Finding ancestors while traveling to their home countries

By Geoff Griffin

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, June 20 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

The second valuable tool is to get in touch with a professional genealogist in Ireland. There are many fine professional genealogists in the states and many companies that do a good job with organizing genealogy-related tours. However, our family experience has been that nothing beats a genealogist who lives in the area you are visiting and knows all of the ins and outs that are not always apparent to outsiders. A local professional can help you navigate local records offices, teach you how the history of the country has dictated what information is available, help you interpret the information you’ve found to create a coherent narrative and, most importantly, let you know the appropriate way to approach the locals when you go back to the “townland” your ancestors once called home.

There is, of course, some cost to this, but that relatively small amount of money compared to what you are spending on the entire trip can be the difference between creating a vacation you’ll never forget vs. skimming the surface.

On our trip to Ireland, we were able to meet with an Irish genealogist at the Shelbourne Hotel Dublin (www.shelbournehoteldublin.com), which employs Helen Kelly in a a position called the “Genealogy Butler” (www.helenkelly.com). She relates that it is her job to “empower people.” Her advice and help while we were in Ireland were invaluable, particularly when it came to things like finding places that are no longer listed on a map, knowing what to ask for at records offices and interpreting what those records meant.

While Kelly gave us a great deal of practical and technical advice, perhaps the best advice she gave us was about the transforming experiences that can occur when walking the same roads traveled by forefathers.

“There’s something that happens when you find your way into the landscape that cradled your ancestors,” she said. “It seems familiar. It feels like you’re coming home.”

The resources of the Family History Library and a local genealogist can make the history you’ve compiled in pages of research come alive as you walk through the places you’ve been reading about.

Contact Geoff Griffin at curry.griffin.travel@gmail.com or on Facebook at Curry Griffin Travel Writers or follow him on Twitter at @currgrifftravel.

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