My name is Shannon McGaffin, I’ve been researching my family tree since 2011 and recently I’ve also started taking private work as well under my business Oracle Genealogy.
What got you into genealogy?
I was presented with 31 Merchant Marine discharge certificates and my dad told me that the man mentioned on them was my great-great grandfather. Initially I wanted to research his merchant navy career but then I wanted to know who he married, who were his parents and it was a snowball effect from that point onwards! Since then I haven’t looked back!
What interesting things have you discovered from your ancestors?
The list gets longer every day! I’ve found a 79 acre cattle farm, some young soldiers, which includes a recipient of the military cross, some newspaper editors, journalists, a campaigner for the rights of Irish tenants, shipyard workers, factory workers and a surgeon in the Royal Navy. I’ve loved hearing first hand tales from my grandparents about their own parents which have created some great blog posts.
Is there any source in your research that you’ve used that usually might be overlooked?
There is a great database for burial records in Belfast that was set up by the City Council and I’ve found it to be a great source over the years
What are you currently focusing on in your research?
For one branch of my paternal side I’ve managed to trace back to my 4x great-grandparents. There are a few people from my paternal side who have been researching the family tree for longer than I have and there had been considerable debate as to who my 5x great-grandparents are. The family rumor is that we can trace our line back to a prominent County Down family and even nobility. Whilst this does seem like a nice thought, I’m remaining skeptical until the sources can prove or disprove otherwise so that is my main focus at the moment with regards to my personal research. I also have a few private cases that need to be worked on as well.
What difficulties have you come across in your research?
With the majority of my ancestry being of Irish descent, going beyond the 19th century has sometimes proven to be a challenge. Also my late grandfather never spoke about who his father was and he has now since passed away so it’s now an even greater challenge.
What advice would you give to people starting out in genealogy?
When it comes to family myths or rumors, always assume nothing until the records can prove or disprove otherwise! However it doesn’t matter how insignificant you think a piece of information might be, always keep it in mind because it could prove to be correct. Another piece of advice would be that be sure this is what you want to do because skeletons will fall out of the cupboard!
Check out Shannon's website at www.oraclegenealogy.com and check her out on social media using the buttons at the start of the interview. (and on Instagram here!)