Sunday, August 10, 2014

Shifting Focus

With just under two months time left before I fly to Ireland to resume my family history research “in the field,” it’s time to make a few adjustments to the process. While for the last several months, my focus has been on pursuing the documents that could be found online—census records for the immigrants’ adopted homes in the United States, for instance—I now want to take a closer look at what can be done, once I arrive in Ireland.

For one thing, I will be seeking whatever records may be found over there, whether church records or governmental records. I’ll need some guidance in that realm, tips which I’ll be glad to pass along here as I learn and achieve success in finding what I’m seeking—or, as the case sometimes is with this genealogical guinea pig experience, describe the occasional (and inevitable) research flops. To get that direction, I’ve availed myself of a research tour in Dublin during my time overseas. I’ll share more about that tomorrow.

In addition, whether there are documents to be found or not, this trip will be an unprecedented (for my husband and me) opportunity to walk the roads where our ancestors once walked, to see the same sights they once viewed as a daily part of their lives before they left their homeland for good. The two of us will be heading to the general areas of each Irish ancestor’s roots, to do that very thing. We’ll be spending time in County Kerry, home of Kelly and Falvey ancestors. We’ll explore the banks of the River Shannon where it flows between the twin towns of Ballina and Killaloe at the edge of counties Tipperary and Clare, home of our Tully and Flannery lines. We won’t miss the chance to explore County Mayo, even if I have yet to discover exactly where it is in the county that our Stevens forebears originated. And, of course, we’ll head to the property at the edge of counties Limerick and Cork, to the exact address where that desperate letter from Stephen Malloy was delivered to his wife Ann in 1849.

There is a corollary to all this traveling. It doesn’t seem quite right to go to these places without knowing anything further about them than the names of our ancestors. That calls for a lot of behind the scenes reading on these locations, their history and their people. The next two months will see a focus on gaining a “sense of place” about each of these locales. I’ll share some of the details of the books I’m reading in preparation for this trip, as well as links to the online resources where I’m gleaning background information.

The final category on my to-read list is the how-to books on researching Irish heritage. There are some useful publications I’m using to get myself up to speed on all that needs to be completed before we travel.

The bottom line to all this is the goal of being as prepared as possible for this research trip. There is nothing as deflating as making all that effort to get to a research site and then realizing what you didn’t know you didn’t know. I’m quite keen on not being that person. Not this time. Not this trip. This is the kind of opportunity for which it may be said, “I may never pass this way again.”

On the other hand, if a certain descendant currently at school in Ireland finds she really enjoys studying Irish archaeology, perhaps I may find myself going back again.

Photograph: Patrick Street in the city of Cork, circa 1900, by the Detroit Photographic Company; courtesy Library of Congress via Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I have heard many tell of just such trips only to learn as you expressed, all that they didn't know and needed to. Being aware of the possibility is the first step, which you are and it sounds like you have a great plan to ensure that your trip will be fruitful.

    1. Thanks, Michelle. I sure hope so! I can't imagine it will be any different, in that respect, than preparing for a trip to Salt Lake City, or Fort Wayne, or the Newberry in Chicago. Of course, I appreciate all I've gleaned from the observations of fellow researching bloggers! We all benefit from each other's lessons learned.

  2. My fondest hopes for you include you standing somewhere in Ireland where your forebears once lived and being able to feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, and rain on your skin and truly feel "their presence."

    I also hope you cross paths with cousins - ones that greet you as family and want to "desperately catch up with you and get up to date with the goings on."

    1. Thank you, Iggy! I imagine most all of that will come to pass--well, maybe not the sunshine part in the middle of October--and I will be doing my best to capture it all on this digital "paper" here.

      Of course, there is always that possibility that I will end up wandering the streets of ancestral villages, forlornly accosting each passing stranger with the question: "Are you my cousin?"

  3. I can only imagine the preparation this must take:)

    1. Far Side, I sometimes think part of it is just my stressing over not being prepared enough. I've traveled to other libraries before, only to find myself wasting time, or duplicating the effort that could easily have been done ahead of time at home.

      One good thing about this tour arrangement is the pre-trip consultation on my specific research needs. I'll be going over what I've found already with the genealogist leading this group, and will certainly be thankful for any input on specific areas to focus on in this preparation time.


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