12 March 2009

Who Do You Think You Are? Conference 2009: Researching Records

Most Americans have little idea what is available at the various archives in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. To assume the records are similar to ours and that the categories are alike is quite false. To the novice it can be quite mind-boggling.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect is the need for many Americans to have very old records available; that is pre 1700s as our families came to the colonies that early. Americans over the years have created a horde of paper records, unlike most countries.

WDTYTA? Conference allowed those who took the time to explore as many of the 200+ booths as possible, a glimpse at what is available. Booth after booth contained various county’s gleanings and surname organizations as well as books and magazines on a large variety of genealogical topics and representatives of the many National Archives.

The National Archives at Kew, the Scottish National Archives, the Irish National Archives, and the National Library of Wales are only a few of the locations that provide, not only online services, but a great deal of assistance to those who visit. Each of these were represented at the conference and it only took a few minutes for me to get the father of my David Storrier of Co, Angus, Scotland and to verify the locations I had were accurate. For just a few pence, I can now go online to search for more and see the primary documents. The National Library of Wales is currently surveying any interested persons to suggest what documents would be of use for their online services. Over the last few years in the U.S., we have seen many states place their birth, death and marriage records online.

My particular lines came to the U.S. in the 1600 and 1700s, leaving the research in the UK and the Republic of Ireland a bit tricky. Only my Gilmore-Storrier line came as late as 1838. Mostly parish records are available in these centuries unless your ancestor was in the military or connected to the government in some way. Luckily for me, my Welsh lines left a pedigree that has been supported by the old manuscripts. However, there is always some missing dates and places.

When all else fails, we can turn to DNA testing to help break those brick walls. Although Americans dearly hope that the British will be as enthusiastic about DNA testing as we are, many of us have either more disposable income or are more frivolous is how we spend our money. It is really hard to say and putting anyone in the same box is not a safe idea.

What I do know from attending the conference and helping at the FTDNA booth is that, like Americans, the British are very interested in solving questions of paternity, are curious about their most ancient roots, and are hoping to dissolve some brick walls…just like the rest of the genealogy and genetic genealogy world.

I’ve know a few genealogists from England and Wales who know a great deal about researching in the United States. Perhaps it is time that those of us who desire to find our ancestors in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland take the time to learn how to research the many archives, public record offices, and family history centers of the area. Searching from a distance is always difficult, but is no reason to throw up our hands, and, of course, traveling to another country to research those records, and visiting the towns where your ancestors lived is a wonderful treat.

©Aulicno, 9 Mar 2009

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