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To those who have gone before March 24, 2010

Posted by Rambling Man in Poetry & Humor.
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So I haven’t published a poem in a long time … here goes …

“To Those Who Have Gone Before”
by the Rambling Man

Your familiar names vault from the page – an unfaltering script
clearing the mist from some long-buried fact.
I carry your blood but could not recognise your face.
Or those of your children; my grandparents.

With each secret uncovered, a new branch on a tree
grows and stirs up the questions that a fresh life can bring.
Was there another ? A name not recorded but who
smiled and laughed, cried and then faded away ?

The gallery above me, my ancestors,
in ranks, are slowly revealed.
I am but one from the bottom, looking above
at the unknown figures of my forebears.

What were you like, ‘my people’ ?
You who have shaped me and made me.
Were you bold, or humble, funny or harsh ?
In those times long since passed, but still present.

Your names I record, so that those who have gone before
shall be known to those waiting to join them.
With each name that I speak, I complete
the patchwork that is me. And my children.

I am proud to be of you. Gardener, sailor, soldier and rebel.
And too of those unknown, unable to read or yet to be discovered.
For I am of you and you are of me.
Your posterity is revived.

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Genealogy rocks ! March 5, 2010

Posted by Rambling Man in Emigration, General Bloggery, Ireland & the Irish.
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One of my favourite pastimes at the moment (when I have time to pass), is genealogy. I’ve been building my family tree on the fabulous free site www.geni.com for the past 3 years and each day I find something new or something to update.

On one side of the family, I can go back to 1790 and on the other to the 1820s. Once I knew or could guess pretty much who was who, and had all the people in place, my search centered on finding out as much as I could about the times they lived in and what they would be like – maps, photos, websites, history … I can’t get enough of it.

So here’s my top 10 tips to researching your Irish ancestors and what to do or not do in some cases …

1) Sign up to www.geni.com – it’s awesome ! Links between people and stuff like that are easier to define when seen in tree format.

2) Visit the Irish Times website – here. They have a great family history section and while there are no listings on it, they have several indexes and links to where to begin looking.

3) Visit the 1911 census online here and the 1901 census (partial) online here. Bare in mind that ages of people in this census can vary wildly from their actual age.

4) If possible, visit the church where you think your relative may have been baptised or married. You may or may not have luck – it depends on the priest who holds the paper records. Some priests are not cooperative !! And some even hint at being paid !

5) The best cert to get is a marriage cert, in my opinion. It gives the couples names (+maiden name) and addresses, their fathers names and professions and the names of witnesses. All these are great in building a picture of where to look next.

6) Go visit the graveyards of the parish in which you think you relative might have died. If you locate a grave, the priest will have a death cert and you can work back from there.

7) If possible, and although it’s a complete racket, and the indexes are assways, visit the General Records office in Abbey Street in Dublin – online here. It can be invaluable – this office has birth, marriage and death records of everyone registered in Ireland since 1864. But because a lot of names were common – e.g. John Murphy – you might find 5 John Murphy’s in the index in the same area in the same year and not know which is your relative. You cannot look at the originals and its €4 a time to get a cert which (in my case) often turns out to be a complete different person.

8) Ellis Island records – free search – online here, is invaluable for researching ancestors who went to the United States. Lucky them ! Be sure and check the ship’s manifest document – also available – for invaluable information like who the immigrant was going to meet !

9) Interview older members of your family – on camcorder if possible. Don’t fire questions at them but talk around to the subject you want to talk about.

10) Register at www.geni.com – did I mention its awesome ?

PS : I found it strange yesterday when I realised I was an Irishman researching his American ancestors as opposed to an American researching his Irish ones ! Funny little planet this …