1. Introduce yourself
My name is David Ryan. I am a researcher based just outside of Cork city. I specialise primarily in helping people find their Cork ancestors, although I do research for other parts of the country if asked. Outside of genealogy I work with the Cork Folklore Project, an oral history project in Cork city.
2. What got you into genealogy?
I always had an interest in my own family history and like any Irish person would always be hearing stories of how we were related to the various people we met whenever visiting relatives. I've also always had a love for history. I only began to really take it seriously when I was working as a tour guide in an historic church in Cork which is now an arts centre. Occasionally people would contact us asking about records for ancestors who had a connection to the church. Eventually I decided that I should learn how to do this research rather than referring people elsewhere.
3. What interesting things have you discovered about your ancestors?
With my own ancestors I learned about how both sides of my family were impacted by the aftermath of the Great Famine and the Land War that came afterwards. While neither family had to face being evicted they still had to live through some very difficult and turbulent times. One of my great great grandfathers lived to be nearly 100 and through his life would have experienced events from the 1850s through to the War of Independence and even Ireland becoming a Republic in the late 1940s. Studying the lives of my ancestors has given me a fresh perspective on these events.
4. Is there any source in your research that you've used that usually might be overlooked?
One source I always like referencing but which is often overlooked is the National Folklore Collection (Duchas.ie). The folklore in their collection is more than just stories and old customs. It can provide a valuable insight into what was happening in the parishes where our ancestors were from. For the schools collection (collected by primary school children in the 1930s) you might also find an ancestor or one of their relatives who was a collector or informant. It's very easy to get distracted reading the stories collected. Plus they also have a collection of old photos which are freely available to browse.
5. What are you currently focusing on in your research?
My current research is mainly on the oral histories I work with in the Cork Folklore Project. There is so much fascinating detail when you sit down to record a persons story. Not only will they tell you about their own life experiences but they often have stories they inherited from their parents and grandparents. I'm hoping to write a few articles on how oral histories can be a useful resource for genealogy.
6. What difficulties have you come across in your research?
The main difficulty I have found in my research is the same frustration most Irish researchers have when trying to trace people back before the 1850s. We have so few surviving records because of the 1922 Public Records Office fire and often those that do survive lack a lot of detail.
7. What advice would you give to people starting out in genealogy?
My advice for anyone starting out in genealogy is to be patient. You won't find all the answers right away and there will probably be plenty of brick walls, false leads and any number of other setbacks. Even veteran genealogists with decades of experience run into these problems.
Please do check out David's blog here and follow him on Twitter here as well! Stay tuned for more everyone!