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Bridget Bray. Photo by: Courtesy of Bridget Bray

In Focus: Bridget Bray, Irish genealogy enthusiast

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Bridget Bray. Photo by: Courtesy of Bridget Bray

A Manhattan resident, Bray is a genealogy enthusiast who runs workshops on exploring family trees in her spare time.

How did you become interested in genealogy? 

“Years ago I was fascinated by large handwritten family tree charts, but it was only in the past five years and upon the discovery of the Irish part of my ancestry that my interest became piqued. The rest is history!”

Tell us about your Irish heritage. 

“It is on my mother’s side and is linked to Limerick. It started with a name, Thomas Francis Ryan, a death certificate and the knowledge my great grandfather had been born somewhere in Ireland and died in England.  Since the discovery I have traced his birthplace (a beautiful village, Castleconnell, Co. Limerick), his occupations, his siblings, parents and his whereabouts on several census records.”  

What family history surprised you most when you traced your heritage? 

“The repetition of names throughout the generation – countless Edwards, Marys, Bridgets and Patricks galore!  Did they not realize they’d have a descendent looking to do research and this would pose a challenge!”

How has the Internet changed family research?

“It’s made information more readily accessible.  Where travel or distance may have prevented access to information, an individual can easily gain a significant amount of information online.  The Internet has also propelled greater interest in genealogy.”

What is the biggest challenge people face when investigating their ancestry?

“As a beginner it’s where to start. As you progress and become more advanced in research it becomes more about overcoming the brick walls and finding new research strategies.”

What’s your advice for people who want to begin tracing their family tree?

“Start first with what you know and document this information.  Then set up a system to determine how you will organize, file and document information collected. As you start the research take advantage of the many free or low cost resources available online, at libraries and archives and most of all -- have fun!”

Tell us about your upcoming genealogy events. 

“This Saturday, September 28, at the New York Irish Center in Long Island City from 2-4 p.m., I will be conducting a free introductory workshop on getting started on Irish genealogy research. To register email genealogy@newyorkirishcenter.org. On Saturday, November 2 from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York I’ve organized a one day family history event that will offer lectures, one on one consultations with experts in genealogy, exhibitor booths featuring genealogy focused products and services such as printed and framed surname histories, coats of arms, family clan badges, old photo consultations, society memberships and more!  Attendees – beginner or advanced – will walk away with new ideas and strategies for their research.  Tickets start from $20 and can be purchased here.

On an ongoing basis I run the “Irish/British Genealogy” Meetup Group via www.meetup.com in New York.”

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