Do you have Irish ancestors in your tree? If you do, you know how challenging Irish research can be. Professional genealogist Donna Moughty specializes in Irish research. In fact, I hired her myself about a year ago through Genealogy.Coach to help me navigate a new Irish branch of my family tree that I didn’t know existed. She was really helpful in guiding me in the right direction.
Donna will be giving four presentations at the upcoming New England Regional Genealogical Consortium in New Hampshire April 3 – 6, 2019. She is a member of APG and GSG and is a researcher, lecturer and blogger on topics including Methodology, Internet, Irish research and computer topics. She is the author of the Quick Reference Guides for Irish Research and conducts Irish research trips each year.
I am lucky enough to be an official blogger for NERGC this year and I had a chance to ask Donna some questions about her life in the genie world and about any advice she can give to someone just starting to work on their Irish family tree.
How did you get started in genealogy?
In the early 1990s my daughter had an independent study project assignment and she decided she wanted to find out about the Moughty family since it was is an unusual name (and no one pronounced it correctly … it sounds like “Mooty.” Our vacation that year was to Park city to ski and we took a day to visit the FHL (Family History Library). There we found the manifest for her great grandfather’s immigration in 1907. We also traveled to Ireland that year and connected to a Moughty family still living in the area. She got an “A” on her project and I got hooked!
You specialize in Irish research. Is it true that Irish genealogy is more difficult? If so, why?
In 1922 during the Irish Civil War, the Public Records Office in Dublin burned and we lost a 1000 years of Irish history. The oldest surviving complete census for Ireland is 1901 and there are no complete record sets prior to civil registration in 1864 (which does survive). The Roman Catholic Church was not allowed to keep records during the penal laws, and most records begin around 1820. All research in Ireland requires a knowledge of the locality where your ancestor was born, and that information has been lost in many families.
Particularly for Irish, you must have the location in Ireland before you attempt to Jump the Pond.
What advice would you give to people who are just starting to research their Irish family tree?
Learn the basics! Understand the Genealogical Proof Standard and create a Research Plan. There is a difference between researching and surfing. Particularly for Irish, you must have the location in Ireland before you attempt to Jump the Pond. If that answer exists, it’s likely in a record here (or the country of immigration). Use clustering to research the entire family. And remember, it’s not all online!
Why do you think there has been such a surge of interest in genealogy?
I think there are as many reasons as the people getting involved. As Baby Boomers retire, they have more time to devote to research. I also think the DNA boom with the extensive amount of advertising has caused an increase in interest. Although many people who test are only looking for ethnicity information, the surprises that many receive (I thought I was English, but my DNA tells me I’m Irish) causes some to continue to the research.
After many years of doing your own genealogy, do you still find some surprises?
Absolutely. Although I don’t have as much time to devote to my personal research, the DNA part draws me in. When I receive a message from someone with a connection, I want to find that connection. Even today, I received a message from someone who is likely a second cousin. She knows nothing about this paternal line which, by name, fits into my tree, but with an unknown partner.
Here’s the list of Donna’s NERGC 2019 presentations:
Wednesday, 1pm – Irish Birth, Marriage and Death Records: What, Where, How
Thursday, 1:30pm – Preparing for a Research Trip Here and Abroad
Thursday, 3pm – My DNA Journey
Friday, 8:30am – Seeking Your Scots-Irish Ancestors
Check out Donna’s genealogy blog, which can be found at www.irishfamilyroots.com.