Sometimes we get so accustomed to using online databases that we forget the time when they didn’t exist. With these databases comes the opportunity to make discoveries and develop new research strategies.
In the area of Irish immigration, in the old days, discoveries were made microfilm by microfilm, often without indexes. Researchers asked questions such as: Was there an Irish migration? Is there a pattern of immigration from a particular county in Ireland? Was it a Catholic, Protestant or mixed migration into the area in question?
Researchers still ask the same questions, but there is now a wider net to cast online. Where before a study was limited to a particular community, now there’s nationwide coverage through databases on FamilySearch: www.familysearch.org and Ancestry: www.ancestry.com.
When I learn about a new database, I start plugging in Irish names. If in a hurry, I do the most common ones such as Sullivan, Kelly, Lynch from memory. If I want to do a detailed survey, I will get a list of the most common Irish surnames and start down the list.
While this strategy works very well, there are some quirks associated with it. For example, Does Sullivan, Kelly and Lynch look like that in an Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, French, Hungarian, Spanish or Swedish database? Definitely be careful. This strategy is less definitive when the common name is actually English or Scots-Irish in origin. You can’t determine, without more information, if the names you are seeing are actually from Ireland. In reverse, if you assume that communities, such as the Scots-Irish followed the Scots everywhere, then that will solve part of that quirk.
With current technology, we all have the chance to create something new and exciting in the field of Irish immigrant research. If you make a discovery of “lost Irish” then I recommend you write an article or create your own database to share your discovery. You don’t know how many times I say “What in the heck were they doing there?” So I write a blog!