The Irish Ancestral Research Association

2011 TIARA Meetings

January 13, 2011

John McEneny

The Irish in New York

John McEneny has a degree in history, worked for over a decade as Albany County Historian, and remains involved in issues of archiving historical documents. He is the author or co-author of several non-fiction books, including Albany: Capital City on the Hudson. He directed the 1980 United States Census for the Albany Capital District.

John McEneny spoke of over four hundred years of the history of Albany, and the various waves of immigration and settlement. All eight of his great-grandparents lived and died in Albany, and are buried in the same cemetery. He mentioned John McArdle and his cemetery monument, and McEneny's interest in who he was. McArdle was one of the Americans who invaded Nicaragua during 1855-56 with Walker's Army, an interesting and little-known episode in American history. In addition to the state library and archives, he recommended The New York State Military Museum as a research source.

February 12, 2011

Susan Steele and Joanne Riley

Foresters' Records: Tribulations, Triumphs and Treasures!

The speakers were Susan Steele, Director of the TIARA Foresters Project, and Joanne Riley, the Archivist at the Healey Library. As the Foresters Project reaches several important milestones, Susan summarized its history and showed some of the fascinating records found in this collection. Over 50 TIARA volunteers have worked over the past 6 years, indexing and preserving these Insurance Death Claims, which start in the year 1879. Joanne Riley gave a tour of the University Archives and Special Collections at the Joseph P. Healey Library.

March 19, 2011

Irish Genealogy Seminar

Jointly with the New England Historic Genealogical Society
held at NEHGS, 100 Newbury St., Boston, MA

This event was sold out well in advance. The attendees certainly enjoyed the eight lectures on Irish research from a number of experts. During registration, Erin Mullins played the harp to set the mood. A fine continental breakfast buffet was laid out for the enjoyment of all, before the lectures began. The program below describes each of the talks, and the speakers.

9:00am - 9:30am: Onsite Check-in and Continental Breakfast

9:30am - 10:30am:

Track 1: Problem Solving in Irish Genealogy (Marie Daly) This lecture will focus on identifying some of the frequent brick walls that we encounter as we search for our Irish roots. These brick walls include the lack of records, indexing errors in online databases, the commonness of Irish surnames, the poverty of our ancestors, and under-registration in public records. The lecture will present some research strategies, using examples from past research cases, to get over these brick walls.

Track 2: What You Need to Know Before You Go (Janis Duffy)Many Americans go to Ireland to find their roots without having done the prerequisite research in the US. In this lecture Janis explains steps that are needed to prepare for a research trip to Ireland. She tells about US sources and describes how to access them.

11:00am - 12:00pm

Track 1: Preparing for Your Research Trip to Ireland (Marie Daly)Many people travel to Ireland hoping to find their Irish roots only to discover that they have not sufficiently prepared their genealogies to find their origins. By first researching in North American and Irish records available in the United States, the traveler to Ireland can focus their efforts on resources unavailable elsewhere. This lecture will review the steps needs to determine origin in Ireland and will highlight the Irish resources available in North America.

Track 2: Irish Civil Registration and Census (Eileen O'Duill) Two record groups, civil records of births, marriages and deaths and census returns for 1901 and 1911 are the starting place for many people researching in Ireland. In this lecture, Eileen provides an introduction to these very important resources and illustrates how they compliment each other.

12:00pm - 1:30pm: Lunch on Your Own

1:30pm - 2:30pm:

Track 1: Irish Resources Online (Judith Lucey)The Irish have made great strides in transcribing and digitizing records in recent years. Many records and resources previously unavailable to family historians are now at our fingertips. Find out what records are online and how you can access some of your Irish family history without leaving home!

Track 2: Mrs. Fancy Tart is Coming to Tea: Making Sense of Family Stories (Eileen O'Duill) and The Language Your Ancestors Spoke: Appreciating Irish [Gaelic] (Sean O'Duill) Family stories handed down through generations but can get garbled and confusing in the telling. In this lecture, Eileen shares some family stories with a message about processing information without having to contradict your granny. During the second part, Sean O'Duill will discuss Irish (Gaeilge), a Goidelic language, spoken in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia. Irish is constitutionally recognized as the first official language of the Republic of Ireland. Many emigrants from Ireland were Irish speakers and corresponded with the family at home in their native tongue.

3:00pm - 4:00pm

Track 1: Irish Resources at NEHGS (Judith Lucey) Don't think you can research your Irish ancestry at NEHGS? Come and discover the extensive collection of Irish resources available in our library. We'll demonstrate how you can use these resources for your own family research by using two case studies.

Track 2: Matchmaking and Marriage customs in 19th Century Ireland (Sean O'Duill) Family history researchers are discovering the study of folklore and the traditions of their people. In this lively and very entertaining lecture, Sean O'Duill communicates the traditions of the Irish, explaining traditions which were brought to America by the immigrants and still live in the memory of Americans today.

About the Speakers:

Marie Daly joined the staff of NEHGS in 1987 as Business Manager, then became Chief Financial Officer in 1998, and was named Director of Library Services in 2002. She received a B.S. from Northeastern University and an MPH from Boston University. In her spare time, Marie traces her Irish ancestors. She is the past president and co-founder of TIARA (the Irish Ancestral Research Association) and has been researching, lecturing, and writing about Irish genealogy since 1976. She is particularly interested in old Irish graveyards and has transcribed the tombstone inscriptions in several Irish cemeteries in the Boston area.

Janis Duffy is a well know genealogist with a great deal of experience. She is the former research supervisor at the Massachusetts Archives at Columbia Point and is now the librarian at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Janis is a past president of TIARA and has directed several successful research trips to Ireland. In April she will be speaking at the NERGC conference in Springfield.

Judith Lucey joined the NEHGS staff in 2003. She received a B.S. in Education from Northeastern University and an M.S. in Library and Information Science from Simmons College. Her genealogical interests include Irish genealogy, Newfoundland, 19th and 20th century genealogy, Beginning genealogy, Italian genealogy, and the history of Cambridge and Somerville, Mass. A native of the Boston area, she currently resides in Somerville, Mass.

Eileen O'Duill, BA, MA holds certificates in Advanced and Contemporary Genealogy and is a Certified Genealogist. Elieen was born in the United States of Irish parents and emigrated to Ireland in 1974 where she met and married Sean O'Duill. In 1990 she was able to turn a lifelong interest in genealogy into a career of research and teaching. Her unique perspective can give American researchers special insights into their Irish heritage.

Sean O'Duill BA, H Dip is a fluent Irish speaker from Louisburg, Co. Mayo. He is well known as a lecturer and writer on Irish folklore. His talks on folklore are of great interest to Irish family historians. Sean and Eilleen function as O'Duill Associates in Dublin. They can be reached through their website, Heirs Ireland.

April 16, 2011

Writer's Conference

Held at Cape Cod Community College

The theme was to get inspired to write a family history. Speakers were Leslie Huber and Steve Chidester. The full description and registration form can be seen by clicking here.

May 20, 2011

Kathleen Williams

Resources at Boston College

Kathleen Williams, Irish Studies Librarian at Boston College, gave a presentation about the use of the on-line databases at Boston College. Using the browser, she showed the Holmes and Quest search engines. Boston College has a very large collection of Irish history and genealogy material, which can be accessed either on-line or at one of the campus libraries: the Burns Library, the Bapst Art Library, or the O'Neill Library.

The Burns Library is home to more than 250,000 volumes, some 16,000,000 manuscripts and important collections of architectural records, maps, art works, newspapers, photographs, films, prints, artifacts and ephemera. The Irish Collection at Burns is widely regarded as one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind outside Ireland. The O'Neill Library holds 1.4 million volumes of the Boston College Libraries research collections in a broad range of subjects. The Libguide to Irish Genealogy (Irish Studies) is helpful in getting started with the Irish collection.

Start your on-line visit at Look for the links to "Help by Subject", then "Irish Studies". Kathleen gave a selection of suggested resources that are free, on-line, and with open access:

Kathleen also suggested basic keyword searches to do in the Quest database:

Some subject searches to perform are
Kerry(Ireland) - history
_______(Ireland) - history (Fill in county, city, or town of interest).

June 11, 2011

Dr. Ruth-Ann Harris

Dr. Sally Sommers Smith

The Eagle and the Harp: the Enterprising Byrne Brothers of County Monaghan

along with Cynthia Cathcart

Christopher Byrne, a Irish-born man from Minnesota who served in the Civil War, discovered an article in a New York newspaper reporting on a concert given in Ireland by his long-lost brother, Patrick, the last of the great Irish harpers. Each brother, in his own way, found success in life; Christopher survived the war, which he describes in a letter to his brother, to become a successful farmer, and Patrick was honored by Queen Victoria to become the official harper to the Crown.

Dr. Ruth-Ann Harris, Professor of Irish Studies at Boston College, presented the story of Christopher's life in America, and of his finding his brother. Patrick was almost forty years older, a product of the first of three marriages. Christopher's letter to Patrick was saved inside Patrick's harp after his death. A transcription of the letter is available from Dr. Harris.

Dr. Sally Sommers Smith, a Boston University College of General Studies associate professor of natural sciences, is an expert on Irish music, and has researched Patrick Byrne.and his life. Patrick was influential in bringing Irish harp music to the public in the 1840's. He was renowned for his skill, and may have also been a composer. He was the subject of some of the first photographs taken of an Irish harpist, which were shown by Dr Sommers Smith. A podcast about Byrne can be downloaded by clicking here.

In the audience was a harpist who was in town to perform at the Gaelic Harp Conference at the Boston Conservatory. Cynthia Cathcart had traveled from Washington Dc to play the wire-strung Irish harp. She discussed the use of brass strings, silver strings, and even gold strings to produce different qualities of sound. She played one of her tunes from her CD on the iPad to demonstrate the sound. She recommended the web site for more information. Her CDs can be purchased on her web site, She can be reached by email at

September 10, 2011

Dr. Ruth-Ann Harris
Professor of Irish Studies at Boston College

The Famine Irish in Boston

Stories of the Famine Irish in Boston are well-represented in the "Missing Friends" column of the Boston Pilot newspaper. The citizens of Boston prided themselves on their generosity to those in need. One story witnessing to this generosity was in their outfitting a government ship, the Jamestown, in 1847, with supplies for the Famine sufferers. Despite the stipulation of Congress that no immigrants were to be taken on board for its return voyage, five individuals reported to have arrived on the Jamestown were sought through the "Missing Friends" column.

The Pilot played an important role in educating new immigrants about their rights in America. One of the best of these stories is of the Eliot School case which became a cause celebre after the Pilot took up the cause of young Tommy Whall who insisted on reading from his Catholic Bible rather than the Protestant King James version as dictated by the school. The resulting court case reverberated around the country, demonstrating to often-downtrodden immigrants that they had rights in this new country.

October 1, 2011

Walter Hickey

USCIS- Genealogy Program: "A Files" and More

This meeting was held at the National Archives in Waltham, MA. Walter V. Hickey is an archives specialist in the National Archives and Records Administration - Northeast Region (Boston) and has previously worked in the Pittsfield branch of the Northeast Region. He is a frequent lecturer to genealogical organizations throughout New England.

Records of the United States Citizen Immigraton Services are an untapped resource that may offer information on your relative's hometown in Ireland, life here in the U.S., and possibly a photograph. These records cover approximately 1906 - 1953. TIARA favorite Walter Hickey of the National Archives will update us on his latest research. You are welcome to come early and do research at NARA.

November 19, 2011

Kevin O'Hara

A Lucky Irish Lad

This talk was given by author and storyteller Kevin O'Hara on A Lucky Irish Lad.

Kevin O'Hara recreated his boyhood with these wonderful stories of growing up in Massachusetts in the 1950s and 60s as one of eight children. His parents, born in Ireland, came to this country for their children's sake. His family struggled against grinding poverty but they never gave up and never lost their faith that God had a plan for them.

Kevin learned the lessons of making do and making things last, and what the true riches of the world are: good health and the love of a united family. All these lessons grounded him as he reached adulthood, and was sent off to fight in wilds of Vietnam as a reluctant soldier.

This book will tug at your heart and make you cry tears of both sorrow and joy. It is a story about the Irish-American experience but it is much more -- it's the story of a generation growing up in the shadow of the Second World War and the start of a new age of hope and promise, a time when people believed that anything was possible as long as you dared to dream and had faith in yourself.

Kevin spoke to us about his previous book, The Last of the Donkey Pilgrims in June, 2010.

December 9, 2011

David Allen Lambert

Researching Your Union Civil War Ancestors: A Roll Call of Resources

This talk was given in honor of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and the 150,000 Irish Americans who fought for the Union.

David Allen Lambert is the "Online Genealogist" for The New England Historic Genealogical Society, and has appeared on the PBS show History Detectives. He is the author of many genealogical articles and the book A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries (2009) David has been a Civil War re-enactor for the 12th Massachusetts Infantry. He is a Life Member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati, and Massachusetts Sons of the Revolution. He specializes in New England, Maritime Canadian, and British research and military records.

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