We are on the cusp of a genealogical awakening. I sense it. As intrigue into our ancestral history churns and bubbles, the demand for opening dusty vaults have driven the truth forward and the result is jaw-dropping.

Throughout this last year I have received sprinkles of exciting news on the horizon for those searching their Irish ancestry. The country of Ireland senses the interest of their Diaspora and in turn, understands the significance this awareness brings to their country. As a result, the Irish Government has began digitizing their records and making them free and downloadable on their website.

The National Archives of Ireland launched a new genealogy website in November with the 1901 and 1911 census fully searchable. Also, all Tithe Applotment books from 1823-1837 are searchable as are Soldier's Wills, 1914-1917. But the real beauty of the website is that the actual records are digitized and printable.

No typed indexes, just real...actual...records...for free.

The ability to search through the genuine records, not indexes, provides a wealth of information to a genealogist. Studying your ancestor's handwriting and examining the names of his neighbors or the villages he lived next to can be of tremendous value to a family historian. It involves looking at the whole picture and gathering additional hints that can lead to more discoveries.

Indexes flirt with us but leave us wanting for more. The digitized records satisfy our hunger and sometimes lead us to a more intriguing story.

And the best part is this is only the beginning. The National Archives of Ireland is committed to digitizing the Calender of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1922; Nineteenth century census survivals, 1821-51; Valuation Office House and Field Books, 1848-60 and the Census Search Forms for the 1841 and 1851 censuses. An unfolding of valuable ancestral records precious to family historians on the hunt for their Irish ancestors.

The New Year is ripe for the unveiling of ancestral records from Ireland and I, for one, cannot wait to experience it.

As the Grinch said: "I feel all warm and tingly inside."

Keep searching for answers,

Blarney Castle
I have at times found myself pondering my deep inner drive for spending hours of my day, searching for ancestors who I have no connection with except through DNA. Ancestors who will always remain faceless; living several generations before me, with personalities unknown, limited only by my imagination. And I wonder if they were living today, would I be like them? Would I feel a bond to them as I have to the family members who raised me? Who I have laughed with, cried with, and would I be a different person as I am now? Having been exposed to others with different experiences, personalities, different likes and dislikes?

Our inner drive that fuels the search for ancestors is most likely revealed when we look in the mirror: The deep desire to learn who we are, how we were created and why we look the way we do. The haunting questions that propel us into the addiction of genealogy that will for many of us, never be fully answered. And I wonder, rather than constantly searching for individuals unknown, shouldn't we be looking within our own back yard?

The week of Saint Patrick's Day has provided an opportunity for many family historians with Irish roots to review records of our Irish ancestors and once again undertake the often frustrating task of looking for more clues. Those of us who have spent months and years looking for documents left behind by our Irish ancestors, are often left with empty hands and tired souls. With little verifiable records available to the researcher, we accept our limitations but continue our search.

And as I once again feel my rising frustration over tireless hours with little results, I realize the ancestor I should be searching for has been known to me all my life. The matriarch of my family, my great grandmother, Jane Elizabeth Clark. Raised by a mother, grandparents and aunts, all from Ireland, 'Jennie's' personality radiated with Irish traditions. Whether it was her daily afternoon tea or poetic everyday sayings, my great grandmother was traditionally Irish, through and through. And as the keeper of the family traditions, her Irish ways have been firmly passed through each generation down to me.
Jane Elizabeth Clark
As a sharp tongued and proud woman, Jennie would provide her words of wisdom to all who would listen and many who would not. "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today", she'd remark or "A penny saved is a penny earned". Or her more amusing philosophical statements such as: "Love goes where it's sent, even if it's in a cow pile!" And always my favorite: "Every little bit helps, the old lady said when she wet in the ocean!".

My great grandmother's daily dose o'blarney prose were endless and I am fortunate that many were left to me, written down by my mother. And I reflect on how her Irish personality and traditions have contributed to the melding of my personality and my soul. I have spent endless hours searching for faceless people to find answers to what makes me the person I am: Looking for Irish ancestors, many generations away, yet the Irish ancestor that has helped create who I am, has been with me all along. She is not faceless. I have her recipes, her dishes, her pictures and a 'bit of her personality.

I will continue my search for Irish ancestors unknown, but with a renewed appreciation that much of what I see in the mirror is a reflection of the ancestors of my most recent past. Searching across the pond but finding the Blarney Castle in my own back yard.

Look for some of your own family's Irish sayings at A Bit O'Blarney.  And for my favorite Irish websites to search real records, go to my new page of links for Irish digital records and indexes.
Keep searching for answers,