Quick and dirty are my middle names

Anyone who’s had to deal with my coding knows, the top priority is to get the damn software to do something, not to code it properly or securely or intelligibly (sorry Eoin). As Dr Johnson said about a dog walking on its hind legs, the wonder is not that it’s done well, but that it’s done at all.

Not wonderful, just creepy

As with software, so with research. I detest traveling hopefully. Just get me there as fast as possible. Here are a few of my FamilySearch and IrishGenealogy quick and dirty shortcuts.

No two transcripts are identical and there are some wonderfully  fruitful differences are between IrishGenealogy and FamilySearch.  Yes, IrishGenealogy has a name index by Registration District, but try finding John son of John Murphy and Mary Ford, born in Co. Cork 1864-1874. There are almost 1000 John Murphys listed in the 14 Cork Districts and the only way to find the one with Mary Ford as mother is to go through each of them one by one. No no no, that way lies madness and death. FamilySearch has a (partial, flawed) transcript of the same birth registers from 1864 to the second quarter of 1881, which, Hallelujah, you can search using the mother’s maiden name. And there he is, in Blarney in Cork city registration district, allowing you to zero in on the IrishGenealogy original and get all the luverly luverly detail omitted in the LDS transcript.

FamilySearch also has transcribed copies of the original printed birth, marriage and death indexes. So they have duplicates of what’s on IrishGenealogy? Not at all. The IrishGenealogy indexes leave out all middle names. If you’re searching for a John Francis Murphy born 1890-1900 in Co. Cork, IrishGenealogy gives you zero results, leaving you to wade through another endless morass of John Murphys. FamilySearch gives you ten.

Many John Murphys

My favourite hack is between death indexes and full death records. Because the original gives age at death, on FamilySearch, it’s possible to specify both a birth range and death range to zero in on possible matches. So if you’re looking for a John Murphy who was born between 1890 and 1900 and died in Carlow between 1948 and 1958, IG gives you 17 to grind through, FS gives you three. Quick and dirty.

I’ve always liked the definition of elegance as “economy of effort”, which I take to mean laziness.  I’m just sooo elegant.

Sooo elegant

Genealogy back to front

A final round-up of sources to help track living relatives.

Backwards, sideways and upside-down as well

Most obvious are those that provide time-lapse records, with periodic snapshots of a family or place. Valuation Office revision books are the best example, but anything with recurring amendments can be useful, from used cheque-stubs to old football programmes. Below are some of the most useful.

Voters lists: The right to vote was dependent on property and gender up to the middle of the nineteenth century. From the 1860s on, municipal and local authority elections began to broaden their constituencies until by the late 1890s local suffrage was wide enough to include working-class householders and (some) women. The only significant year-by-year collection is for Dublin city and is online at the Dublin City Library and Archive heritage database site. See this earlier blog post for more detail.

1938-39 voters Shandon Park, Cabra

When (relatively) universal suffrage was introduced in 1918, annual voters lists became seriously useful.  The biggest collection is again for Dublin city in DCLA and runs from 1938 to 1964. They used to be wonderfully searchable online at the DCLA site but a ludicrous kerfuffle about data protection means that the app is now only available onsite in the Reading Room.  God forbid anyone should know where your granny lived in 1964. Hopefully common sense will eventually win out.

There are also more piecemeal undigitised collections in the National Archives, National Library and some county libraries. And the current register – www.checktheregister.ie – can be useful in confirming a family’s present location.

Thom’s Directory, Brunswick street North 1877. From Ancestry.com

Urban street directories. From the late 1830s, annual Dublin directories included a street-by-street house-by-house listing of householders. Over the course of the following 190 years, coverage expanded and was revised for each year. The most comprehensive collection (and the easiest to follow year after year) is on open shelves in DCLA. There are excellent but incomplete online collections on Ancestry and askaboutireland. Much rummaging is required.

There are also good online collections of Belfast and Cork city directories. Unfortunately, they don’t have the regular year-to-year revisions of Dublin, but they’re still very useful.

Funeral notices: Funeral attendance is not optional in Ireland, even for the remotest of acquaintances. So a compulsory part of arranging a funeral is the newspaper death notice, which can include names, addresses, nephews, cemeteries … Notices became universal in the 1940s and full runs in national and local newspapers are online at www.irishnewsachive.com. Since 2006, www.rip.ie provides an online-only version.

DNA: One of the most common wrong-headed questions I’m regularly asked is whether there’s an Irish genealogy DNA-testing company. My answer is “Yes, of course. It’s called ancestry.com”.

So many Irish went to North America over the past century, and so many of their descendants have done Ancestry DNA tests, that probably 90% of the Irish national genome is already there. Find a relative who knows more than you (GEDmatch is also good) and bingo, you’re back in Ballydehob.

And if you need someone to disentangle your alleles from your centimorgans, there’s always the marvelous Dr. Maurice Gleeson.

The latest YouTube goes through all of this.