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.