google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: March 2011

Family Recipe Friday - Marguerita Pizza!

Homemade Italian style pizza is a family favourite. My Italian mother-in-law created some wonderful pizza, and I have spent many hours perfecting the pizza pie. I love making pizza and it is probably what I am most famous for amongst my family and friends. 

The photograph above was taken in Caserta, Italy, my-in-laws home town.  This little place would equate to the local pizzeria's here in North America. I wish pizzerias here were this inviting and charming. 

I have eaten pizza all over Italy, and I must say some of the best pizza I ever had is found there, including a little restaurant in Naples called Brandi's. It is the home of the Marguerita Pizza. 

Fresh ingredients are key to a great Italian pizza. The Marguerita Pizza consists of fresh dough, tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil, cooked perfectly in a woodburning oven. Marguerita pizza was named after Queen Marguerita who visited Naples in 1889 and this pie was created in her honour.

 I know many may be disappointed with Italian pizza especially if you love the North American counterpart with its thick crust and numerous toppings.

For me nothing compares to a fresh  Italian pizza and I love to recreate these fabulous pies in my own kitchen. Here's my recipe, influenced by my mother-in-law and all the lovely Palermo women I met in Italy. It is a guaranteed winner. 

Marguerita Pizza

Pizza Dough
Most pizza dough recipes are same few ingredients. I believe the secret is in the technique. Here's a simple little video to show you how to make pizza dough. 

 To finish your pizza you will need the following items 

1 can of diced tomatoes (drained very well, if you can your own tomatoes even better, if they are not drained well they will make your pizza crust soggy.)

1 ball of fresh mozzarella ( imported buffalo mozzarella is the best, but if you can't find it, most large grocery stores carry fresh mozzarella, they are usually stored in a brine so again drain well. 

Fresh basil leaves
Olive oil
Kosher salt 

Drizzle olive oil across pizza dough 
Spread tomatoes on dough than top with mozzarella cheese 
Sprinkle with a little kosher salt
Cook in a preheated oven at 475F, a nice hot oven will achieve that nice crispy crust since the majority of us don't own a wood-burning pizza oven.  
Distribute fresh basil leaves on the top of pizza. The warmth of the pizza will bring out the flavours of the basil. Do not put the basil on before cooking they will turn black.

Let pizza sit for a minute or two, then slice and serve with a great Chianti! Mangia!

Looking for more recipes steeped in history, click here!

New Irish Records - Ship Passenger Lists!

Those of us searching Irish Genealogy wait with baited breath for new records. Hopefully this recent release will give us our research fix. 

The Irish Family History Foundation has just announced the release a new source of records.  The Centre of Migration Studies, Omagh, Co.Tyrone has provided over 227,000 names of ship passengers.

The passengers are mostly of Irish Origin, on ships travelling from Irish and British ports to ports in the United States and Canada,  from 1791 to 1897.

You can login here  This is pay-per-view subscription site. (which in my opinion can be quite frustrating)

Also available

The 1901 Census of County Leitrim is now also available, adding an additional 69,000 records to the online database. 

The records have been  inputted by staff at Leitrim Genealogy Centre.Go to to search. Again this is through the Irish Family History Foundation, a pay-per-view site. 

Happy Hunting!

Looking to learn more about Irish Genealogy click here!

Top Ten Twitter #Hashtags for Genealogists

There is little doubt that Twitter has become one of the most influential platforms for getting your message out to the masses.

Hashtags can be a very confusing proposition to new tweeters, that’s ok, I was there not long ago. I’m not professing to be an expert by any means but I think I am ahead of the learning curve for now. 

What is a hasttag?
The # symbol is called a 'mark' and in conjunction with  keywords or topics in a Tweet it creates a hashtag. 

Why should you include a hashtag?

It’s a way to categorize messages and enables those with similar interests to find each other.

Why should you include a hashtag with your tweets?

 So we can find you. They are the single best way to get your tweets seen by those who don’t 
already follow you.

 If you’re  a little overwhelmed than just use #genealogy, it a great catch-all tag for genealogists. and a great place to start. It’s my go to tag.

The Top Ten #Hashtags for Genealogists

(These are in no particular order, as Twitter has no method of accounting for which of these particular hashtags are the most popular.)

#family history
#WDYTYA  (Who Do You Think You Are?)

You can also combine hashtags for instance if you want to share a genealogy blog you like try combining #followfriday and #genealogy. Best Practices recommends you don't use more than 3 hashtags per tweet. 

Or if writing your family history and want to share a tip or story try using  #writing and #family history.

If you’re looking for other hashtags you can search for them a Twitter Search.

Have a favourite #hashtag you follow that is popular amongst the genealogy crowd, drop me a line I’ll add it to my list.

I’m also tweeting Family Recipe Friday at #familyrecipes,  and for those of you writing your family history, or a novel based on your family history we can share tweets at  #familywriter

Tuesday's Tip- Tame Your Magazine Mountain!

Some days I feel like I need a 12-step program to break my magazine habit. I’m trying, cutting back, trying to go digital where I can, but it’s hard. I love those shiny magazines.  However, the real problem lies in stacks, boxes, baskets and shelves of magazines that I spent hard-earned money and I refuse to kick them to the curb.  What do you do with all those magazines?  

Here are a few tips to tame your mountain of magazines.

Create a resource binder, I like to keep the best articles pertaining to my own research for future reference. I keep these articles in a binder; tab them by topic such as Irish research etc. for easy reference. Then toss I 
toss rest of the magazine in the recycle bin.

Pass them along to friends and family. This is the simplest way of putting magazines back into circulation. Plan a monthly magazine swap with friends. It’s a great way to save money on your magazine habit and a fun 
excuse for a get-together.

Along the same theme, host a monthly readers' exchange. Invite some people over for coffee, everyone brings their used books and magazines, and goes home with something new.How about holding a swap meet at your next genealogical meeting?

Give your stack of magazines to a local elementary school, nursing home or women’s shelter. Just make sure to call before you arrive to make sure they can use your donation. Any place that has a waiting room will usually be grateful to receive fresh reading material — doctors' offices, hospitals and automobile service departments. You just may inspire a complete stranger to take up genealogy.

Use them for arts and crafts. My kids are too old for this now, but I remember the days when my kids would cut up my magazines for school projects, usually before I was finished reading them. Keep a box of past magazines that are free reign for your kids. Kids love to cut out images, glue them on an object such as a pencil box, canvas or trash bin and seal with varnish for a one-of-a-kind decorative piece. My girls used to
decorate their bedroom and closet doors.

Create an “Inspiration Board.” Tear out interesting images, words or articles and create a motivational 
board for your office or work space.

Older or collectable magazines might be attractive to buyers. Try to sell them on e-bay.  Even newer or soon-to-be classics could be worth some money.  I’m not sure too many genealogy magazines fall into this 
category but many others such as Vogue, Time, and Newsweek are known to become collectibles.

Create stylish wrapping paper. Use the pages of your out of date genealogy magazines as stylish and eco-friendly wrapping paper. Have you checked out the price of wrapping paper these days? Save a tree and 
some money!

Move a lot shred the pages to use as protective filler for packages or moving boxes.

 Make your own, customized mailing envelopes. Use a utility knife to cut out a page, fold in half horizontally (leave a flap at the top) and glue the edges shut. Place a letter inside then fold the top flap over 
and seal. (Ok, this will never happen in my house but someone out there just may be inspired.)

Family Tree MagazineHope I helped in reducing your mountain of genealogy magazines. Perhaps if your inspired to add to your mountain, here's few of my genealogy favourites. 
Family Chronicle  

A Letter to My Younger Self

We all become reflective at some point in our lives. A number of things like age, the death of a parent, or a child leaving home can bring it on. For me, that reflection resulted in my discovery of genealogy and consequently my love of it. I only wish I had learned a few things earlier in life, easing the workload of writing my ancestor's stories. 

My girls, still teenagers aren’t old enough to want to hear or listen to my life’s lessons or reflections.   Therefore, although I do not claim to have figured out life’s secrets, I have lived long enough to learn a few things. If my kids are not ready to see the knowledge in my learning, perhaps someone else will.

Therefore, I’ve written a letter to my younger self or anyone else who is listening. If someone  had shared these tidbits with me when I was younger, I might be further ahead. They may have but clearly, I wasn’t listening.

Dear Young Lynn

Please, please, please pay more attention to the stories your parents and your grandparents are telling you. Write them down so you remember every detail. Those details will matter later.

Ask many questions, sometimes grandparents don't think anyone is interested or listening. Be persuasive, and genuinely interested, they have so much knowledge you can learn from.

Keep a journal of your own life, for yourself, your children and grandchildren. Your life does matter and they will want to know the simplest of details along with how you dealt and felt with personal and world events.

Spend lots of time with families, create memories, they last forever, and they fill endless pages of a family history book and reveal so much more than just the facts of your life.

Take lots of pictures and index them, otherwise you will end up with countless boxes of photos no one can identify or date.

Take a class, read a book, go to a conference, take a webinar,  never stop learning.

Visit your local historical society, learn about the history of your own town and that of your ancestors, it is a part of who you are.

Read, read, read! You will come to a point where you will realize there are more books in this world you would love to read, and not enough time to read them all. Make the most of every opportunity.

Start saving your money now, you will have a bucket list filled with ancestral home towns you will want to travel to, and a lack of funds will be your only barrier.

And finally do not listen to the other kids,  geeks are cool....eventually, even a genealogy geek.


Your Future Self.

What lessons have you learned?

Happy St. Patrick's Day - My Fifteen Favorite Irish Links!

As I searched for my own Irish ancestry, I accumulated a lot of websites. Below is a list of websites that I found highly helpful in my own search for my Irish ancestors.

These websites are a combination of free and subscription sites. Some offer digitized databases, some are transcription sites, while others offered some well needed information and advice when researching your Irish history.

(I have no financial interest in any of these websites nor are they in any particular order) 

The Irish Armchair Link List 

Finding Your Irish Ancestor, the Poor Tenant Farmer!

(In honour of St. Patrick's Day this week I will be reposting a series on Irish Genealogy. I began this series last year and will be adding to this series in the weeks to come. However, this week we will take a look at how to start your  Irish genealogy along with some of the best websites on the internet today for searching your Irish Genealogy.)

For the most part our Irish ancestors were poor tenant farmers who leased or rented their land, either directly from the landowner or from a leaser. It is not unusual to find many layers of subleasing when it comes to Irish landholdings. Very few people in Ireland actually owned their land. If your ancestor was one of these poor tenant farmers then once again your chance of finding records is faced with yet another challenge. 

We’ve also discussed how little exists in the form of census documents for our Irish ancestors. As a result, we are forced to turn to census substitutes and land records as one of the few means of locating our Irish family. Enter the Tithe Applotment Books.

What are the Tithe Applotment Books?

The Tithe books were complied between 1823 and 1837. They consist of 2000 hand written books and constitute one of the most important census substitutes along with theGriffith's Evaulation.  The Tithe Applotment books are the result of a land survey taken to determine the amount of tax payable by landholders to the Church of Ireland. There is a book for almost every parish in the country.

Since many church parishes did not begin keeping records until the 1850's, finding records for ancestors living in rural parishes is scarce, these books may be your only resource.

How will the Tithe Applotment Books Help?

Tithe Applotment Books are a key resource for identifying if your ancestor owned or leased land. These books are arranged by parish. (drilling home again, that identifying your ancestor’s parish is key). Once you have established the parish, the Tithe Applotment books will assist you in identifying the land occupier’s name, townland, area of landholding in acres, land assessment in grades 1-4, and calculation of tithe amount.

Because the tithe was payable only by those who worked the land, you may not find your ancestors included. For instance if your ancestors were labourers who worked land owned by the church, they would not be listed, along with labourers who did not rent land or those who lived in towns.

Only a name is given in these books, with no indication of family relationships, therefore information is speculative. However, these records can provide valuable confirmation, particularly when a land passed from father to son in the period between the Tithe survey and the Griffith Valuation.

Where Can You Find The Tithe Applotment Books?

The Tithe Applotment Books can be found in Dublin at the National Archives of Ireland. The records for the Ulster counties are available at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). You may find individual county libraries with copies of their own local books.

Online access is a mixed bag. Some parishes are beginning to appear on the internet if you search for tithe applotment books and county name, you may get lucky. Generally, the transcriptions are usually just names and notes, and of course, we all know we need to seek out the full record. Subscription genealogy sites are not much better. carries the Tithe Applotment books but for only the six counties in Northern Ireland. (They have recently updated their records so be sure to keep checking.)

If you’re like most and a trip to Dublin is not in cards then you can turn to the microfilms available through your local LDS Family History centers.

If you're still looking for your poor Irish farmers, a group for which very few genealogical records exist the Tithe Applotment Books are an important source you cannot ignore.

Other Posts in this series include

Irish Genealogy - You'll Need More Than Luck
Irish Genealogy - Step One - Determining Where Your Ancestors Lived
Irish Census Records - What Exists and Where to Find Them 

New Irish Records Now Available!

Just in time for St. Paddy's Day has released the following new and updated records. 
The following is their announcement. Happy searching! 

Discover the people
and the places your Irish ancestors called home.

Some of the most important surviving 19th century Irish collections, which include comprehensive records covering the critical periods prior to and following the Irish Potato Famine, have just been added to or enhanced at

Griffith's Valuation, 1848-1864 (Improved)
Over a million new records double the size of this collection, and new images make it an even more valuable genealogical resource. 

Tithe Applotment Books, 1823-1837 (Improved)
A new addition, this collection gives you detailed maps of the townland or parish where your ancestor lived. 

Ordnance Survey Map 1824-1846 (New)
This collection has been updated to include the whole of Ireland, offering a "census substitute of pre-famine life.

Lawrence Collection of Photographs
Over 40,000 images, this new collections can show you the land and the lifestyle of the Emerald Isle. 

Watch our free Webinar on Finding Your Irish Ancestors
MARCH 16, 2011 at 8PM EST

Not sure where to start your Irish Genealogy, click here

Irish Census Records - What Exists and Where to Find Them?

(In honour of St. Patrick's Day this week I will be reposting a series on Irish Genealogy. I began this series last year and will be adding to this series in the weeks to come. However, this week we will take a look at how to start your  Irish genealogy along with some of the best websites on the internet today for searching your Irish Genealogy.)

In recent weeks, we have examined some of the difficulties in finding our Irish ancestors. We’ve established that one key and initial step in locating your Irish family lies in understanding theIrish landscape and placing your ancestors in the proper county, townland and parishes. Once you have determined the location of your ancestor’s home, it’s time to turn your attention to what census exists for those counties and where you can find them.

You would think with location in hand you would be armed and ready to find an extensive list of census documents. However, that is not likely the case. A census of the Irish population was taken every ten years from 1821 until 1911. The original census returns for 1861 and 1871 were destroyed shortly after they were collected, likely for storage space. The records for 1861 to 1891 were pulped by government order, during the WWI. And of course, the infamous fire, in 1922 that destroyed the Public Records Office in Dublin taking with it most of the four censuses from 1821 to 1851 leave many family historians just a little frustrated.

Records for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 no longer exist. However, small fragments of the 1821-1851 censuses have survived for the following counties. If you know your ancestors location (am I nagging yet) then perhaps you can find them in some of the few census records that exist for this period in these locations.

They are as follows.

Antrim 1851
Cavan 1821 and 1841
Cork 1841
Fermanagh 1821, 1841 and 1851
Galway 1821
King's County (Offaly) 1831 (supplemented 1834)
Londonderry (Derry) 1831
Meath 1821
Waterford 1841

Where to find them – provides a great list of links for all partial Irish census returns available online.

The 1901 and 1911 census returns are intact, are now fully searchable online, and free of charge at The returns are searchable by religion, occupation, relationship to head of family, literacy status, county or country of origin, Irish language proficiency, specified illnesses, and child survival information.

An Irish census wasn’t taken in 1921 due to the civil war, however, one was taken in 1926, it is hoped to be released in 2026. However, since the 1911 Irish census was released earlier, there is hope this census will also be available at an earlier date.

Because of the loss of so many census records, many family historians seeking Irish records have turned to “census substitutes” in the hopes of finding some significant information. The most important records to examine include land records, religious censuses, school registers, old-age pension applications and trade directories. The major census substitute for Ireland is Griffith’s Primary Valuation. This document is an Ireland property survey published county by county between 1848 and 1864. It was arranged by county, barony, Poor Law Union, civil parish and townland (location, location,location again) and includes an assessment of the value for every property within those boundaries and the name of each occupier.

My favourite website for searchinng Griffith Primary Valuation is at

If you want to understand what information can be learned from the Griffith Evaluation then I suggest you examine The Irish Genealogy Toolkit they offer a sample page and explanation of its content.

Other census substitutes include Tithe Applotment books, Estate Records and Registry of Deeds.

Tithe Applotment books are another important census substitute. In 1823, in an effort to revise the system of tithes payable to the Church of Ireland a valuation was carried out. Records contained in the Tithe Applotment books are arranged by townland (don’t mean to beat a dead horse) and list the names of the each land occupier, the size and quality of their land, and the tithe deemed payable. This was an attempt to determine how much would be payable by each landholder. The Tithe Applotment Books record the occupiers of tithe-eligible land, not householders. It was not a population census.

Estate Records include information about the wealthy families who owned large sections of land. They are useful because they can often name domestic staff, farm hands and craftsmen as well these wealthy families were landlords granting leases to tenant farmers and labourers.

Registry of Deeds covers mostly the 1750 to 1830 period, they are only valuable if your ancestors owned land and since the majority of the population did not, they may not be of use to you. However, if your ancestors did own land then you may find them extremely helpful because they often will name 2-3 generations.

In future posts, we will examine closer Tithe Applotment books, estate records and registry deeds in more detail as we move closer to finding your Irish ancestors.

Related Reading
Irish Genealogy - You'll Need More Then Luck
Irish Genealogy - Step One - Determining Where Your Ancestors Lived

A great book for learning more about Irish Genealogy can be found in John Grenham's Tracing your Irish Ancestors, the Complete Guide (3rd edition, Dublin, 2006).

Irish Genealogy - Step One- Determining Where Your Ancestors Lived

(In honour of St. Patrick's Day this week I will be reposting a series on Irish Genealogy. I began this series last year and will be adding to this series in the weeks to come. However, this week we will take a look at how to start your  Irish genealogy along with some of the best websites on the internet today for searching your Irish Genealogy.)

Before you begin googling surnames, and seeking church records and vital statistics for your Irish ancestors you must establish the single most important piece of knowledge about them, where did they live, their precise place of origin, their place name.

In order to establish an ancestor’s place name you must understand the landscape of Ireland through its administrative and political divisions. Not only will this help in identifying an ancestors hometown, but it will also open up the possibility of a variety of other Irish record sources you may not have considered.

The administrative and political boundaries are confusing to say the least; provinces are divided into counties, which are divided into civil parishes. Civil parishes are made up of townlands, all of which can cross each other. Baronies can cross civil parishes, Catholic parishes and civil parishes cross each other, poor law unions cross county and parish boundaries. Are you confused yet? Let’s break it down in very simple terms.

Ireland is divided into four provinces – Ulster, Connaught, Munster and Leinster. However there was once five, the fifth being Meath which is now part of Leinster and Ulster.

Each province is divided in counties, there are 32 in all, from their they break down into poor law unions 163, baronies 331,civil parishes 2508, townlands 60, 462, and dioceses, 4 with 22 parishes in each. Therefore, it is not sufficient to know that your ancestors for example, lived in the county of Kilkenny. You must determine where in the county they made their home in order to find the appropriate records.

Poor Law Unions were a result of the Poor Relief Act of 1838. It divided the country into districts or “unions” for the purpose of tax collection. In 1898, the Poor Law Union replaced the civil parish and barony. The Poor Law Unions are the key to the electoral divisions and electoral divisions are the key to land records and finding your family. District Electoral District are subdivisions of Poor Law Unions and consist of a number of townlands. Some land records are arranged by DED, so important information to know. Census returns are also arranged by DED, inorder to find a census return for an ancestor you have to establish the DED for any relevant townland or urban street.

Baronies are a historical subdivision of a county. They were created, like the counties, in the centuries after the Norman invasion; Baronies are still used for land registration and have virtually remained unchanged since 1898.

In Ireland civil parishes originally coincided with ecclesiastical parishes of the Church of Ireland, the established church from the time of the Tudor re-conquest. Church parish boundaries changed after its disestablishment in 1869 but it did not affect the civil parishes. Civil parishes and church parishes are not the same. The Roman Catholic Church has a separate parish system. There may exist several congregations within each civil parish. One parish church could serve several civil parishes, or perhaps such as in Northern Ireland, where more than one Church of Ireland is within a civil parish.

Townlands are a unique feature of Ireland and is one of the most ancient divisions in the country. It is in the Townland you will find the location of the church where your ancestor’s births, deaths and marriages were recorded. To locate the Townland, you need to know the county and civil parish. Just to make life confusing, there could be many townlands of the same name in a county. Towns are not townlands. Towns or villages may be located within a townland. Townlands may range from a few acres to several thousand acres. Within townlands, are smaller communities some not large enough to be towns and may only include a few houses, these ‘fields’ or ‘farm names’ may be more commonly known to the local people.

Dioceses in Ireland - The diocesan system of the Catholic Church government in Ireland was set up by the Synod of Rathbreasail in 1111 and modified by the Synod of Kells in 1152. Ireland is divided into four ecclesiastical provinces each headed by a metropolitan archbishop. There are 26 dioceses in total, each led by a diocesan bishop.

Now that you have an understanding of the divisions of Ireland, with the help of some of the resources listed below, you can begin to uncover a more precise location of your ancestors.

The single most important tool in identifying an Irish place name is The General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns, parishes and Baronies of Ireland. It is based on the 1851 census, and offers an alphabetic list of townlands identifying the parish, barony, county and Poor Law Union to which they belong. It can be located in many libraries, at most large LDS family history libraries, you can find it online at IreAtlas Townland Database (this is a free site)

The Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis (1837) lists all the parishes, baronies, towns, villages, and counties in Ireland with some local information including an account of agriculture and industry and the major local houses and their owners. It can be viewed online at Library offers you a view of maps showing the civil and Roman Catholic parishes in a county. By clicking under the place names tab, you can find the names of all townlands within a civil parish, where the parish is located in its county, names of neighbouring parishes, and the 10 most common surnames in the parish in Griffith’s Valuation. You can also cross-reference two surnames within the same parish. This is a pay-per-view site.

Once you have established, the province, county, barony, civil parish and or catholic parish along with Poor Law Union and Townland, you will have acquired some very valuable information in narrowing the exact location of your ancestors and therefore opening the window to understanding what records exist and where to find them.

From the Archives: Irish Genealogy - You'll Need More Than Luck!

(In honour of St. Patrick's Day this week I will be reposting a series on Irish Genealogy. I began this series last year and will be adding to this series in the weeks to come. However, this week we will take a look at how to start your genealogy along with some of the best websites on the internet today for searching your Irish Genealogy.)

We have all heard that old saying “the luck of the Irish.” After spending the last few years researching my Irish family history I am hard pressed to buy into this. The Irish witnessed over 1000 years of invasion, colonization, exploitation, starvation and mass emigration. Hard to imagine there was any luck going on. As a result, many family historians researching their Irish ancestors aren’t having much luck themselves.

One of the most difficult branches of my family tree has been my elusive Irish ancestors. Years ago, when I began my research and new little about Irish records, I was told I would not find the documents I was looking for because “they all burned.” Well, that person was right, and wrong. What I have come to discover is just this --- the secret to finding your Irish ancestors lies in knowing three important things about your ancestors:

1. What area of Ireland did they originate from,
2. What was their religious orientation
3. And the period in which they lived in Ireland.

After identifying these three facts, you then need to educate yourself on the Irish records that are available.

The person who told me there was a fire was in fact correct. They were referring to the burning of the Dublin Public Records office in 1922 during the Irish Civil War. The Irish Public Records located in the western block of the Four Courts, was used as an ammunition store by the Four Courts garrison. It was the centre of a huge explosion, blowing to pieces one thousand years of Irish state and religious archives. The greatest loss to family historians was the census records from 1821 to 1851, and for that reason, the earliest available complete census records begin in 1901.

The 1861-91 censuses were destroyed by government order during WWII because of the Pulp Initiative.

However, with some education and resourcefulness not all is bleak. Some records survived the fire, and many other records such as civil birth, marriage and death records for various time periods do exist but they are not easily accessible to armchair genealogists.

It has taken me several years to get a handle on Irish records, and I presume that if I had this much trouble many others are just as confused. In this series of posts on Irish Genealogy, I hope I can help a few readers understand the lay of the land when it comes to finding your Irish family history.

In future posts, we will look at the makeup of Ireland understand the Counties, Unions, Baronies, Parishes and Townlands and how to find where your ancestors lived. We will look at where to find census records (those that do exist) and census record substitutes that may help fill in the gap for those loss records. We will look at civil and church records including birth, marriages and death certificates and where to find these elusive records. We will also look at wills and land deeds.

All the while, we will create a list of key online websites in finding your Irish ancestors. As armchair genealogists, our primary focus will be online resources, since most of us are not heading to Ireland anytime soon. (Although it’s on my bucket list.)

Online Irish websites are just as fragmented and confusing as the country itself. There seems to be no one website that covers it all. No, not even Ancestry or Family Search have all the Irish records you are looking for, perhaps in the near future??? In future weeks, we will take a closer look at the websites that can help and what they offer, as we build The Irish Armchair Link List.

Irish Genealogy can be one of the most frustrating, patchy and elusive set of records to uncover. The key to finding your Irish ancestors is in understanding what records do exist and where to find them. I hope I can help.

(By the way, during the gold rush in the United States, many Irish and Irish Americans became successful miners. It is believed the term “ luck of the Irish” was a result of their finding fortune. It carries with it a certain tone of mockery, as if to say, only by pure luck , as opposed to smarts could an Irishman succeed.)

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

 I was busy yesterday packing for our family vacation in Florida. I checked in on my emails and Google Reader late in the day and imagine my surprise to find out The Armchair Genealogist had been chosen among the Best Genealogy Blogs for 2011 as named by Family Tree Magazine.
I am truly humbled to make this list. I am very passionate about family history and I am thrilled that my passion has flowed through to my readers.

Thank you to all those who voted, I am truly grateful. I'm heading out in the morning for a long drive but with a big smile on my face.

I want to thank Family Tree Magazine and the Top 40 panel, Lisa Louise Cooke from Genealogy Gems, Thomas from Geneabloggers, Randy from Genea-Musings and Dear Myrtle as well as the entire Geneablogging community for being a wonderful supportive community.

Congrats to all those who made the top 40 List I am honoured to be in your company and look forward to a great year in genealogy blogging.

A Lost Genealogy Resource : The Hand-Written Letter!

I've read many a family history blog where the author has shared with his or her readers some precious letters they discovered in the bottom of an old box or trunk. Letters that were exchanged between family members’ centuries before. These letters are often a window into the state of mind and relationship of a past ancestor. They often reveal an intimacy that is invaluable to one’s family history research. There may be remarks to world events going on around them, or to personal events taking place in their lives, all very priceless to a genealogist looking for clues and attempting to put an ancestor’s life into perspective.

Just as hand-written letters are a lost art, these same letters are also doomed as a resource to future family historians.

How many letters did you write in the last year?

I'm not sure the millions of emails that are a line or two long, constitute a resource for future generations (assuming you saved them). With computers, cell phones, Skype, email, You Tube, and Facebook, there is no longer a need or a desire to write long exhausting letters expressing all our concerns of the day.  Our messages and thoughts are scattered throughout the world of technology, diluted in a dozen different formats, no longer concentrated in one place, in one form.

Today's communication is immediate, it is brief and to the point. It is gone as fast as it came. We are an instant and disposable society..... and that includes our thoughts.  The letter was a resource, that was cherished and saved, it notably has revealed so much about past generations, their relationships and how they coped with the world and family events of their time. What do we have today that is equivalent?

Do you want your family to know your thoughts and feelings about a world event? Do you want to share your joy over the birth of a child or grandchild?  Do you wish to convey to your descendants how you dealt with a personal crisis in your life? Are you leaving a trail for your future descendants?

Will there be enough clues for others to understand who you were and what your life was about? Alternatively, are your thoughts, words and messages lost in the technology world of Skype, cellphones and email? Don’t get me wrong, I fully embrace all of these methods as a means of communicating with the living. However, how will you communicate with the living once you are gone? What have you left behind that conveys your thoughts and feelings as clearly as a hand written letter to a loved one.

I’m certain when our ancestors wrote these letters, it was their only means of communicating with family separated over long distances. They didn’t realize the impact these letters would have on future generations, how they would help to tell a story to descendants. However, we do understand the value of those letters today ... and yet; we have nothing that equates to it, knowing the worth it holds for future generations. 

Therefore, we must give some thought to what we will leave behind for descendants. How will future family historians discover you? Have you considered a journal, a diary, writing a memoir, or creating a video diary, all great methods of recording your life in the current world of technology?

 What kind of trail will you leave behind?  

Moreover, if all the above methods still feel too overwhelming and cumbersome, you still have the option of writing a letter. 

Family Recipe Friday - Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding is one dessert that has a long history dating back to 13th century England. Many cultures today have variances of the sweet dessert.

The recipe originated as a means for using up old stale bread. The bread was moistened in water and sweetened with some sugar and spices. Today bread puddings are made from a wide range of breads including brioche, challah, croissant and panettone and are moistened in a custard sauce of milk, eggs and sugar and butter. You can add chopped nuts, pieces of chocolate, lemon or orange zest, a little liqueur, candied or dried fruits.

  I have tried bread puddings in some nice restaurants, however,  I have yet to have one that compares to my Mom’s recipe. Take a step back in time and make a bread pudding this weekend adding your own twist on this classic recipe.

Mom’s Bread Pudding 

12 – one-inch slices day old bread (suggestions raisin bread or orange cranberry loaf are two of my mother’s favourites to use.) She also sometimes soaks the bread in Grand Marnier, but feel free to use whatever you want.
 3 1/4 cups of milk
5 eggs beaten
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cups melted butter
2 tbsp. Vanilla

Trims crusts from bread and dice into 1 inch cubes. Place in buttered baking pan at least 3 inches deep. Scald milk slowly add to eggs that have been blended with sugar.
Sprinkle raisins and pecans over bread. Drizzle with melted butter.
Add vanilla to milk mixture, pour over bread cubes and set aside 15-20 minutes or until milk mixture is well absorbed.
Set baking dish in a water bath, and bake in 325F oven until custard is set and top is golden brown abut 40-50 minutes.
Serve with hot caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce:
2 cups sugar
¼ cup water
½ cup heavy cream
Combine the sugar and water in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pot around until the mixture is a deep caramel colour and looks like syrup, about 8 min. Carefully pour in the cream and continue to cook for another minute. Cool to room temperature.

Looking for some other great recipes for this weekend, checkout our list of old-fashioned recipes by family historians.