Certificate of Irish Heritage

Long awaited, much derided, … and finally here. The site has gone live, and you can get your “plastic Paddy cert” through the newly launched Certificate of Irish Heritage website. “Plastic Paddy cert” (so apt, just great) is not my phrase, by the way, but that of Chris Paton at Scottish GENES.

But see, I’m torn. I can see the awful cheesiness; the blatant commercialism; the sentimental (though profit-maximizing) trafficking in Oyrishness (which I briefly blogged about here). And of course I’d much rather have online access to the RC records of Co. Cork, say, than a piece of paper certifying my Irish ancestry (which, you know, I already know about: hence this blog…), even if that piece of paper comes adorned with a gilt-edged title in a Celtic font, and can be nicely offset by a handsome mahogany frame. That said, I totally want to get one of these certs for each of my parents. 
Apparently a “Gift Card facility is planned,” but is not yet available.

Summer Blogging Break

It’s time for my annual visit to Shaw’s of Perth:

Advertisement for Shaw’s, Perth Courier, 10 August 1928.
I’m sorry to have missed “the biggest, broadest, and most commanding sale ever held in Perth;” and I doubt they’re still offering Duchess silk for 98 cents per yard. But the current Shaw’s of Perth (no longer owned by the Shaws of Perth, by the way) has a really nice kitchen shop.
When I return to the blog, I’m going to post some stuff on the RC priests and parishes of the Ottawa Valley, along with more information on Irish naming practices. 

Mocavo (New Genealogy Search Engine)

Via Deborah Large Fox, a new genealogy search engine called Mocavo. As Deborah Large Fox points out, since Mocavo scours only genealogy-related sites, and therefore filters out genealogically irrelevant results, it has the potential to be quite useful to family history researchers, though the usual cautions apply (in general, the genealogical information that you find on the internet will range in quality from impressively accurate and well-sourced to fundamentally conjectural and probably inaccurate, if impressively fanciful; and the more you already know about an individual or a family, the better able you will be to parse the distinctions between “true,” “false,” “possibly true,” “almost certainly false,” and etc., more finely. So: the more you already know, the more you can subsequently discover? Well, yeah, basically, but of course this logic is by no means confined to genealogy…).

I first tried “Denis Killeen” at Mocavo (in quotes, to narrow it down a bit to only a Killeen associated with the name of Denis), and was, frankly, a bit surprised to find the first seven search results, and also the ninth, directly related to the Denis Killeen that I had in mind. My second trial, of “James Moran,” was far less successful; but after all, the Moran surname is as common as a garden flower, and the forename of James doesn’t exactly help to identify a special or unusual plant species, so I guess I can’t hold this failure against the new search engine. Mocavo is definitely worth a try.

Spelling Doesn’t Count! (in Genealogy)

Most of the complaints that I hear from others involve relatives that dispute dates and spellings of names–the latter being a BIGGIE. I still have difficultly convincing new family researchers themselves to accept the fact that their ancestors’ names were spelled many ways. It can be impossible to convince relatives, especially those who have never gone bleary-eyed reading old Irish baptismal records on microfilm, that, no, the family did NOT always spell Kavanagh with a “K” instead of a “C.” 

No family feuds (and I hope no hurt feelings) to report here, but certainly the issue of surname spellings is sometimes an issue.

And it’s not surprising, really, that so many people are wedded to a notion of the one “correct” (and historically immutable) spelling of one’s surname, given how important surname spelling is today. If the clerk at the DMV misspells your name, for example, and you end up with a driver’s license with just one vowel or consonant different from your officially registered name (as found on your birth certificate, say, or perhaps on your passport), that’s going to bother you, right? Well, it would certainly bother me, and I would spend time and money to have that error corrected. A variant surname spelling on a document related to your contributions to the Canada Pension Plan? Yeah, you’d definitely want to look into that, and correct that misspelling just to be safe.

Certificate of/for Genealogical Tourism

Or “certificate of Irish heritage,” I guess it’s to be called. 

This article in the Irish Times includes some amusingly snarky comments about shamrocks and leprechauns and shillelaghs and the like:

‘If it’s not handled correctly, it could end up looking tacky,’ warns Smyrl. ‘Heritage and business aren’t incompatible, but too often we end up with leprechauns and shamrocks. This will end up as a gimmick if the only intention is to get people to visit Ireland.’

Tacky and gimmicky? Well, of course. Warning duly noted.

But faith and begorrah and etc., if it meant a 25 to 30 percent discount on transportation and lodging whilst visiting the auld sod, sure, I’d be more than willing to land at Shannon decked out in a day-glo green tracksuit with a large “Kiss Me I’m Irish” button fastened to my lapel. Oh wait. If I’m wearing a tracksuit, I guess I don’t really have a lapel. So, okay, maybe I wouldn’t go quite that far.

But I would totally fill out the necessary paperwork in order to obtain a significant travel discount. And I’m guessing that Ireland (land of the “ghost estate” following upon the burst of the real estate bubble) could use the tourism dollars these days.

(Via Deborah Large Fox’s Irish Family History blog, amongst other recent notices).

Family History and Family Mythology: Irish Version

No doubt this is an issue that crops up for family historians researching ancestors from any number of ethnic backgrounds and national origins. But I suspect the problem is especially prevalent in Irish genealogy, where the attempt to apply evidence-based methods typically involves cutting through vast areas long since overgrown by dense thickets of mythology. 
The problem goes something like this: If you’re looking for ancestors of Irish origin, you’ll probably have at least a few people in your family who want you to discover that, back in the mists of time (that glorious, golden age) our ancestors were amongst the kings and queens of the Emerald Isle; instead, you have to tell them that, as best you can make out and as far back as you can go, it looks like our ancestors were amongst the agrarian underclass of County Tipperary. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, admittedly. And for the most part, probably, the poorest of the poor didn’t emigrate to Canada, because emigration did require some means (the ability to book passage on a ship, in the first place). But substitute “landed gentry” for “kings and queens,” and “poor tenant-farmers” for “agrarian underclass,” and I think it’s a pretty fair characterization.