Since St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, I decided to revisit the topic of tracing Irish families. Because both my parents were of Irish heritage, I have a fair amount of experience in Irish genealogy. When I started researching my family, I, like many other beginners, did not know where in Ireland any of my ancestors had come from. Some of my living relatives had ideas, but they had no documentation to confirm their hunches. Through perseverance and a little luck, I was able to find records that stated the counties of origin, and for each family I researched, it was through different record types that I made those discoveries. Over the course of the next few blog entries, I will discuss how I figured out which county in Ireland each of my families was from.
My first successful attempt at this research was for a great-grandfather who was born in Ireland in 1864. It was a bit of good fortune for me that Patrick Fitzpatrick was born in Ireland during a time period when Irish civil records existed. If my great-grandfather had been born before 1864, there would have been no civil birth records, and pursuing the research further would have been more complicated. Although I had little knowledge of my great-grandfather, relatives I interviewed gave me important clues for tracking down his birth record. One told me that Patrick died in 1934 in Port Jervis, New York, so I requested and received his death certificate through the Port Jervis City Clerk. The death certificate gave his date of birth and his parent’s names. Although the year of birth on his death certificate would later prove to be incorrect (a common occurrence because this information is given by some other than the person it is about), the month, day, and parents’ names were correct and served to be invaluable for finding the birth record. I also obtained Patrick’s marriage record, which confirmed his parents’ names and gave me the correct year of birth. Twenty six years ago, when I did this work to track down Patrick Fitzpatrick’s birth certificate, the research was more complicated and time consuming than today, because the website Familysearch.org did not exist. Back then I had to go through microfilmed indexes at my local Family History Center (LDS). Now, all I would need to do is go to www. Familysearch.org and type in my great-grandfather’s name and birth date along with his parents’ names, and I would instantly find out that he was born in Ferns, County Wexford, Ireland. For those who are looking for an Irish ancestor born from 1864 onward, I suggest beginning your search on the website www.familysearch.org (a free website run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). In my next couple of blog entries, I will discuss my more complicated Irish family research cases.