Be not afraid step away from the screen!.

A couple of tips ago Carmel wrote about how an index reference is no substitute for viewing the document itself. My tip this week is in a similar vein.

With the ongoing digitisation of genealogical and historical material it can sometimes feel like all the records we need are at our finger tips, only a mouse-click away. The most recent example being the National Library of Ireland’s digitisation of its parish register holdings (

While the ongoing digitisation of records is welcome and helps foster this belief, the reality, unfortunately, is that while a vast amount of research is possible online there still comes a point at which online resources are finite and a physical repository needs to be accessed in order to search potentially relevant records.

Those who have attempted research in the pre-19th Century period will most likely already be acutely aware of this fact, as the predominance of online records (for Ireland at least) cover the 19th and early 20th Century period.

From working in the Genealogy Advisory Service in the NLI I’ve become aware of a trend among some tracing their ancestors. Give them any online resource and they’ll happily spend hours exploring it, but suggest using one of the main repositories and all of a sudden alarm bells start going off and a reluctance begins to creep in.

I do understand why people are reluctant to engage with the larger repositories, to the uninitiated they can be daunting places with strange procedures and rules, populated by researchers who appear to be so in tune with their surroundings they almost seem part of them.

Yet it is important to remember that every one of those researchers has at some point been the “newbie” learning the intricacies and peculiar customs of the places in which they now look so at ease.

So take that first step, plan a visit and see what new discoveries you can make.

By Eneclann Research Expert,

Stephen Peirce,

Discover your family history.

Hire Us