The month of October each year is designated as ‘Family History Month’ in the United States with hundreds of genealogical and historical societies organizing special events to promote family history. Providing genealogy with such a national focus is something that we should seriously consider in Ireland.
The wonderful success of The Gathering this year has shown the huge potential of coordinated voluntary and community action. Events organized throughout the country provided opportunities for local people to celebrate their heritage and, in doing so, to reconnect with the Irish diaspora.
Many communities are unwilling to allow these connections to lapse after the close of The Gathering on New Year’s Eve. They readily appreciate the huge potential afforded by the creation of sustainable local or county based diaspora initiatives. The successful planning and organization of events for The Gathering allowed new skill-sets to be acquired, not only in the tourism and hospitality sectors, but crucially amongst the Local Authority staff in each county charged with coordinating the events in their areas.
Local Authorities around the State should be encouraged to designate the ‘lead official’ on the County Steering Groups as the Local Authority’s ‘Diaspora Liaison Officer.’ The main role of this position would be to formulate and develop initiatives aimed at furthering and deepening the engagement by local groups with their newly reconnected worldwide communities.
A nationwide network of Local Authority Diaspora Liaison Officers would be greatly assisted by the adoption of October as ‘Family History Month’ here in Ireland to coincide and link with groups across the United States and Canada. A national strategy on the development and maintenance of our diasporan links based on the promotion of our national genealogical resources, including the release of the 1926 Census, should be a priority for the government.
Minister Jimmy Deenihan’s establishment of an interdepartmental group on the preparation of the 1926 census for release is a very significant step in the right direction. Given the momentum generated by the success of The Gathering, the Minister should seriously consider supporting the Statistics (1926 Census) Bill, 2013 presented by Seán Ó Fearghaíl, TD, to provide the necessary legislative framework for the release of the 1926 census.
Very fittingly Ireland’s main genealogical event is held each year in October. ‘Back To Our Past’ at the RDS from Friday 18th to Sunday 20th October showcases Irish genealogy. A wonderful line-up of speakers, exhibitions and stands is expected to draw thousands of would-be ‘ancestor hunters’ to the RDS. So if you’re planning a trip to the RDS, please drop by the Genealogical Society of Ireland stand to meet the team of friendly and knowledgeable volunteers.
Happy ‘Family History Month’.
* This article was republished with permission from the Genealogical Society of Ireland. More information and other articles are available at www.familyhistory.ie.