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Preparing for a Research Trip (even if it's next year)

Last week was busy with (long distance) celebrations for my youngest daughter's new job as Priest-in-Charge at the Church of the Holy Cross in Virginia and the 10th Anniversary of my middle daughter and her wife. It's so hard not to be with them at these special family times. I still don't know if we'll be able to drive to Connecticut for the holidays...we'll just have to wait and see. It was also a sad weekend for me, as in any other year I would have been packing to leave for Ireland. I was disappointed back in April when I made the decision to postpone this year's trip, but in hindsight, it was the right decision. This weekend the talk in Ireland is whether to go into a country wide lockdown again, or to take everyone back to level 3 and put Dublin and Donegal into level 4 (explanation of Ireland's levels here). As difficult as it is, it appears that Ireland is taking this seriously (I live in Florida where even though numbers are increasing the governor just opened up everything).

So I now have another year to prepare for the trip. I usually go over a few days early and stay a few days late in order to do some of my own research (I don't have much time for that during the actual research trip😀). Each day of the trip is scheduled at a different repository and after an orientation everyone gets busy with their personal research. If you are interested in the 2021 Research Trip (I'm staying positive and hoping for a vaccine) there are still a few spaces available for both Dublin and Belfast. If you would like to see what happens on the trip, select "More" on the blog menu and then select Research in Ireland. I write a daily blog while I'm in Ireland and you can follow the day by day activities for both the 2019 and 2018 trips.

If a research trip to Ireland (or anywhere else) is in your future, how should you prepare? I've had more time to work on my own family during the past six months than I have had in the last 10 years. My thought was that I would begin by going through my piles (yes, as I've mentioned before, I have lots of them) and getting caught up on all my filing. While I have done a lot of that, I still have some piles to go through. I get a bit off course when I get an email message from someone who believes we might be related, or if I find a substantial DNA match. My plan for Ireland this year was to spend quite a bit of time in Belfast on my Down ancestors...actually, one of mine (Protestant) and one of my husband's (Catholic). I was quite successful in finding information in the estate records of the Marquis of Downshire on my Moag/Moak ancestors last year. The document below from1805 confirmed that Samuel (age 2) was the son of John who was born about 1747. Samuel did not appear in any church records and I likely would not have found any other document. I still have some additional material to review (these records are only at PRONI) and I wanted to do some similar work on the my husband's King family on the Annesley Estate, also in Down. It will be interesting to see if the records of the Annesley Estate are as helpful. Since my ancestors were Protestant, they had "leases for lives" which provided additional information. I'm not sure if I'll find that for my husband's family.

If you're preparing for a research trip (even if it's for next year) go back to the basics. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Select a family - you won't get all your research done on everyone in one trip. Then select a specific individual(s).

  • Once you've selected an individual, create a research plan. You may have multiple plans with different research questions for different people. (If you need a refresher, read this blog.)

  • Read everything in your files about that family. Perhaps you already have the answer to your research question and didn't realize it. You're a better researcher today than a few years ago. I discovered a copy of a letter in my files that someone had sent me years ago that gave me the names of my 2x great grandfather's siblings. I had records on many of them but until I re-read that letter, I didn't know how they fit together.

  • Create a timeline. Just the, location, event type, comments. You want to be able to scan the timeline for missing years or determine where someone was at a specific time.

  • Using all the information you have, write a report on the individual. Your genealogy software can be a big help here if it will create a report from your database. I typically run a Register Report from my software and then edit it making notes on missing information.

  • Research the available record for the time and place where your ancestor lived. If you haven't identified the place in Ireland, then the research will focus on the localities where they lived in the US (Canada or wherever they settled...check your timeline). I find many researchers miss this step. If you're traveling to do research do make sure you know what records are available at the locality. If it's Ireland, research the repositories you plan to visit and use their catalogs. Check out Tracing Your Irish Ancestors or John Grenham's website for what's available for the time and place. Check out the resources of the County Library. In the US, use the RedBook if you're not familiar with the records where your ancestor settled and don't forget to check the County boundaries to make sure you're looking at the correct place for the time.

  • Do all your online research before you travel. You don't want to spend your valuable time in a repository looking at records you could have seen from home. Focus on records that are only available at the repository.

  • Have a backup plan. If you don't find records for your primary family, you'll want to have something else to work on.

  • Use Social Media - use the various sites to post or ask questions about your family. You might find a cousin!

Another thing that has kept me busy during COVID is updating the website. I hope you're finding the County resources helpful. Don't forget that there are also Irish Websites that aren't County specific, as well as a list of important Reference Books as part of the Links and Resources page.

Finally, I've been updating lectures and writing new ones for the Webinars I have scheduled. If your Society or organization is looking for a speaker, check out my Lectures page and contact me for availability.

Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!

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