'Irish Roots' archive



Irish Roots


January 11 2016

How in the name of God am I related to these people?

Strange as it may seem, genealogy is a seasonal affair. There are uncomplicated reasons why family history should be of interest to particular groups - older people, for example, or descendants, or emigrants cut off from the wider family. But why should a specific time of year bring out the desire to look up your ancestors?

And if there is going to be to be a rise in awareness of Irish family roots at a definite period, you might imagine it would happen around St Patrick's Day. But no, the biggest upsurge of interest in family history research and all things related begins as regular as clockwork every year at the end of December. Immediately after Christmas, traffic to genealogical websites spikes and for five or six weeks thereafter the number of research inquiries and of visitors to archives and libraries grows and grows.

Why? What is it about Christmas that drives people to research their ancestors? It is not hard to imagine someone locked up with their family for three days emerging with the burning question, "How in the name of God am I related to these people?"

But the reasons are probably simpler. For all the commercialisation, Christmas is really the only fixed point in our year when families are more or less obliged to gather. Inevitably family talk across generations will touch on the common past, an elderly aunt will intrigue someone with unknown names and places, and the spark of research will ignite.

Before the internet, this post-Christmas rush to genealogy was less visible, simply because research used to take much longer. So we saw only a general increase in interest spread over early spring. But when traffic to a genealogy site quadruples over 48 hours, the same 48 hours year year-in year-out, it becomes crystal clear that Christmas is the spur.

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2013

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2012

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2011

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2010

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2009

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