census records and passenger manifests from ships which carried immigrants from Ireland, to America.

They’ve been scanned into computers and are available online, through the National Archives’ web site, according to McSweeney. “All you have to do is type in a person’s name, and it should be able to find records that he or she would be listed in,” he added.

In all, McSweeney is expecting a large turnout for the webinar. He said these online workshops typically draw as many as 400 participants who log in from computers across the country.

“I heartily encourage people to sign up for this webinar,” he said. “It should be really good, and very informative.”

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On the Net:

Friends of the National Archives Southeast Region: http://www.friendsnas.org/

Donna Moughty’s Genealogy Resources: http://www.moughty.com/