From Ireland’s Genealogical Gazette (August 2020) by Genealogical Society of Ireland
New Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy
The publication by the Clearfield Company; Baltimore, Maryland, of the ‘New Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy‘ by Brian Mitchell is a very welcome and timely addition to the published resources for Irish family history.
This well known and much respected guide has been completed revamped and enlarged to meet the needs of researchers delving into archival records at libraries and other repositories and, of course: online.
The guide is divided into sections like, ‘Background and Getting Started’, ‘Major Sources and Other Record Sources’. Each of these sections will familiarize the reader with the sources available. Setting the scene: letting you see the lay of the land—an overview of what you can access in your quest for those sometimes elusive ancestors.
Brian Mitchell has provided case studies to accompany the information on many of the sources. This is a very useful and effective way of bringing the researcher through the process, step by step, in order to achieve the best results for time, effort and accuracy. This allows for a more thorough understanding of the source and, crucially, in the case of Irish resources, their limitations. Most records were not created with the genealogist in mind and therefore, they may seem to be of little use and frustrating to navigate.
By using case studies, this guide can more easily explain the strategies and research tips that are essential if you are to get the best out of your research. Brian Mitchell, a Fellow of this Society, provides invaluable insights into the resources and the most appropriate methodologies to utilise for each.
This 122 page guide is available for US$25.00 from www.genealogical.com and highly recommended.
From The Septs (Journal of The Irish Genealogical Society International) | Volume 41, Number 3, July 2020
Brian Mitchell’s New Guide to Irish Genealogy
The best sources of information on Irish genealogy are experienced Irish genealogists. Brian Mitchell, chief genealogist of County Derry, Northern Ireland, is proof of this. And he willingly shares his expertise.
His newly updated New Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy includes the tag line, “an indispensable tool for tracing ancestors in Ireland”. The tone throughout the book is friendly and informative. This thin — a mere 122 pages — book offers an introduction to researching family history in Ireland with case studies and research advice to guide the family historian along the way. In this edition, Mitchell emphasizes (features) online access to the traditional Irish record sources.
When Mitchell wrote the original guide in 1991 the only means of access to record sources was through examination of the original or of microfilm copies of historical sources in Irish record offices. In the preface to this guide, he affirms that his basic premise for Irish family history research “has remained unchanged since I first started working in 1982: that the examination of seven major records will throw quite detailed light on most peoples’ Irish ancestry.”
Mitchell takes the reader through the use of his significant seven resources:
- Civil and church registers
- Gravestone inscriptions
- 1901 and 1911 census returns
- Tithe Applotment
He includes discussion of other related record sources, including newspapers, school registers, 17th and 18th century census substitutes, military records, workhouse records, estate records and the Registry of Deeds. These offer the reader additional options to pursue in researching ancestors.
The final section of the book (titled Insights and Strategies) provides an overview of topics related to Irish family history research:
Irish placenames — an introduction to Irish administrative divisions;
Surnames — their sources, variants, and distributions;
Irish passenger lists;
the use of DNA and genetics in Irish genealogy.
I see two areas for improvement: in spite of the title of this book, and due to its size (8″ x 10″) it is not going to fit into the average pocket — though its slim nature does lend to slipping it into a folder or laptop case; and, secondly, it lacks an index. Mitchell mentions many valuable resources throughout the book, some in relation to his significant resources. Yet once or twice I temporarily lost sight of one of these side-mentioned items. An index would have helped me find that specific record source when seeking it later.
The general format of this book works well both as an introduction to process for Irish family history research (using the author’s seven basic resources) and as an overview/ review for experienced researchers. Ever the Irish storyteller, Mitchell offers a combination of sound genealogical advice and research tips with a few specific case studies. He incorporates illustrations of examples and records throughout the book and suggests other resources to investigate to learn more. With the revisions in this edition, specifically his directions to relevant and appropriate websites, Mitchell provides the key for Irish family historians.
Overall, reading Brian Mitchell’s book, New Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy, is almost a conversation with this well-informed author. It’s an introduction for new Irish family researchers — friendly and encouraging in tone, simple and unpretentious in presentation. The guide is short enough to re-read upon occasion to revisit or locate the information seen earlier. It’s a great addition to a personal research collection.
NEW Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy
Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Company, 2020
Genealogical Publishing Company