One aspect of genealogy I’ve always loved is that it can’t be mass produced. When you get past one or two generations, possible family connections mushroom with head-spinning speed. This is the very definition of scientific chaos theory: a butterfly flaps its wings in Venezuela and suddenly you have more fourth cousins than the entire population of New York.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped people (corporations) from trying. One of my earliest involvements in genealogy was with an American tour company advertising mass-produced family trees as part of a package tour of Ireland. It lasted one season, after the hapless tourist reps had to fend off outraged visitors waving their single-page reports and wanting the tour coach to go simultaneously to Cork (the Crowleys), Longford (the Kiernans) and Donegal (the Gallaghers).
Even the group behind the wonderful rootisireland.ie, the Irish Family History Foundation, started life as attempted mass tourism, a network of centres where the tour coaches were supposed to pull up for the tourists to file past researchers in white coats busy printing out their ancestry from giant bleeping computers.
And that little ad probably flashing at the bottom of the page even as you read this? Just enter a surname and have their AI get your lineage back beyond Adam? Mar dhea.
Such ads also embody the belief that things have to be constantly simplified for researchers, which is the source of endless problems as sites try to shoehorn everything into the same over-simple framework. No! Complicate things!
This much said, I’m partly guilty of something similar. The step-by-step wizard on this site is an attempt to take whatever someone knows about their Irish ancestor and produce an nonthreatening summary of sources and links to get research going. It’s modest enough, just trying to apply the trigger-dates and locations to the information entered. A gentle kick-start, in other words.
The latest YouTube video walks through the wizard a few times with different information. It’ll give you a sense of how much (and how little) the thing can do.
No wands, no pointy hats.