Tricks I was afraid to mention in case they stop letting me do them

In the course of grinding one’s way through online haystacks in search of ancestral needles, shortcuts and workarounds sometimes … become evident. Quite often, it’s not clear that these are known to the website owners themselves, so I’m always a bit nervous about broadcasting them. But what the hey … here are are two of my favourites.

Heavy users of the civil records on IrishGenealogy.ie can get very irritated by being regularly forced to jump through this particular hoop:

An tArd-Chláraitheoir is the Registrar-General, who of course spends most of his day examining the lists of users. “Hmm, I see Grenham is on the go again.”

No. The form is pure civil-service territoriality, the Registrar-General marking these records as belonging to him and not to the Dept of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht who run the site. My dog does something similar to gateposts and trees every time I take him for a walk.

Just enter anything in the two name fields, tick the box and you’re past: “a “->Tab-> “a”->Tab->spacebar->Enter. It takes about a second, can be rattled off without even lifting your hands from the keyboard and hey presto.

My other favourite is a spectacularly powerful wild-card search available on rootsireland.ie, still the only absolutely indispensable Irish genealogy subscription site.   Like most search sites, it is apparently necessary to enter a minimum of information, usually at least one surname. So if I want to see everyone with  forename John in Ballinlough registration district, it’s theoretically impossible:

But entering four wild-cards – percentage symbols – in the Townland/Address field gets around this:Which produces:

The uses are endless: reconstructing causes of death in an area over decades from civil death records; picking out all baptisms with the same godparents as evidence for extended family; looking at patterns of use of unusual forenames to pick out wider social or family connections. The world is your oyster.

As long as they don’t decide to stop allowing it.

32 thoughts on “Tricks I was afraid to mention in case they stop letting me do them”

  1. The RootsIreland tip is just great – thanks!

    I don’t especially mind having to repeat my name on the IrishGenealogy site, it remembers it anyway, but I really get fed up having to constantly prove that I’m not a robot, especially given that the package they use is “universal”, so I’m asked to select CROSSWALKS – I mean who in Ireland ever uses that phrase!

    1. Yep. Why can’t I just log in to the site once (like other websites)? And why do I have to continually prove I am not a robot. Yes, its so irritating!

      Thanks John for the tip (how do we avoid the robot police though please?)

      1. The reason I stopped allowing registration and login for the blog is that the entire site was being crashed regularly by automated hacking login attempts, thousands a minute.

        Also 90% of those who registered seemed to be Russian or Chinese, not places known for their love of Mother Ireland.

    2. hi can you explain how to get on that baptism/birth records page as i cant get past surname search or county search the only option upon going onto the site ?

  2. Lol, I am k,k on IrishGenealogy.ie

    I loathe the Google captcha with a vengeance. It gives you exactly 200 queries or a certain time limit (which I haven’t measured) before appearing again. By the time I’ve finished marking traffic lights, fire hydrants, buses, crosswalks, cars , bicycles, taxis, mountains, palm trees, motorcycles and chimneys, I’ve forgotten what I came for.

  3. I can imagine how someone might stumble upon the first tip,”a”, but the second,”%%%%”, requires ungodly persistence. Or an inside source.

  4. Thanks for the tips! I will definitely put the RootsIreland search trick to good use.

    I found that the IrishGenealogy.ie form had saved my ancestors’ names from searches so now I’ve become one of them. My Mulleady name autopopulates the form. It’s somewhat fun each time I login!

  5. Hi,
    Just finished this post. I don’t mind the frequent applications, I don’t care for the crosswalks or street lights either, but if it helps to keep the sites safer that’s alright too.
    Lois from Kenemore WA, USA

  6. I used to see the Captcha photos interface (sidewalks, etc.) only rarely, but just recently it seems to have been made a standard requirement every time, sigh…..

    In presentations on Irish Genealogy, I’ve told attendees that if they don’t want to put their real name in the government registration box, to just put “Mickey Mouse” or “Dolly Parton,” hee hee. ;-0. (And of course, John, your site is right up there at the top as a “must visit” resource.)

  7. I’ve been using AA for years in Irish Genealogy, but when I’m looking for something and the site sends me back to the caputcha….yet again, it drives me insane , cause I can never find the place I was at when I was locked out!!! Still, I keep going!

    AA

  8. Would you explain this part in more detail please?
    ”The uses are endless: reconstructing causes of death in an area over decades from civil death records; picking out all baptisms with the same godparents as evidence for extended family; looking at patterns of use of unusual forenames to pick out wider social or family connections. The world is your oyster.”
    I don;t see how it would be possible without creating a secondary database from information in the primary database….unless the holders of the primary database were to make all criteria in their databases searchable, eg search for names of baptism sponsors.

    1. But that’s the point. Once you enter your four %, you can search on sponsors names and townlands and forenames …

  9. Wish there was a way to mask out a surname. For example, I look for the surname McGing both exact and using the built-in surname match. Quinn is one of the matching names of the Standard Surname Index and there are 100 or more to every McGing variant I’m looking for. if I could eliminate them, it’d save a lot of time scrolling past page after page of Quinns that I care about not one whit 🙂 To put it another way, I’d love a google like -quinn in the search results. But do appreciate sharing these tips!

  10. Am I the only person who can’t get to the search screen where you are offered the choice of searching by parameters such as sponsors’ names and townland? Those are not available to me. All I have are names of parents. Where/how doesn’t one get to that page? Thanks.

    1. Anne, did you select the “Search by County” option from the tabs at the top of the search screen? Then you can search by sponsor’s name only, forename (with %%%% in the address box), etc. (assuming that you have a subscription, as John said).

  11. Wow! Thanks so much for the tips, especially the use of the wildcard search. I must try this now. I really enjoy your blog post and so appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge and love of all things making up Ireland – past and present. Gratefully, Jamie Shanahan

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