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Gregory O'Connor gives advice at the National Archives Ireland Photo by: National Archives Ireland

Free genealogy advisory service at the National Archives of Ireland

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Gregory O'Connor gives advice at the National Archives Ireland Photo by: National Archives Ireland

Are you eager to find out more about your family history and your roots. 2013 is the year of ‘The Gathering’, and therefore is the perfect time to find out your family history using the National Archive of Ireland.

The free Genealogy Advisory Service is an ideal starting point for those beginning family history research. This Spring 2013 the National Archives of Ireland are continuing their free service. On-call to answer your family history enquiries will be some of Irelands foremost experts on genealogy.

According to The Journal, the genealogy service is a result of a successful collaboration between private genealogy companies Eneclann and Ancestor Network in partnership with the National Archives of Ireland.

Fiona Fitzsimons, Research Director at Eneclann, says her company and Ancestor Network came together last May with the aim of creating the widest team possible of genealogists possible.

“All genealogists have different professional backgrounds,” she said, explaining that some specialise in researching businesses records, while others focus on specialities such as probate or adoption.

Fitzsimons says many genealogical services cater for ‘roots tourism’, involving descendants of Irish emigrants searching for facts about their Irish ancestry.

“It’s certainly being encouraged by television shows like Blood of the Irish or Who Do You Think You Are, as that makes it seems more accessible, but it’s also because records are now accessible online, which democratises the process,” she said.

To put the impact of accessible digitised records in context, Fitzsimons explains that the only complete form of Griffith’s Valuation, a survey of Ireland completed in 1868, is available since just 2003 and only found online. It is the result of a collaborative effort of the range of genealogists in Ireland, including Fitzsimons, who gathered records from libraries in Ireland, the UK, the US, and those of private collectors.

Aideen Ireland, Senior Archivist at the National Archives of Ireland, explains that in order to enter the Reading Room and talk to genealogists for free, visitors need to obtain a reader’s ticket first which just involves filling out an application form and after that, you are ready to go.

“You have to come with questions, things you are just dying to know then a genealogist can point you towards the right resources”, she said. “The resources you are pointed to will depend on nature of your enquiry – you could do anything from examining wills, birth, deaths and marriages records, or graveyard records”.

Ireland said many of those using the service are people with Irish roots, travelling from countries like Australia, the United States or the United Kingdom.

“We see pre-organised visits from American groups on ‘genealogical holidays’, particularly in August, but also groups of people from Australia. Whereas those from UK tend to travel alone to Ireland for a holiday to do search.

Fiona Fitzsimons advises visitors to bring whatever research they have gathered so far about their family history in order to get the best results from a meeting with genealogist.

“Each family history is unique and every search is unique. Some people start from scratch, while others inherit research from their father, uncle or a relative,” she says.

TheJournal.ie reports, that even a certain name can spark a line of inquiry. When researching the family history of Bram Stoker earlier this year ahead of his 165th birthday celebrations, the name ‘Manus’ caught the attention of Fitzsimons’ team. “Manus O’Donnell was a gigantic name in 16th century,” says Fitzsimons. “We then discovered that the Stoker family are direct lineal descendants from the Lord of Tyrconnell. We traced them all the way back to 561 AD – which is almost unheard of.”

She explains that any Irish family in general can be traced back to the 1830’s when records of the population became more widespread as a result of Catholic emancipation.

However, “it can be a very addictive” habit she warns as “people dip their toes in water then become drawn in because they start finding stories. Relatives start to become fully fleshed human beings rather than figures in dusty old photographs.”

She notes that people begin to have an interest in genealogy when their children or grandchildren are born. 

“They start seeing themselves as links in the chain rather than the ‘alpha generation’, and they want to pass on their own experience to their descendants”.

No booking is required for this free service, but access to the genealogist on-duty is on a first come, first served basis.  Read more at http://www.nationalarchives.ie/genealogy1/genealogy-service/.

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