Thursday, 19 March, 2020
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Right now, with many of us facing into spending long periods at home, investigating your family history can be a way of forming connections during this time of social distancing.  We've put together our top advice for anyone thinking about using this time to follow up on their Irish family tree. 

IrelandXO Family History Tips - figure it out from home!

You may be starting your family history research, be at a critical juncture or perhaps are taking a break because you seem to have run out of options. At IrelandXO we are familiar with all stages of researching your Irish family and we've put together some tips that might be useful to you, or someone you know who is thinking about discovering more about their Irish place of origin.

Record Everything

When working on your family history, it can be easy to get confused about who was related to whom. Lines get crossed and resources get lost.

  • Be sure to take notes on everything as you go, almost like a diary, that way if you get lost along the way, you’ll be able to figure out where the confusion occurred.

  • Take note of where you are getting all of your information too, it can be very frustrating to have to trawl back through your browser history to find one website.

  • For physical documents make sure that certificates and photographs are all clearly labelled and for digital records always be sure to back up your work. 

Divide and Conquer

  • Try to keep as much division as possible in your notes. If you are working on two sides of the family tree, make sure that your notes are clearly divided.

  • Separate your notes on each generation too if possible. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding out new information about your family history, but if you don’t keep your notes clearly separated then you can easily get mixed up with your generations, particularly with an Irish family which can have several Marys, Johns, and Michaels.

Be Resourceful

There are a wide variety of resources available for research and many which are free. 

Check out our Top FREE Irish Genealogy Resources 2020

Check out our Irish Geneaology Resource Checklist

Some of the best resources for research are newspapers. However, while there are a wide variety of subscription services for newspapers, there are also a number of free resources. Here are some of the most popular:

  • FultonSearch: This site contains a large number (over 47 Million!) historical newspaper pages and it is free. The newspapers for the New York State and City area are particularly good.

  • The Ancestor Hunt: This is another free newspaper site. However, it includes not just newspapers and genealogists and family researchers will be very surprised with the variety of resources available. There are free links (noted at the right side of the page) to obituaries, BMD records, photos, yearbooks, divorce records, naturalisations, immigration, church records, school records, coroner lists, voter lists and probates and wills. These records are organised by State.

  • Chronicling America: This is a free newspaper site that is run by the Library of Congress. This website includes a large volume of newspapers by state, and many of these newspapers are specific to religious denominations, ethnic groups and by area. In addition, this site has a number of other digital collections which are very valuable for anyone with research interests. Click on the Digital Collections link at the top of the page.

Perseverance Pays

Breaking down those brick walls and searching for that elusive ancestor can be frustrating. Here are some tips that might assist you with your research.

  • Track them backwards – even going so far as to trace them year by year. This can be tedious, but often it reaps great rewards and it does save research time in the end.

  • Look at the neighbourhoods that they resided in – who were the neighbours? Were there others with the same surnames? You can use the U.S. Census and State censuses to fine-tune the neighbourhood. You can also use the U.S. City Directories which are now available on MyHeritage as well as Ancestry.

  • Choose one person in a family to focus on. Don’t try to trace all members – just pick one and trace that person. Often, family members tended to follow one another, and you might discover where a family moved to (or from) by one particular member’s journey.

Share your progress

Don't try and do all the work by yourself! Sharing what you know and asking for help from others who may be researching the same ancestor can make all the difference and help you connect with different branches of your family tree. The IrelandXO community has over 110,000 members, many of them looking for the same ancestors. There are also hundreds of local volunteers who are ready to lend a helping hand and guide you in your research.

  • Document what you have learned about your ancestors on the XO Chronicles  - other members of the community will be notified that a new ancestor has been added and can comment.

  • Share your Ancestor Chronicles on your own social media - your cousins might be closer than you think

  • Connect with others descended from the same area and ask for free family history advice on our Message Board