The County Clare Library has an outstanding website and accompanying forum for all topics genealogy related. Until very recently, there have been few resources available online to research our Clare ancestors, but the library has really done a great job at making records accessible and filling that hole. You can visit the website here: http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/genealogy/genealog.htm. In addition to the wealth of resources available on the site (and those awesome maps!!), the genealogy forum is a great way to connect with fellow genealogists who have made it their passion to study their Clare ancestors. Their expertise is something we expats can certainly benefit from, especially when it comes to planning a trip to Ireland where we hope to have the experience of connecting with our past.
An excellent post written by Paddy Casey and posted to the “Clare Past” Forum puts in plain language just what we can do to make our visit to Clare more productive and rewarding. You can read his post, entitled “Check-list and Tips for Family Historians Intending to Visit Clare” here: http://www.ourlibrary.ca/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1548&sid=8ad4ee951b76670ebc1cce6dc98f704a
Mr. Casey gives a very useful overview of what resources are available for research, what to pack for the trip, what to wear, where to find wifi connections, how to hire a car, etc, but I think the most important part of his guide is the section on “bungee” family historians. His point about the genealogist who is accustomed to instant gratification is well taken. Living in the age of the internet, we are very used to getting the “answers” to our family questions by plugging information into a blank form and then hitting the “search” button. Many of today’s family historians started doing their research only after the debut of Ancestry.com, and so are not prone to the patience genealogists of old were known to possess. Anyone who remembers combing through un-indexed family history tomes, cranking endless rolls of microfilm on manual machines, risking severe eyestrain while perusing the New York State census records for any urban area, or waiting by their mailbox for that vital record to arrive from a distant clerk’s office is still impressed with the “ease” we have today when it comes to researching our family.
Sometimes, however, there is the most to gain by slowing down and “smelling the roses”. The point is to really settle into the slower pace of life in rural Clare, indeed anywhere in Ireland. Remember, this is the place your ancestors came from, so it’s worth it to take a little time and let the experience sink into you. Allow yourself the luxury of a cup of tea (or a pint!) and a chat with the oldest person in the village- the Irish have a strong oral tradition and are known for their story-telling abilities. Often the family history is not written down or entered anywhere, but is stored on the hard-drive of someone’s brain who knew the people and lived through the events. Knowledge like that is disappearing quickly. How many times have we wondered how differently our research would be going if we had only asked the questions while people were still around to answer them? Now is your chance to do just that.