I can't always pursue each request to it's final outcome but usually I can help people make a start and/or suggest new avenues for research. In doing this, I feel connected to the families of our ancestors decimated by the Penal Laws, mass emigration and the Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor). I feel it is important to remember them and acknowledge them. The truth is that but for their sacrifice I wouldn't be here writing to you today.
Our Irish records are not strong before 1864 when records for Catholics begin in the Civil Registration records. It took thirty five years after Catholic Emancipation (1829) for that to happen. Irish Catholics have only been recognised legally as (free) people for one hundred and eighty eight years. This just blows my mind every time I think of it. As a person who grew up in an Irish Catholic family, I would not be recognised legally if I had been born two hundred years ago.
I would be subject to unjust laws which denied me my human rights. I cannot undo the injustice that my ancestors experienced but when I remember them and say their names, I bring a glimmer of justice to them. They are no-longer erased from history.
Now that I have undertaken an autosomal DNA test and a Mitochondrial DNA test, I can push my research back even further and make connections with my previously unknown cousins. Sometimes, together, we can put names to our common ancestors. And what a celebration that is!
There are two specific research projects which are closest to my heart. The first is the work that many genealogy researchers are doing with adopted people. It is sad to know that even today there are Irish citizens who are legally prevented from getting a copy of their own birth certificates. DNA testing has changed all that and is giving their mothers back to adopted people, and in some cases their fathers too. This is justice in action. This research takes a great deal of time (unless the parent has already tested) and involves the co-operation of many people. But to know that I have been a small part in the process, is a mighty thing. I hope in 2018 to see more and more Irish people taking an autosomal DNA test and reaching out to their family members who have been so brutally taken from them. If you decide to take a test in 2018, please remember to attach a family tree to your DNA test results, otherwise it makes the task of finding family difficult, if not impossible. You can find out more about this work here thednadetectives.com/
The second project that is dear to me is the The Beyond Kin Project established in 2016 by Dr. Donna Cox-Baker and Frazine Taylor. Scholars and researchers worldwide contribute the names of enslaved people found in Wills, Probate Records and other documents because enslaved people of colour were not included in Census and Civil records prior to 1870 in the U.S. (Names from other countries are also welcome.) The database grows weekly and is another resource for those of us with African ancestry and/or African American cousins. When we remember them and say their names, this too is justice in action. I am honoured to have contributed 350 names to the project since I joined. I live in Ireland so my contributions are limited to documents found online but my hope is that if researchers google the names handed down through generations of oral history that they will find their families more easily because of our work. It is very easy to contribute to this project. If in the course of your family research you come across the names of enslaved people, you can simply add their names and the source here beyondkin.org/enslaved-populations-research-directory/
I guess it's no surprise when I say that in 2018 I intend to continue on with these research projects. My hope is that some of my research will assist you in your genealogy research and that if you have some spare moments you will contribute your research to one of the projects closest to my heart.
With warm wishes,
Dec 28th 2017
Please note I am not a founding member of either of these projects. All opinions stated are my own.