New: Genealogy and family history course

By May 12, 2018News
Family History - Photo by João Silas

RPCI announces ‘Genealogy and family history course’

Maretta Dillon speaks to Joe McDermott, one of the two course leaders

Joe McDermott is a Local History expert living in Co Mayo and he is very excited about the new two-day ‘Genealogy and family history course’ which is being run by the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland (RPCI). Joe and his fellow trainer, Dora Murphy, want to get people started on researching and writing their family history.

“This is not just pure genealogy with lists of names and dates of birth. I come from a background of writing local history and writing family history,” explains Joe.

“What we’re hoping from the course is that people will end up with the skeleton or the bones of their own story and the be able to write a family history.

For beginners to people at intermediate level

The course is designed for people from beginner to intermediate level. At the end of the course, participants should know about the major sources for Irish Genealogy. They should also be comfortable about researching online sources. The idea is to work backwards from dependable sources to find historical records – from the known to the unknown. They will learn how to:

  • store and save family records like photographs
  • add historical context to their family history
  • make their family history interesting and informative, but still an individual story.

Context is everything

“Usually we do genealogy for ourselves. We want to find out where we came from and to be able to tell others, ‘hey look, at Uncle Martin who fought in the First World War’ or something like that. We might want to give a bit of context – what was it like in the trenches? How did people survive?”

Using the internet is key

On the course, people will learn how to investigate the various online records.

Course includes IT skills

For those who feel they might benefit from a brief overview of the required IT skills, they need not worry.

“Dora is an expert on technology – that’s her role in this. She’s going to do an IT overview early in the morning for anybody who wants to get used to opening files, opening different websites and knowing how to move between them,” says Joe.

Course is divided into chapters

The rest of the course is divided into different chapters or headings looking at:

  • Census information – history of Irish censuses, using the 1901 and 1911 census
  • Griffith’s Valuations – history of Griffith’s Valuation and Ordnance survey maps
  • Tithe Applotment Books – finding and understanding data from these books
  • various Irish records available online including births, deaths and marriages
  • emigration and records about the Irish abroad.

How to find relevant stored information

The second day begins with a recap of the learning from day one. Those taking part in the course then hear about the various places where relevant information is stored in Ireland.  The includes the National Library and National Archives of Ireland. Other places where major records of Irish interest are held include:

  • British Parliamentary Papers
  • Land Records
  • Chief Secretary of Ireland’s Office Registered Papers
  • School and Folklore records.

The course investigates where to find photographs and maps.

The course finishes with a session on Putting It All Together. This will explore:

  • writing your story
  • what format and style might you choose
  • what is the best structure to use for things like chapter headings.

Practical help tracing online information

“I will do the introduction, explain the differences between primary and secondary sources. Let’s say we talk about the census. I will explain census data and where it comes from. And then Dora will say, now folks open your laptops and go to the following sites. She will show them how to use the online sources that are there,” says Joe.

Learning relevant software

“Dora takes participants through the various software programmes that are available like She points out which ones she recommends and how best to access them. Dora will go through software you can download for free and others that you can subscribe to. She will also talk about the DNA profiling that’s available now.”

It’s quite a lot to cover in two days, but Joe stresses that both he and Dora have a lot of experience in the area.

Experienced tutors

“Could I say that myself and Dora have been involved together in running courses here in Mayo. Each of us has also been involved in doing local family research. In 2011, I was involved with the Chambers family here in Newport. They had a get together and we produced a book on their history. Dora has done the same with a place called Ballintubber, which is quite well known among historians because of Ballintubber Abbey. Dora got people together to research their own family histories and put the whole lot together into one production.

“I’ve also taught a Diploma Course in Local History for NUI Maynooth, which included tracing information in Northern Ireland.”

Joe stressses that all through the course there will be opportunities for questions and answers as well as feedback from participants.

Contact us for more information

Each course costs €250 and includes tea or coffee and lunch on both days. The next course will take place in The Retirement Planning Council of Ireland’s training room in Camden Street, Dublin 2 on 12th 13th June 2018. If you are interested in attending a course please contact RPCI on 01 4789471 or email [email protected]