Helen Kelly, genealogy butler at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, calls it the “goosebump trail”. That’s when people researching their Irish ancestors finally get somewhere and are able to “walk in the footsteps of their ancestors”.
She says while thousands of people come to Ireland looking for their Irish roots many leave disappointed. And this is mainly to do with not having done enough research before they come and having the time to continue it while in Ireland.
Kelly, an experienced professional genealogist, can meet guests who wish to embark on their Irish roots trail and offer them professional advice and assistance.
They can book this service on-line once they have confirmed their reservations at the Shelbourne.
Preferably, they can fill in a form with the information they already know and send it to her before arriving in Dublin.
She then assesses the information on the guest’s emigrant ancestor and draws up a practical research plan for Irish genealogical repositories.
Once they do find where their ancestors were from, Kelly suggests people visit that area and hopefully meet relatives.
“Economic and social hardship, famine, as well as political upheaval over hundreds of years caused millions of Irish to leave for America, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand and even parts of South America,” Kelly says.
“Your family’s history is part of Irish history.”
“I believe having Irish ancestry is a way of life. I urge people to walk the ground … landscape shapes us, so come and savour the landscape and the memories … We all want to know who we are.”
Kelly says in general, Irish genealogical sources fall into four main categories:
civil or government records of birth, death and marriage, church records of baptism and marriage, census returns and land property records.
Many of the records were destroyed in a series of fires but it’s still possible to find information.
In Northern Ireland, the Presbyterian records are held in Belfast and since the Peace accord, more and more are being handed over.
The Shelbourne, built in 1824, reopened on March 12 this year as one of Dublin’s largest five star luxury hotels. It’s steeped in history and is located in the hear of Georgian Dublin overlooking St Stephen’s Green. It was one of the first in Dublin to get gas lighting in 1867 and electricity in 1881.
During the Easter Rising in 1916, 40 British soldiers were garrisoned in the hotel and it came under regular fire. During the Civil War, the Shelbourne was home to the new army of Ireland.
From February to May 1922 it played host to its most historic meeting — the drafting of the Irish Constitution which was drawn up in room 112, under the chairmanship of Michael Collins. This room is now the Constitution Room.
A one-hour consultation over tea/coffee with the Genealogy Butler costs 140 euros ($NZ275). It includes a full personalised assessment report on your on-line submission of ancestral information, a research programme, an overview of Irish sources and territorial divisions, a detailed map of Dublin repositories and Failte Ireland brochure on Irish genealogy.