It may be said that it began a mere three years ago with an Irish great grandfather about whom nothing much was known. Simply: he was born somewhere in Ireland, died in England and had one of the most common surnames in Ireland: Ryan. To further compound the challenge I had to deal predominantly with dead people and found they tended not to speak up!
So armed with fierce determination and extraordinary impatience I embarked on a journey: one that has led to many discoveries but most importantly a desire to be immersed in genealogy and inspire others to do the same. There have been endless pay per views and subscriptions via genealogy sites, memberships, courses, conferences, friendships and multiple trips (8 in the past 3 years!) to Ireland for local research in villages and graveyards, visits to libraries, National Archives, the General Records office to name but a few.
In 2009 I formed the New York Irish / British Genealogy Group through www.meetup.com as a first step to determine if others may be equally interested in genealogy. The group – a free membership network – of near 160 members at various stages of experience gathers to share tips, stories, join in lectures and trips. I cherish this group and love the opportunity to hear of members’ research and their passion in uncovering their heritage. Of course this wasn’t nearly enough so…
Leveraging my 18 years of combined event management and business development experience and coupled with a passion for genealogy I developed The Genealogy Event. The goal: to create a New York based genealogy event – as there was none – inspiring individuals of all ages to start and/or to continue researching their roots and family history. The Genealogy Event takes place October 26th and 27th in New York City. With a selection of exhibitors, speakers on various subjects and special features within the event, attendees are already purchasing their tickets for the October event! Well as if I could stop just there so…
In the early part of this year I approached the New York Irish Center in Queens, NY to see if they would be any interest in me volunteering to lead introductory sessions on genealogy. The answer was yes! This led to two sessions “Getting Started on Genealogy – Researching your Irish Ancestry” and “Top 10s of Genealogy – Researching your Irish Ancestry” with more to come – and a surge of interest in genealogy inquiries to the Center. Now can I stop at just all of this? Likely not…
I have given thought to what more can I do to add to the genealogy community and inspire others to begin and/or continue with their research. I am interested in genealogy tourism – and promoting the benefits of travel and research between US and Ireland as this was so instrumental in furthering my own research and in fact for a number of my members. I have also thought on hosting a version of The Genealogy Event in Ireland. One thing is certain: the allure of genealogy and my Irish heritage will never dissipate!
I encourage anyone to start or continue, even if it is small steps, to learn more about their roots regardless of how little or not one has by way of information. Ask the questions now, subscribe to blogs and magazines, read newsletters, attend events, visit genealogy resource centers and the many free and subscription based websites. It can be an incredible experience and in many respects life changing. Most importantly you can take pride in that whatever your story is – it is yours – and that makes it truly magical.
Genealogy, enthusiasm, magic. I think those three words surmise it all.
Now if you will excuse me with all this talk I’m having “cravings” or is it “withdrawal symptoms”? …and must get back to some genealogy work.
Bridget Bray is a self-prescribed genealogy enthusiast, organizer of the New York Irish / British Genealogy Group (www.meetup.com/The-Irish-British-Genealogy-Group/), organizer and founder of The Genealogy Event in NYC (www.thegenealogyevent.com) and a volunteer at the New York Irish Center (www.nyirishcenter.org ). She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org