One of the virtues of genealogy is the fact that it’s almost impossible to industrialise. Every family is different, and the differences multiply exponentially with each generation back. Mass-production is impossible.
Hence the importance of do-it-yourself record collecting. Every Irish researcher depends inordinately on record collections created by stubborn individuals who just refused to give up.
The granddaddy of them all was Dr. Albert E. Casey, an Alabama pathologist who had ancestors from Sliabh Luachra on the Cork/Kerry border. If you know the area, you might understand Casey’s intense fascination – it is an extraordinary place, saturated in traditional Irish music, song, dance, poetry, and culture. Sliabh Luachra people are different, and if you had some in your ancestry, you’d want to know more too.
Dr. Casey’s response to the black hole of Irish records was simple and awe-inspiring. He collected and transcribed every single record of any description for the region and adjoining parts, an area roughly bounded by the towns of Mallow, Killarney, Tralee and Newcastle: parish registers, civil records, property records, court proceedings, will indexes, newspapers, townland maps, gravestone inscriptions …everything.
And he didn’t stop there. He collected anything he could find relating to all of Cork and Kerry before about 1825, everything on Munster before 1625 and an extraordinary assortment of early printed and manuscript works covering medieval Ireland as a whole. The whole compilation was published in 16 giant, indexed volumes over the 19 years from 1952 to 1971, with the strange title O’Kief, Coshe Mang, Slieve Lougher and the Upper Blackwater in Ireland. You can see a full list of the contents at the Rootsweb Kerry site. His parish transcripts at least are searchable on the main Mormon website, www.familysearch.org.
One of Casey’s own medical articles reprinted in O’Kief suggests the depth of his desire to know where he came from. His “Odyssey of the Irish” compares a worldwide series of blood group and skull-shape measurements with those of the people of Sliabh Luachra and concludes that, unlike the rest of the population of Ireland, they originated in the Caucasus Mountains. As I said, different – the last of the Fir Bolg, perhaps?
As result of his work, research on one of the most poorly documented parts of Ireland became much easier. And it also began the modern tradition of Irish genealogical weirdo obsessives, in which I proudly claim my own place.