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Journey # 14: The Irish Problem

While awaiting a certificate for one branch of the family, I moved on to other family members. Actually I moved back to the Irish connection, which is what started the journey in the first place.

I had identified the family of my great-grandmother, and the census records showed that her parents had both been born in Ireland. But when I started looking for Irish records, I didn't find any.

I noticed that our local genealogy society was having a workshop on researching your Irish ancestors so I signed up, and that Saturday I sat in a room with a couple of dozen other genealogy enthusiasts awaiting the information that we all hoped would open the doors to Ireland.

Instead we were dealt a blow that many would barely recover from: there are almost no Irish records. What? How can that be?

Apparently, back in 1922, there was a fire — a big fire — in Dublin that burned the records office to the ground. All official government records for births, deaths and marriages until then were destroyed in one fell swoop.

Our workshop host tried to show us alternatives, but the reality was that finding records for England was a breeze compared with Ireland. Tracing Irish relatives would consist of getting lucky finding the occasional church record (if they weren't destroyed in a local fire and if someone had decided to scan and/or transcribe them), slogging through will & probate records, and deciphering cryptic tax evaluations.

It was truly a crushing blow.

But I wasn't ready to give up just yet. I wondered if I couldn't find more information about my Irish ancestors from England records, which are intact. I thought that a birth certificate for my great-grandmother might help as, although her parents were born in Ireland, she was born in England. But her name, Margaret Connell was too common to narrow down to one.

On the advice of volunteers at my genealogy society, I moved on to look at her siblings. Often, one of siblings has a name that is easier to trace, but their names where just as common. The next bit of advice I received was to look to the youngest. Records improved over time, so the youngest in a family may have better documentation than the eldest.

When I searched for a birth record for the youngest sibling of my great-grandmother, I found that there was only one person born in the right place at the right time with his name. I ordered his birth certificate hoping that his mother's maiden name would be present or that there would be something that would help me in my quest to get across the Irish Sea.

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