Since 2013, renowned genealogist Donna Moughty has brought a group of family historians to Ireland to research. The trip is actually two consecutive trips, back-to-back, in Belfast and in Dublin. It’s an opportunity to explore Irish archives, libraries and repositories, led by someone who knows their way around. Donna also brings in local experts, to act as specialist guides to some of the lesser known repositories.
In 2016 the Research Trip is in Belfast (October 9-15), and in Dublin (October 16-23).
Fiona: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself, and why you chose to specialise in Irish research?
Donna Moughty: My business career was in sales and marketing, as a Regional Sales Manager for Apple Computer. I became interested in genealogy in the early 1990s when my oldest daughter, Sarah, had an independent study project and decided to find out about the Moughty name. The name is unusual and comes from a small area on the border of Longford and Westmeath. (Just so you don’t think I have it easy, I also have Daly, Martin and King families.)
There are only two families in the US with the Moughty name. It happened that Apple had a Sales Club trip to Ireland that year, so Sarah and I spent a week traveling around Ireland and made our first connection to the Moughtys in Longford.
All four of my husband’s grandparents were 20th Century immigrants: from Westmeath, Mayo, Monaghan and Down (all Catholic). My grandmother was born in Donegal (her family was from northern Leitrim) and I have a great grandfather from Down (both Presbyterian). My daughter got an A on her project and I got hooked on genealogy!
Fiona: Your Research Trip to Ireland has turned into an almost annual event. Can you tell our readers your stand-out experiences from previous years?
Donna: The standout experiences are the “ah ha” moments that participants have when they find something special…a lease signed by a 2nd great grandfather or an old hand drawn map displaying an ancestor’s business. Another wonderful experience is when relatives that the participants have never met, arrive for a visit.
Fiona: Can you describe a typical day for anyone that takes part in the Research Trip to Ireland?
Donna: Participants receive an Orientation to the major repositories by their staff and begin their research. Prior to the trip, each has received a consultation with recommendations for their research so they are prepared to hit the ground running. Anyone needing to visit the GRO can do so on multiple days to pick up their 8 certificates. I’ll also arrange for special visits such as to the Representative Church Body Library, the Catholic Library, or the Dublin Public Library if appropriate. After a day of research, the participants will usually meet in the lobby of the hotel and group up for dinner.
Fiona: Do you have a favourite Irish archive/ repository / source that you like to bring your group to?
Donna: I think the favorite is the Valuation Office. Working in the Revision Books allows the participants to follow the property where their ancestors lived until the point of emigration or death. Some are even able to follow the property until the 1970s finding living relatives they didn’t know about! Almost everyone finds something there.
Fiona: Is it all research, or do your group get a chance to sight-see and experience Irish culture?
Donna: The trip is focused on research, but hopefully the participants get to experience the culture as well. In the past, I have arranged for a Historical Walking Tour of Dublin on Sunday afternoon (for those who can push through the time change from the States). I also arrange for tickets to Back To Our Past which typically falls at the end of the week his year. I’m excited this year to have everyone visit EPIC and the Irish Family History Centre in Dublin, and I’m working on a trip for the Belfast group to the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh with time at the Mellon Library there. I encourage people to spend some time after the research trip visiting the areas where their ancestors lived.
Fiona: Dublin and Belfast are exciting cosmopolitan cities – can you tell us what you and your group most enjoy?
Donna: One of the things I like about both is that they are great for walking. We walk everywhere! And the choice of restaurants is great…choose any cuisine, or pop into a pub. In Dublin we stay at Buswells, across the street from the National Library and the National Museum. In Belfast we stay at the Premier Inn, across the street from PRONI in the Titanic Quarter. Since there is not much going on there in the evenings, we usually walk across the bridge into downtown Belfast for dinner.
Fiona: What level does someone have to be at, to sign up for your Irish Research Trip?
Donna: The key thing is that the person needs to know a location, hopefully a parish or townland, but at least a county. The second thing is some additional information about the family such as parents’ names and siblings. Without some corroborating detail, they won’t be able to determine which Michael Daly or John Sullivan is theirs. As part of the consultation, I’ll let them know if I don’t think they’re ready to make the trip.
Fiona: What’s your top tip for anyone researching Irish family history?
Donna: Location, Location, Location! Unless you have a really unusual name (like mine) you’re going to have to do your homework.
You need to search all the records your ancestor left in their country of emigration (and not just online records). Roman Catholic church records are considered private in the US and typically you won’t be able to view them. You’ll need to request the information from the church (and send a donation). Always ask for everything in the record because if there is information in the Register and no blank on the form you won’t get the information unless you ask. Sometimes a priest would not marry a couple without a proof of their baptism and that possibly will be noted in the record.
I have a copy of a letter that was pinned into a marriage register in NY with the details of the bride’s baptism from the parish priest in Ireland naming the parish, the parents and sponsors.
If you don’t find the information on your ancestor, then expand your search to siblings, parents, witnesses, and neighbors to see if they left the information. I once found a place in Ireland four generations removed from the immigrant on a collateral line.