The Bee’s Knees and The Cat’s Pyjamas

Over the course of the years, I’ve read many books on Irish genealogy. Some are useful but a little dull or cumbersome. Some are irritatingly cavalier. A few are downright infuriating.

The lovely Claire

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned any names. So let me mention one: Claire Santry. Claire is the sole begetter of the Irish Genealogy News blog, the single most trusted source of updates on Irish record releases and events. She’s also a professional journalist. One reason the blog is so successful is that she brings hard-won professionalism to it. And she’s just brought that professionalism to her new book, The Family Tree Irish Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Ancestors in Ireland (2017, Family Tree Books).

It is absolutely splendid: engaging, amusing and down-to-earth, perfectly lucid but without a hint of condescension or dumbing down. She tells the stories behind the sources with a wonderful light touch and a very strong sense of personality.

The 1841 and 1851 sesarch forms explained

And it educated me. Again and again, I found out things I didn’t know: precisely how the application system for searches in the 1841 and 1851 censuses worked; what exactly the RIC gazette Hue & Cry was and where you can get at it; that you can order a copy of anything in the PERSI index via the Allen County Library website; how the Catholic Church kept marriage registration at arms’ length until the 1880s; why US civil war pension applications are so useful. I could go on and on.

Boxouts to beat the band. Nice shamrock running header, too.

As if that wasn’t enough, the design is lovely, with plenty of eye-catching illustrations, side-bars and box-outs that break up the text and make it easy to dip in  and out.

Quibbles? Some of the stretching and bending needed to fit with the Family Tree format seems unnecessary, and the slant towards North American researchers is a bit too pronounced. Mentioning the Emerald Isle on the back cover is a sure way of deterring purchasers actually living on the emerald isle.

But all in all this is now my favourite book on Irish genealogy. The bee’s knees and the cat’s pyjamas rolled into one. It’ll come in very handy for the fifth edition of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors.

15 thoughts on “The Bee’s Knees and The Cat’s Pyjamas”

  1. I shall certainly purchase and read this book, esp. if it helps me find a link to my Irish ancestors and where in Ireland did they live and how and when did they come to the USA. Thank you for this review.
    Mary O’Neill Leidner
    leidnermary@yahoo.com

  2. Great book and great review, John. I found her style engaging and appreciated the North American approach. Well worth buying in my opinion.

  3. I never miss your blog or Clare Santry’s. I have your book–4th ed.–and have been wondering whether to buy Clare Santry’s. I’ll do it today.

  4. Looks like a great book, I will buy it the first chance I get! Just wondering John did you get my e-mail on the 18th of July? I was looking for information about my Latten Ancertors who lived in Ballykelly Wicklow. I sent it to info@johngrenham.com don’t know if you received it?

  5. Living in the U.S., I’m hoping it will help me. I’m a bit overwhelmed trying to locate multiple lines of ancestors in Ireland. Some I have leads on, others, not a clue. Thanks for the review. Ordered on Amazon. Will await your book when the new edition comes out. Cheers!

  6. Hi John, you were suitably tactical with the sensitive subject of sectarian tensions in Ireland of the late 1700s on Emma Willis’ Who Do You Think You Are tonight. It was a great show, her Irish ancestors from the two main traditions on the island allowed interesting aspects of Irish history from the 1700s and 1800s to be revealed.

  7. I’m glad I bought this book, and I especially appreciate the chapter on Irish geography.

    As a non-Irish researcher, for me (and I’m sure for many others) one of the biggest challenges of Irish genealogy is that of Irish land divisions, and the ways in which these divisions changed over time: townlands, parishes (but was that the CIVIL parish? or the RC parish? and how, where, and to what extent did the two overlap…?), counties; but then also registrar’s districts (what?), baronies (eh?), PLUs, and DEDs (eh, what? and are we even talking about the same unit of land here?)…For North Americans, accustomed to the gridlike simplicity/’rationality’ of systems of division for land that was only first surveyed and mapped in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, the Irish system(s) can seem confusing, arbitrary, and even just downright weird. I really like how Claire Santry explains it all, and she even provides handy maps and charts and such.

    1. I too would be interested in something that goes a bit beyond AMERICA.. Every site seems to cater for USA or UK…How much AUSTRALIAN content is there in Claires book? It would be great to have the Parishes ,Countys ,Townlands etc explained…Maps with overlays would be an excellent addition to any would be Genealogists portfolio…..I am even trying to work one out fo myself if I could get a map of Co TIPPERARY big enough to see the details clearly….I will look into your book Claire .Thankyou…

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