Q&A following RootsTech

Many of you will be aware that I gave a workshop at the recent RootsTech. It was attended by people from all over the world. Unfortunately, it was beset with technical issues. The recording is now online here, but I didn’t get time to answer all the questions during the session. Fortunately, we were able to retrieve some of the chat logs and I’ve put together some of the most common questions here with answers.

As a response to this session, I will be re-running my Irish Diaspora webinar on Wednesday 6th April at 8pm IST. This event is now past.

Is there a reason we can see images of marriages but not death records? (on The early death records from 1864-1870 have not yet been imaged. This has been promised for a long time. The most recent update to the site took place earlier in March but it added years on to the end of the dates covered rather than this important early records. Full details of what is on the site are here.

Please explain how religion affected the way people were recorded in records. As a majority Roman Catholic population in a country ruled by a Protestant minority, religion informed much of the records we look at for Irish genealogy. Penal Laws affected not just Catholics but also those who ‘dissented’ from the Church of Ireland like Presbyterians and Methodists. I will cover this topic more fully in the webinar.

How can I understand more about surname variation? A big stumbling block for the descendants of Irish emigrants is the variation in surnames. Today your surname has a fixed spelling, but 100 years or more, it did not. This is particularly true if your name can have an O’ or Mc attached to it – not all do. If it could possibly be spelled either way (regardless of how you use it now), then you must consider the alternatives when searching for ancestors in old records. A great site to give you all the possibilities is John Grenham’s surname page.

What records are available from before 1850? This is a big area to try and cover with a Q&A and I will have more in the webinar, but here are some suggestions. Have you looked at the Genealogy section of the National Archives website? Many people do not know it’s there. Be sure to read the explanatory notes on each dataset and remember that there is no soundex function on this site, so you need to try all your surname variants.

The Irish Genealogical Research Society has some unique databases on early births, deaths and marriages. Some accessible by the public and others require you to join, which costs €26 for an annual membership.

The Registry of Deeds Index Project is a volunteer-run resource which indexes deeds. The actual Registry of Deeds have announced plans to digitise all their material, which dates from the early 18th century but it is some years away from completion. However, Familysearch does have all the Registry of Deeds images in their catalogue. It’s definitely worth watching this great talk from Roz McCutcheon from a few years ago on how to use them first.

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