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Obama Visit to Moneygall Stirs Interest in Ancestry

By Ed Forry, June 2, 2011

This summer’s a great time for that first visit to Ireland. The dollar is strong versus the euro (currently $1.43), there are daily flights from Boston to Shannon and Dublin, and many more seats on flights from JFK and Newark – and if you’ve never experienced the long days and short nights in Ireland, you’ll be surprised to learn that in mid-summer there’s daylight right up ‘til 11 p.m.!

The visit to Ireland of President Obama last month, brief ation of ancestral research into sharp focus. His stop-over at Moneygall, a village in Co. Offaly a couple of hours outside Dublin, was billed as the president’s own search for his ancestral roots.
Obama spent several hours visiting the land of his maternal ancestors, some of whom were, in the 18th century, politically active and ambitious Dubliners, including the city’s most successful wigmaker. The president’s great-great-great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, emigrated to New York from Moneygall in 1850. Obama at Moneygall: AP Pool PhotoObama at Moneygall: AP Pool Photo Locally, ancestral research has become one of Irish America’s more enjoyable pass-times. In Boston, the nonprofit Irish Ancestral Research Association (TIARA) has been active for many years, offering monthly meetings with informative lectures from experts in genealogical research, and regular excursions to Ireland for members.

The group is planning two week-long trips to Ireland this fall: The first begins on Sept. 30 and it’s to Dublin, with visits to the National Library of Ireland, the National Archives, the General Register Office, and the Valuation office. The second, to Belfast, begins on Oct. 7 and will feature visits to the Publiuc Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONO), and other venues, including Linen Hall Library and the Belfast General Register Office. Registration deadline for the trips has been extended to June 14, with full details at the website, tiara.ie.

Meanwhile, in an effort to attract more Americans to search on the web for their Irish roots, the Irish Times has launched an online genealogy course, and Ann Marie Maxwell at the Boston office of Enterprise Ireland is encouraging Boston’s Irish to avail themselves of the new site.

“The new training programme is delivered by John Grenham who has run the Irish Times Ancestors website for 13 years and also writes their Irish Roots column,” Maxwell says. “Those who know they have Irish links but are a few generations removed, frequently ask about how to trace back roots, locate birth records etc. And now with the Government working on a certificate of Irish heritage, I expect there will be many more asking these same questions.”

The newspaper unveiled the new site on the day of the Obama visit: “Irish Times Training has launched a revolutionary genealogy learning programme, a first on the world market,” said the release. “Budding family historians can learn all they need to know with ”Tracing your Irish Ancestors,” a new web-based learning package from John Grenham, leading Irish genealogist.
“The programme comprises 11 modules, free subscriptions to the Irish Times Irish Ancestors site and to FindMyPast.ie, along with a 24-hour pass to The Irish Times Digital Archive and a personal e-mail consultation with a genealogist.

“This course combines a detailed analysis of all the relevant sources with hands-on online research training to enable you to uncover fascinating facts about your ancestry. Flexible, affordable and fun, the programme is suitable for Irish natives and our considerable diaspora around the globe. Paying someone else to carry out this type of research can be costly. Now people can learn at their leisure, in the comfort of their own home.

”This new training programme is easily navigable and uses straightforward language. John Grenham, an expert with 25 years in the field, delivers the information in a stimulating, refreshing way. The programme is easy to access for all age groups and abilities. There’s a technical support team, downloadable guides and a forum where users can get talking to other family researchers.”

Find out more about the ancestral course details by e-mail to gencourses@irishtimes.com, or by phone at 011353 1 4727111.