Using Irish road and tourist signs as a Rosetta stone

You know you are in a different country when you fail to understand all of the content of road signs.  Fortunately most are in both English and Irish Gaelic, so navigation adventures of my trip to the Clans and Surnames Family History Conference in Nenagh, County Tipperary last week were not due signage.

Silvermines nature trail

Silvermines nature trail

I photographed a selection of signs once I had parked the car.  On a walk around Silvermines, a small village a few miles from Nenagh, I found a nature trail, a National Looped Walk or Lúb Náisiúnta, so learned some names of local wildlife and features.

Silvermine Trailhead Sign

Silvermine Trailhead Sign

Irish English
Colm Coille Woodpigeon
An Spideog Robin
Smólach Ceoil Song Thrush
Buíóg Yellowhammer
Droichead Bridge
Eidhneán Ivy
Ailleán Painted Lady Butterfly
Broc Badger
Fia Rua Red Deer
Druid Starling
Mhóna Riabhóg Meadow Pipit
Eaglais Church
gnáthóg fiáin Wildflower habitat
National School, Nenagh

National School, Nenagh

Single word signs give a direct translation, but where there are more words it isn’t obvious what each word means.  Walking around Nenagh, I photographed some more signs and made a bit more progress.  I heard about national schools during the conference, so the word for national, náisiúnta, appears in both on the trailhead sign and the school in Nenagh.

Nenagh Abbey on Abbey Street or sráid na mainistreach

Nenagh Abbey on Abbey Street or sráid na mainistreach

Mitchel Street

From sráid na mainistreach for Abbey Street and sráid an mhistéalaigh for Mitchel Street, I can deduce that sráid means street and mainistreach means abbey, but I am not sure what the difference is between the prepositions na and an.

Nenagh Courthouse

Nenagh Courthouse

Nenagh Castle Tourist Information

Nenagh Castle Tourist Information

The sign outside Nenagh Courthouse reads ‘teach cúirte an aonaigh’ and the information board at Nenagh Castle is headed ‘Caisleán an Aonaigh’, so the Irish form of Nenagh is Aonaigh.  One of complexities of Irish genealogy is navigating the geography in both English and Irish.

Nenagh Castle

Nenagh Castle

This was my first visit to Ireland, so I have much to learn.  I am only beginning to connect written Irish with how the words are pronounced by native Irish speakers.  A week ago, I had no idea how to pronounce Portlaoise, the venue for Clans and Surnames 2018.


© Sue Adams 2017

Tutoring in Tipperary at the Clans and Surnames Irish Genealogy Program


Lough Derg, near Nenagh, Tipperary


I will spend the next week, the 15 – 19 May 2017, tutoring at the Clans and Surnames Irish Family History Research Program in Nenagh, Tipperary, Ireland.

So, why would an English researcher pay attention to Irish Family History, and what skills do I offer?

The two countries have connections going back many centuries.  The complex and often difficult relationship between England and Ireland has been marked by conquests and rebellions, most notably in Norman, Tudor, Stuart periods (from my English viewpoint), with the whole of Ireland under English rule between 1801 and 1922.  In consequence, records of Irish people are in English archives and vice versa.

Comparison of how two countries deal with common issues is a fruitful way of understanding the administrative and legal systems of both countries.  My particular interest in land and property records is about to be expanded, and I am sure I can offer insights to attendees.

Research methods and skills are not restricted to any one location.  My higher education has prepared me to apply a broad range of techniques to genealogical research problems.

Most of all, I anticipate an adventure!

It’s time for WDYTYA?Live 2017

With so many options of workshops and talks happening this year at Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE, I put them into a Google calendar to help plan my time. The data comes from the official website, with a few extra mini-talks on stand no 2, the Register of Qualified Genealogists, added. In previous years, other exhibitors like FindMyPast, FamilySearch and The National Archives have had presentations, but these are not publicised so I can’t include them on my calendar.

I colour coded events according to workshop programme and cost. Purple entries are the Society of Genealogist Workshops in theatres 1, 2 and 3, which cost £3 on the day. Green are the free SOG Wokshops in the Education Zone. Turquiose are The Genealogist workshops, yellow are the Family Tree DNA workshops, and pink are the Register of Qualified Genealogists mini-talks.  It looks like this from my google account:


Here is the embeded calendar, which looses my colour coding.

Alternatively you can download the calendar to any application that accepts the ical format.  Please feel free to experiment.

In Google calendar I can add meetings with colleagues, highlight which talks I want to attend and set reminders.

My calendar will not adapt to any changes in schedule, as I will be busy at the show.  Would you like the show organisers to provide the data for download into your choice of software?

My personal contributions will be as one of the ‘Ask the Experts’ on Thursday 6 April between 12 pm and 2 pm, and a 10 minute mini-talk entitled ‘Cracking the Code – Old Handwriting Deciphered’ on the Register of Qualified Genealogists stand on Saturday 8 April at 11 am.

Acceptance as an AGRA member

I am very pleased to annouce that I have been accepted as a full member of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives, known as AGRA.

AGRA was established in 1968 for professional researchers in the British Isles.  The application required me to submit evidence of my genealogical knowledge and competence in genealogical practice in England and Wales. I demonstrated my skills through academic qualfications, samples of client work and an interview that included some searching questions.  As a member I am obliged to abide by AGRA’s Code of Practice.


Can you read this word?


This image is an extract from a property deed dated 1769.  Can you read this word?

Some letters are familiar, so start with them.  Which letters can you make out? My guess is p, a and s are easy enough.


Maybe you can see the g as well.


There is an e in there, but it isn’t quite the same as we write nowadays.


The two remaining letters are different forms of the same letter.  You have already read a third form of the letter. The letter is s. See it now?


I will be exhibiting this deed at the Cambridgeshire Family and Local History Fair this Saturday (22 October 2016) at Girton Glebe Primary School, Girton, Cambridge, CB3 0PN from 10am to 4pm.  Come along and find out more about reading old handwriting.





Proportion of holdings listed in online archive catalogues #AskAnArchivist

Last week, the 5th of October was #AskAnArchivist day.  I posed this question to 9 archive Twitter accounts from Britain and Ireland:

What proportion of your holdings are in your online catalogue?

I thank them all for responding and openly sharing.  One failed to answer the question and another doesn’t have an online catalogue.  The rest ranged between 10% and 98%.

Now think about the implications for genealogists and family historians.

You may need to ask whether there are un-catalogued, but relevant, holdings at a particular archive.

In the current climate of austerity, it is fabulous that some archives have managed to catalogue a high proportion of holdings online.  However, some archives are very badly under-resourced, so it would be unfair to berate those who have not yet achieved excellence.

I specifically asked about online catalogues, because these are accessible to researchers everywhere.  Several respondents commented on upgrading paper and card catalogues, and finding aids being a priority.  Partial catalogue listing of collections or fonds is helpful, but researchers really want each item to be described.

For anyone who wants to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @sue_familyfolk .



Cracking the Code – Old Handwriting Deciphered

Over the last few weeks I’ve reminded you that the Suffolk Family History Fair will come to The Suffolk University, Waterfront Building Neptune Quay, Ipswich IP4 1QJ on 24 September 2016.


Family Folk will be there.  The 3 items shown above are connected to the theme of this year’s exhibit: Old Handwriting Deciphered.  Come along and find out what the connections are.

Carbon copies and DNA


The Human Genome Project completed mapping the DNA sequence that contains all the information needed to build a human body in 2003.  Since then, DNA testing has come within the reach of family historians, requiring just a sample of body cells.

The DNA molecule is made up of two strands of complimentary base pairs that fit together like a zip. DNA is replicated by unzipping its two strands and making a new partner strand for each original strand, producing an indentical copy.  The instructions contained in the sequence of base pairs are copied much like carbon paper can replicate a list of names.  Mutations happened when the copying process is not perfect.

DNA is not kept as a simple string within our cells.  It is packaged up into chromosomes and each package keeps a selection of instructions together, a bit like binding the pages of a book.

When ordinary body cells divide to produce 2 new cells, two sets of complete chromosomes are copied to each cell, a process called mitosis. The book analogy is that each cell gets a complete book with identical pages.

Making a new person is a little more complicated than growing and dividing ordinary cells.  When egg and sperm cells are created, through a process called meiosis, only half of the DNA goes to each cell. The process is complicated further, with mixing of parts of the DNA.  Each human embryo, made by combining an egg and sperm, gets half of it’s DNA from each parent, in a unique mix.  Using the book analogy again pages are swapped between books.

Understanding these processes is critical to interpreting DNA test results.  Dr Maurice Gleeson will explain how DNA test results can assist family history research at the Suffolk Family History Fair on 24 September.  See you there?

Growing Roots, or what my grandmother taught me


My gran taught me to crochet when I was a teenager.  While wielding her crochet hook, she talked about her youth, siblings, growing up in Birmingham between the 1910s and 1930s, and the courtship on a tandem that lead to her marrying grandad.  That started the growth of my family history roots.  This year the Suffolk Family History Fair theme is Grow Your Roots.  See you in Ipswich on 24 September 2016?

Suffolk Family History Fair – 24 September 2016

Family Folk will return to Ipswich for the Suffolk Family History Fair on 24 September.  Hold the date, and watch this space for further annoucements.  In the meantime, this image is a teaser for what Family Folk will be up to.