Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Review of Genea-Factoids

So I've decided to dive into the books and get a little study done—brush up on my genealogical research technique in preparation for the real deal: a trip to Ireland to see about those kinfolk. Admittedly, the old staple I grabbed to achieve my goal is a fifteen year old publication—the second edition of John Grenham's Tracing Your Irish Ancestors—but hey, some things never change. It would be a good start, I thought.

In some ways, I was right. I mean, what can possibly be different now than in 1999, when he wrote the book about census records, archives holdings and parish records for stuff that originated in the 1800s? While there are several basic details that definitely comprise a review for this reader, still, it doesn't hurt to be reminded. What's even greater is getting the information from that particular author's point of view—rather than solely depending on American experts to teach me the ropes on Irish research.

It was actually fun, picking up some of these genea-factoids from Grenham's work, like this tendency we've already noticed:
In carrying out research...a large measure of scepticism is necessary with regard to the dates of births, marriages and deaths reported by family members before 1900. This is especially true for births: the ages given in census returns, for example, are almost always inaccurate, and round figures—50, 60, 70—should be treated with particular caution. The true date of birth is almost always well before the one reported, sometimes by as much as fifteen years.

There: now you have it from an expert. We really did see what we noticed about Irish immigrants in those United States census reports. Our Irish forebears did get younger as they aged.

Grenham, a professional genealogist of considerable gravitas in his own country, was recently interviewed for the genealogy podcast, Fieldstone Common. Evidently, he had lately come out with a fourth edition of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, and host Marian Pierre-Louis had chosen the opportunity to feature the author on her program.

That is not the only peek at the researcher and his work. Author of several other books and genealogical resources, John Grenham writes the column "Irish Roots" for The Irish Times. As I've worked on my husband's many Irish ancestral lines over the years, my frequent Google inquiries often yield results bearing the Grenham name or Irish Times resources.

While I undoubtedly need to update my version of the Grenham book, other than the occasional incorrect URL for a website he referred to in his 1999 second edition, the book has been updating me on a number of details for which I could stand a solid re-introduction. In time, I'll no doubt make the switch to the new edition. For the moment, I've got plenty of reading—and now, listening—to keep me busy with the Grenham material on hand.


  1. What a crusty old coot. I read John Grenham "Irish Roots" column.

    Still - he seems to have some "good ideas".

    1. I've been reading the Irish Times column for quite a while, myself, Iggy--but the funny thing is, for a long time, I never connected John Grenham the author with John Grenham the columnist!


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