Irish Genealogy Seminar

My great grandmother Frances Eugenia Ryan Weiss was of Irish descent. Neither of her parents were born in Ireland, but all four of her grandparents came from that island. I haven’t yet finished documenting her parents or grandparents, but I’m getting closer to the point where I’ll want to start digging into their Irish history instead of their time in Canada and the United States.

Last week, I came across a post in a genealogy message board advertising an Irish genealogy conference to be held today at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard. Why not go, I thought? So today I got up a bit early (and even earlier when taking into account Daylight Savings Time) and headed over.

First, it wasn’t really a conference, but more of a seminar. In fact, most of the program materials used that word. But I was sort of expecting that. They had two speakers from Ireland. I’m not quite sure of their specialties. The first speaker spent an hour covering the various major repositories of records in Ireland today, both in Ulster and Dublin. His second talk went backward through time telling us what kinds of records were available for each time period. But that part of the talk only progressed to about the 1840s, which is just after my relatives left Ireland. Most people of Irish descent in America got here because of the potato famine of the 1840s and its aftermath. My families immigration predated that.

The second speaker was going to talk about the Scots-Irish and their immigration to the U.S. But man oh man was his talk a wreck. His accent was thicker, and he kept wandering away from the microphone. He also rambled all over without an outline and didn’t use any slides. He mentioned two really important books for researching Scots-Irish but couldn’t remember either of the titles, only that A.C. Myers wrote one of them. As in Arthur Charles, though I just made up those first names… He actually said something like that. A quick search tells me he’s probably talking about a fellow named Albert Cook Myers based out of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. He made it seem as if the books were written in the 1960s, but my Google search shows books published around 1900. Not that the books aren’t good. Anyhow, his presentation was a mess, so I started reading through the collections of flyers I’d grabbed from one of the tables.

After lunch, the first fellow returned and talked about the various kinds of church records available from the different denominations in Ireland. He jumped around again rather than cover them systematically. The other thing he did was spend a lot of time talking about all the information that could be had reading through annotations in the various records rather than the main records themselves. For instance, a baptismal register might have notations of later marriages as the registers were consulted to verify church membership for those marriages. That’s all well and good, but it is only secondarily useful. One needs to know to search for the baptismal register first. Basically, the talk felt like an excuse for the fellow to talk about a lot of the interesting anecdotes he’d dug up whole doing research for hire, rather than an overview of records available.

There was a break following that, and I left, skipping the last two sessions, both of which were planned to cover Ulster history and genealogy. As none of my family comes from Northern Ireland, I decided I’d be better off heading home.

I do feel a bit better about where to start though. There’s a ton of Irish genealogy web sites out there, but none of the guides I’d seen provided much of a guide as to what is important and what is not a good starting point. I at least have that from the first presentation. And a fair number of the flyers will give me information to browse over the next few months before I really dig in. I do think I’ll probably join the Seattle Genealogical Society for its Irish Interest Group. They also appear to be having an event related to Russian Germans later this month or next. Since that’s the background for my step-father, it’ll be of interest.

12 thoughts on “Irish Genealogy Seminar”

  1. I am working on my Weiss family from Ireland, but like yours not Irish. What I have found is a William Willoughby Weiss, Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, later an RN inspector based in Ireland. He died April 27th at 40 years of age. The minimalistic account of his death listed shows leaving a wife and 8 children (they were living in Killybegs in Donegal. My ggGrandfather Henry Maurice Fenwick Weiss, occupation gentleman at the time of his marriage 1850 (he was mid in his mid 20’s) to Kate Rogers, ended up leaving Ireland soon after and ended up in Macoupin County, Illinois. I have never found any relatives that came with him, but I can assume since he was a gentleman had plenty of money perhaps from his dad in the service, or from the family I have been attempting to attach him to, the family of Hans Jacob Weiss from Mulhouse France who are musicians and composers and the like. My only reason for thinking like this is the constant use of Willoughby in the family history. I hope to be of help in your search or maybe establish a connection.

    Scott Hendricks

    1. Hi Scott,

      To my knowledge, there was no Irish in my Weiss family until Frances Ryan married into the clan. Frances Ryan is the descendant of a Patrick Parker, born in Ireland to (as family legend has it) James Parker and Mary Bennett. Family legend also has that James Parker’s father was an Englishman in Ireland, and that they are from County Westmeath. However, I have no documentation of that whatsoever. Patrick Parker’s wife was a Mary Murphy, as legend has it, born in County Cork and shipped to Canada as part of the Peter Robinson settlements. Frances Ryan’s father was William Dennis Ryan, born in Wisconsin to Irish immigrants in about 1840. I haven’t yet done a lot of digging into the Ryan family.

      Anyway, point of all this is that the only Irish connection I know of for my Weiss family is through Frances Ryan. I’m not expecting to find any Irish through the Weiss lineage. It’s also a very common name, and is more often Jewish rather than Irish.


    2. Dear Mr Hendricks,

      Although the post to which I am responding is dated over five years ago, I hope that you will still be contactable by this means.

      You write “What I have found is a William Willoughby Weiss, Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, later an RN inspector based in Ireland. He died April 27th at 40 years of age. The minimalistic account of his death listed shows leaving a wife and 8 children (they were living in Killybegs in Donegal.” Unfortunately, the year of death has been omitted, and you did not say where you found this information, so it is hard for me to tell whether this is the same William Willoughby Weiss as the one who is on my tree.

      “My” WWW was born on 12 September 1842 in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, a son of Lieutenant Frederick Augustus Weiss RN (3 April 1795 – 16 June 1847) and his wife Ann (née Lawrence); at that time, Frederick Weiss was in charge of the coastguard station at Ballycastle, though he shortly afterwards moved to Pullendiva, where my great-grandfather, Thomas Lawrence Weiss, was born on 7 August 1846, less than a year before his father died (probably at Pullendiva, though I have no evidence for this). WWW appears in the census returns for 1851 and 1861, staying with relatives of his mother in Penarth, South Wales; in 1861, he was still unmarried. Thereafter, I have been unable to find any trace of him in UK records.

      However, I have found a reference to a William Willoughby Weiss Esq who married Mary Adeline Brabuzon, only daughter of the late Edward Lyon, Lieutenant, Royal Navy, in Edinburgh on 17 October 1846 (Perthshire Courier 29 October 1846), which shows that neither the name nor the naval connection is unique!

      Can you please tell me in what year the WWW you found is recorded as having died? And what the sources are for his naval service, his death and his wife and children? Am I right in understanding from what you wrote that Henry Maurice Fenwick Weiss, from whom you are descended, was one of “your” WWW’s children?

      If you subscribe to Ancestry, you can find a lot more information on my Weiss ancestors on the Public Tree (gowen160) that I share with a cousin by marriage on my father’s side of the family.

      Yours sincerely,

      Robin Gilbert

      1. Hi Robin,

        WordPress doesn’t let me see if Mr. Hendricks is subscribed to follow-up comments. However, I am happy to forward your comment on to his registered email address if you approve. In other words, I won’t give out his email address without his permission, or yours without yours. But I’m willing to pass it along with your email address and if he wants to contact you he can.


        1. Dear Philip,

          Many thanks. I am happy for you to give Scott my e-mail address.

          Yours ever, Robin

      2. I was sent a newspaper(?) clip showing that Lieutenant William Willoughby Weiss died April 27 1831 in Donegal while performing his duties (sounds as if he was killed) while dealing with a smuggling outfit. He left behind 8 children and a wife Jane Melville Nesbitt In a separate clip i was sent, it lists her death being the 4th daughter of Thomas Nesbitt Esq. of Kilmacredon county Donegal. I cannot fully prove it yet, but the WWW married to Mary Adeline Brabuzon is his son. You can contact me at my E-mail and i can send you attachments of what i have found. This WWW was living with John Weiss the surgical instrument maker who i am trying to prove is his Uncle which makes my 3gGrandfather WWW his brother, and therefore the son of Georg Berend Weiss. Thank you for contacting me. SAH

        1. Dear Scott,

          Many thanks for this, which shows that there were, in the first half of the 19th century, at least three people named William Willoughby Weiss with connections to the Royal Navy and the coastguard in Ireland, two of whom may well be father and son and the other (my great-grandfather’s brother) having connections with Liverpool (where his father, Henry Weiss, was born), as did the family of the famous bass Willoughby Hunter Weiss. It may be that this combination of Willoughby and Weiss is simply a coincidence and that there are three separate families, but it does seem rather unlikely. Possibly Frederick Augustus Weiss (“my” WWW’s father) was a brother or a cousin of the elder WWW you are descended from who died in 1831 and they followed similar career paths.

          FAW’s career in the Royal Navy proper was fairly lowly, a number of postings as a Midshipman in the latter part of the Napoleonic wars, apparently interspersed with short stints as a Master’s Mate and even as an AB; he was discharged (as a Master’s Mate) on 10 November 1815, and there is then a long gap before the next record I have found of him – his marriage in 1836, by which time he was a Lieutenant in the coastguard in South Wales.

          I’d like to be able to contact you by e-mail – as you say it makes it feasible to exchange documents as attachments – but I don’t have access to your e-mail address. However, I did give Philip permission to pass mine to you.

          Yours ever, Robin

          1. Robin,
            I am not sure how to allow my E-mail to be accesible. The mention of WWW in the Napoleanic wars on Nov 10 1815 i was thinking may be referring to my WWW (1790-1831). I may have that wrong but it fits considering the time and Narration. I wish i new where those newspaper clips came from, but a person i connected with five years ago sent them via E-mail to me and got my genie-ball rolling so to speak.

  2. I know nothing of the Irish WEISS family BUT I do know where Willoughby Gaspard WEISS comes from. He is the son of Jean Gaspard WEISS who was born 12 May 1782 in St Marylebone, London, England.
    A autobiography has just been published in Mulhouse which gives some details of his life.
    Jean Gaspard WEISS travelled widely in Europe with Bertie WILLOUGHBY, 4th Lord Abbington. Who became good friends hence he named his son WILLOUGHBY.
    I hope this helps a little.
    Please contact me if you require more details.

  3. My family has a rich Irish Heritage and I have family and relatives scattered over various spots over the globe. My grandmother was a wonderful woman full of Irish humor and pithy Irish sayings that would never fail to delight me. The Seattle Genealogical Society is certainly a good place to start your research. As you said there is a wealth of information out there it is just a matter of narrowing down your search criteria to achieve the best results. I would love to research more about Irish sayings as they have become a love of mine from my grandmothers influence. I hope your research proves fruitful and there is no telling what you may uncover.

    [Ed.: deleted link in comment for likelihood of spam.]

  4. My understanding is vague, to say the least, but William Willoughby Weiss would have been stationed there. Who knows where he actually was born or anything, but he served under Captain Willoughby in the Navy. A small article in an irish paper states that his spouse Jane Melville was the fourth daughter of James Nesbitt esq. of Kilmacredon, county Donegal. There was no mention of children, but my ggGrandfather Henry was born in Donegal. Henry was in the Civil War married first to Kate Rogers from the US and then to Frances Bray of Loders Dorset England who’s parents both died while coming to America. His writing style demonstrated in his letters to his wife during the civil war are so eloquent and suggest he was well educated. I was attempting to link my Weiss family to the German family the King of England fell in love with who were musicians and scholars. Music is a big part of our family history (skipped me and went straight to my son of course). What I would like to find out is how to get any papers from the Royal Navy itself. I shall not give up.

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