Book Review: Irish Genealogy Guide

Claire Santry’s Irish Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Ancestors in Ireland is a book deserving of a place in every Irish family historian’s library. Whether you’re brand new to researching or an ‘old hand’ at genealogy, you’ll find value in this guide, published in 2017 by Family Tree Books.

BookCoverSantry’s introduction sets a high goal: “This book will give you a thorough grounding in genealogical techniques and point you towards the records you need to search, both in the United States and in Ireland. It’s full of tips, essential explanation about the collections, and strategic advice.”

And she delivers on that promise! Fourteen chapters are logically divided into three sections:

  • Linking Your Family Tree to Ireland
  • Getting to Know the Old Country
  • Using Advanced Sources and Strategies

Each chapter includes helpful research tips and concludes with “Keys to Success.” Santry’s informative maps, useful tables/charts/timelines, and clarifying sample records will certainly add to our chances of finding Irish ancestors and understanding what they experienced. Read the book and I predict you’ll find yourself making notes about a new source to check (or re-check) or another angle to follow.

I especially appreciated Santry’s candid guidance about Irish records, e.g., walking us through “messy” civil registration record sets, with their “myriad start and end dates and different geographical coverage.” She explains where to find indexes vs. transcriptions vs. images.  For all record types she describes idiosyncrasies of specific sources and advises about the most cost-effective research options. I won’t be able to remember all the details so I’ll want to keep the book nearby when I do Irish research.

Similarly the appendices at the back of the book are sure to be helpful references. Topic titles include: “Latin in Irish Catholic Parish Registers”; “Irish Genealogy Research Societies” (with a listing for our own IGSI); “Irish Graveyard Research”; “Archives, Libraries and Other Repositories in Ireland”; “County and Heritage Genealogy Centers”; and “Publications and Websites.”

Unusual for a guide written by an Irish genealogist is advice about tracking immigrants in U.S. sources. The real-life case studies in the “Putting It All Together” chapter do just that, jumping back and forth between U.S. and Irish records to reach conclusions. I always learn from case studies and would have appreciated reading more than the two included in the book (excellent though they were).

Author Claire Santry is well-known in Irish genealogy circles as creator of the Irish Genealogy News blog and its accompanying Irish Genealogy Toolkit. Trained as a journalist, she has three specialties: Irish genealogy, architecture and travel.

Her latest effort is both an entertaining read and a valuable reference book. Order your copy through the publisher’s site (shopfamilytree.com) or through other online bookstores such as Amazon.com (where the cost is only $23.17, or $12.99 for the Kindle edition).

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