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Irish Family History Centre - consultation worth it?

I'm planning a trip to Ireland in September and have been reviewing and researching my Irish family history in advance. Thankfully, my grandparents did a terrific job handing down family information. I have full names of many ancestors born in Ireland between about 1810-1850 who moved to the US in the 1850s and 60s. I also have birth counties for many (Tyrone, Cavan, Carlow, Waterford, Kerry), but only specific towns for a few. I've done some initial searching on Family Search, but didn't find much more than I already had. Searching baptism records through Catholic Parish Registers/NLI was helpful for the those I have birth towns for, but a bit tedious for those I have vague information for (e.g., my grandparents wrote that my County Waterford ancestors were "probably from the area south of County Tipperary").

I've been looking at the Irish Family History Centre's online consultation offering. Does anyone have experience with this? I'm happy to pay a bit to learn more, I'm just hesitant because I'm not sure if they'll be able to find more specific information than I already have.

If anyone knows of other resources to try as well, I'm all ears!

Posted by
451 posts

We considered an in-person consultation when we visited in 2019, but decided we didn't want to commit to a specific time in advance. Instead, we paid a smaller fee when we got there to use their computers with a couple employees/volunteers in the room to assist us. We found nothing we didn't already know, and their suggestion was to search the US Census on their computers;)

We found the Gale Family Library in St. Paul more useful in our research.

Posted by
1 posts

We planned to do the consult in 2019. We just walked in. We showed the information we had to the specialist at the center, and she informed us that we had as much information as we could get due to records being burned or destroyed. She was very nice and this was helpful for us. She looked up the county (Cavan) for the information we had. No charge since there was no additional information. The EPIC museum is very good. I hope you have a great visit.

Posted by
3207 posts

I have no experience of the Irish Family History Centre, but do have a lot of experience in researching people's family trees.
My feeling is that it is unlikely that they can provide anything that you don't already have either through your "family bible" sources or what you can find on line.
As others have said the major problem with Ireland is the complete loss of the early censuses and the loss of records in the 4 Courts explosion and fire in the events leading to the partition of the island of Ireland. But in Ireland, more than England, there was a latent mistrust of the census, so a lot of people are known to have dodged it.
The Catholic Church Records which were lost at the Four Courts were copy registers. That is to say the other copy of the Registers were retained by the Parish Priest of each Parish. Understandably in the 100 years since the majority of PP's have been very reluctant to hand those over to the Irish State, due to a lack of trust.
So it's a chicken and egg thing. If you know the town you can hopefully go to the PP and ask to see the records. The other thing of course is to walk Churchyards (and 'Find a grave' may help with that).
But if you don't know the town it's as much chance as anything else. If you can narrow it down further there are quite a lot of local history societies who may have local transcriptions- like in West Tyrone.
I often have a lot of luck in using later US sources- like local marriage and death records in the US (depending on state and county) and naturalisation records, also US newspaper records in the US (like obits). I assume you've done that.
In WA obits have given me much valuable and otherwise impossible to trace data- no reason to think that WA is unique in that respect as I have had similar experience in New York State.
Often time shipping records for when they emigrated or Ellis Island records can be useful.

For some Republic of Ireland counties it is a bit surprising as to what ultimately went to PRONI- the Northern Ireland Archives (especially for the Protestant side). In fact for Tyrone (especially) and possibly Cavan PRONI are very well worth asking, and potentially visiting.

Good luck in your research, and I hope you are one of those who finds the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Posted by
445 posts

I think there's very little info that isn't already online. Since England, Scotland, Ireland, and the colonies were all "British", immigration records were not even recorded, let alone kept. Those that might have been kept fell victim to fire or mishandling every time they changed ownership.

In my case, my Scottish ancestors were likely "planted" in Ireland, then migrated to the colonies in the early 1700s, from which time I have complete details. Neither movement created any still existing records, so maybe they came direct from Scotland? No way to tell unless genetics solve the mystery some day.

Posted by
3207 posts

Certainly in my part of the world it is a fallacy that there is "very little that is not on line". There are huge amounts of records not on line.
Whether or not that is pallatable or believed is a different matter.

That belief is why you so often see family trees on the likes of Ancestry which are a total load of bunkum, because people just make whatever records they can find fit, and don't check the original sources, assuming that what's on family search and such websites is all the recorded data. So often it is not.

I spend an awful lot of time doing transcriptions of records which are not on line, I have a long backlog of registers here to do. They are for the local archives, not for the likes of the Commercial Websites. Unlike the Commercial websites which use overseas workers on piece work rates, and with no area knowledge, I (and many other people like me) can take my time and strive for accuracy.

Posted by
2081 posts

As amazing as this will sound, a key "information person" for me was the owner of a B&B in one of the counties. I had randomly emailed him to see if he knew of one of my (still living) cousins (of my mother's generation) based on names. Surprisingly he did (and, of course, we wound up staying at his B&B). His grandchild was taught by my cousin's daughter at the local Catholic school.

They picked us up at Ashford Castle at the end of our early touring of Ireland, and we were under their wing for the few days we visited the (ruins of) the old cottage in which my grandmother was raised (I had an old black/white photo from my was a very emotional experience walking those fields), the family church, graves, and we drove by the house where our great grandparents had lived (on the other side of the family). It was such a joy to get to know her and her family and to hear about life in Ireland. She said we were the "first immigrants" to visit Ireland and that her church prays for the immigrants regularly. We still stay in touch.

So a long way of saying, you may find resources and ways to "connect the dots" in the more unexpected and amazing ways.

Then several years later, thru my sister heard from someone who was doing research for her husband's family....and it turned out (even though we had not known they existed as distant relatives here in the US), they had met the same Irish cousin, and that person sent a more detailed family tree to my sister via email.

Information from various places can help you.

Enjoy your trip!!!

Posted by
722 posts

I visited PRONI in Belfast many years ago in an attempt to locate information on my great grandfather. I had information about his birth date, his parents names, and his brother’s name, along with some old photos of a house and business. That with a comment from my grandmother stating that if I ever got to Ireland I had to go a town called Helen’s Bay because that was s where her father was from. I thought this would be enough to locate him. It was not. I found nothing. Fast forward several years, and my ancestry membership unexpectedly helped by way of a woman in Australia who realized I was researching the same people she was. A cousin of hers had paid someone in Ireland to do some research and she was able to provide information that was not on line, likely from church records and such. I still haven’t locked down the details on my great grandfather’s immediate family as he cut ties with them for some reason, and I think the only way I will is to get on a plane and go there to visit grave yards, churches, and local history societies. I realized after the visit to PRONI that I was wasting a day that could have been spent seeing more sights. I think there is probably value in paying an expert to do some research for you as they will have access to information that is not on line, and there is a lot that isn’t, or it’s been translated by someone who doesn’t speak the language, or even by a machine in the case of Some day, when I have some extra cash, I will hire an expert to fill in the blanks for me, as that way I will know it’s accurate. Then, I will be able to go back to Ireland and visit the place he was from.

Posted by
445 posts

My discouraging post is based on correspondence with PRONI and ScotlandsPeople that there are no records from the time of the Plantations (early 1600s) and the first wave of Ulster Scots migration to the colonies (early 1700s). Any records that might have existed were lost in a big fire at PRONI or due to the movement of records between Edinburgh and London after every ownership change. Both researchers claimed the movement of English citizens was not recorded as they traveled between English possessions.

Posted by
22 posts

So many informative messages, thank you! I am only a couple months into my research, so still a lot to learn.

I haven't done, so I suppose that could be another avenue to potentially connect dots (or connect with distant relatives to connect dots). Seems like that might be a good option to try before paying a genealogist.

Posted by
445 posts

I'd suggest as a free site. (LDS Church) has a vast free database, but tends to be US stuff. All the paid sites have free access until they offer something you want to see - sort of like click-bait. As mentioned already, the websites tend to get polluted with poorly researched connections.