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When there's a time to trawl through books and soak up your family's history and when to contact a professional genealogist Photo by: Google Images

The huge personal reward that comes from tracing your Irish roots

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When there's a time to trawl through books and soak up your family's history and when to contact a professional genealogist Photo by: Google Images

Let me explain, I would not want to deprive anyone of the pleasure that researching a family history brings. I always encourage any researcher to do as much as they can themselves. It can be a hugely rewarding, emotional, and humbling experience.

Discovering your family history is an invaluable legacy for future generations and captures the soul of those generations gone before.

Of course, there is the time commitment, the cost, the frustrations, arguments with loved ones, late nights and so on – but hey, at least you enjoyed it. I’m kidding; it does take dedication but, the rewards can be great. And, with so many resources being made available on-line, much can be done from home. However, as many researchers come to realize, it is often how these discoveries are interpreted and what conclusions can be drawn from them that can determine the success of any research.

The pursuit of family history is born from a desire to carve out a place for a family in the larger historical picture. It is accepting responsibility to preserve one’s past for those who will follow in the future and it is the self-satisfaction in accurate story telling.

Irish ancestry is thought to be more challenging than that of other nations and in some respects that is true. In part, due to the loss of so many records in a fire of 1922, Ireland does not have the same depth of surviving records. On-line sources continue to grow and assist our efforts but, it can still be a challenge and there will always be less accessible important documents.

So, when should we engage the services of a professional researcher? That will depend on each individual case and can be influenced by factors, such as:

- Time is precious and some researchers cannot commit the time to achieve their objectives or, research needs to be done for an imminent family event such as a birthday. Experienced Irish genealogists, working daily with relevant resources have developed a knowledge and skill that enables them to plan, research, discover, and report in a fraction of the time it might otherwise take.

- Cost is a major factor for many who decide to do their own research until they discover the myriad of costs involved not to mention man hours over many years. A genealogist in Ireland suddenly looks like very good value which. It can be a question of how much is your time worth.

- The location of repositories in Ireland means that, for some records and documents, a visit is necessary or, the engagement of someone on the ground. If you are visiting Ireland, it makes sense to have a professional complete your research in advance so that you can spend your vacation visiting locations of interest rather than in dusty repositories.

- Passion and getting too emotionally involved in research clouds judgment and is the main cause of roadblocks. Trying to make something fit a family story rather than finding evidence to support or disprove it or, holding a belief that “it simply must be true” are the main errors. A professional genealogist can be more dispassionate and realistic about the value of discoveries and about admitting failure. It can save a lot of time and frustration.

- Ability. Some researchers learn their genealogical skill along the way and become very accomplished. For others, regardless of their skill level, there comes a realization that the continued effort is outweighed by the benefit of engaging a skilled researcher. Their extended knowledge and expertise enables them to consider information quickly and make links that others may not see. Even for short projects or just advice on any part of your research, a genealogist can help.

Specialty

Few Professional Irish Genealogy Researchers will have an extensive working knowledge of every aspect of such a broad subject. Most will specialize in particular areas such as locations, time periods, occupations or immigrant country e.g. at Irish family ancestry, we specialize in descendant research, i.e. identifying living relatives of discovered ancestors in Ireland.

The point at which to engage an Irish genealogist will vary. Some will have researched their ancestors back to Ireland but get stuck. Others will have only sketchy details that may require research to start overseas before searching in Ireland. Each project will be unique with different research objectives.

It is the standard of proof that a professional genealogist can demonstrate that guarantees the authority of your family history. It is the genealogists’ ability to identify the appropriate sources to search, decide what is relevant, analyze information, collate, connect, discard, make sense of it, and present in a comprehensible format. This is what genealogists get their fee for.

So, why use a professional Irish genealogist? You shouldn’t, until you are ready to.

* Peter Kenny is the Director of Ireland based, independent professional Irish genealogy research service,  Irish Family Ancestry, helping people discover their Irish ancestry, family history, roots and living relatives.

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