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FC 91 Tracing Your Irish Ancestors with John Grenham

This week on Fieldstone Common our featured guest is John Grenham, the author of the book Tracing Your Irish Ancestors. The Northeast has the highest concentration of Irish ancestry in the United States and with the help of John and his book we are going to get you started digging into your past.

Bio – John Grenham

John Grenham writes the ‘Irish Roots’ column in The Irish Times and runs the Irish Times Irish Ancestors website. He is a fellow of The Irish Genealogical Research Society and The Genealogical Society of Ireland. John came to professional genealogy in 1981, as one Tracing Your Irish Ancestors with John Grenham on Fieldstone Commonof the panel of researchers in the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland. As in-house researcher for that Office in 1990-91, he was instrumental in setting up the Consultation Service, the forerunner of the current Genealogical Advisory Services in the National Library and National Archives and was a founder member of The Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland in 1986. Among his publications are Clans and Families of Ireland (1995), Generations (1996), ‘The Genealogical Office and its Records’ in The Genealogical Office (1999), Grenham’s Irish Recordfinder (CD-ROM) (1995-2006), Grenham’s Irish Surnames (CD-ROM, 2003) and numerous articles and columns in the UK magazine Your Family Tree. His website is www.johngrenham.com.

Book Summary

This new 4th edition of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors retains the familiar structure of previous editions but is now more useful than ever. Combining the key features of a textbook and a reference book, it describes the various steps in the research process while at the same time providing an indispensable body of source materials for immediate use.

The biggest change from previous editions is in its approach to the Internet. Online research is now an essential part of any Irish family history project, so the 4th edition serves as a directory to online records, discussing their uses and outlining research strategies. The sheer scale of the data available online makes a guide such as this all the more essential, and in the hands of a master it is indispensable.

Along with its step-by-step instructions in the location and use of traditional genealogical records, its discussion of civil records of birth, marriage, and death, as well as land records and wills, and list of Roman Catholic parish records and source lists, all expanded, updated, and indexed.

Publication InfoTracing Your Irish Ancestors with John Grenham on Fieldstone Common

Title: Tracing Your Irish Ancestors

Publisher: The Genealogical Publishing Company (2012)

Trade Paperback; 577 pages with  a bibliography, an index, and some maps and illustrations.

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors is available for purchase from Amazon.com and other booksellers.

The Interview

In this interview John Grenham and I get into a discussion of Irish immigration to America from what caused the immigration to what happened after the Irish arrived. And of course we talk about genealogy, providing tips for those just getting started researching their Irish ancestry.  John will be coming to the United States in August for the Celtic Connections conference and in September for the IFEST event (see links below). This broadcast is packed with history, genealogy and great information!

Links mentioned during the interview:

Prize Winner

One copy of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors is given out to the Fieldstone Common audience courtesy of The Genealogical Publishing Company.

The winner is:

  • To be announced next week

Congratulations to our winner and thanks to The Genealogical Publishing Company for their generosity in donating the book!

Make sure you qualify to win the giveaway next week by signing up for the Bonus List! Once you sign up your are in the running each week!

The Direct Link to this post is

News & Announcements

BIG NEWS for Android users! Fieldstone Common is now available in the Android app Stitcher. Stitcher is a program like iTunes but is available on the Android platform. Download Stitcher and search for Fieldstone Common or click here.

Question: What’s that’s new stuff in the Fieldstone Common title (FC 91)?

Answer: That makes it easier, especially for iTunes and other podcast listeners, to keep track of which episode they are listening to. FC stands for Fieldstone Common and 91 is the number of the episode.


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  1. I had been looking forward to listening to your interview with John Grenham — and I was not disappointed. It was terrific and like listening to a one-hour fireside chat about Irish genealogy . Thanks for adding all the links.

    1. Gail,

      I just listened to the interview again myself. John Grenham is fascinating! I could listen to him for hours. There was so much information packed into one hour – both history and genealogy. It was a real highlight of my year.


  2. I just listened to Johns interview. Wonderful! I can hardly wait to hear him at the Celtic Connections Conference in August. Thanks for this fine podcast.

    1. I can’t wait to see him, hear him and meet him in August. I’m so excited. Thanks for having a listen Janis!

  3. Really enjoyed the interview with John Grenham. I saw him speak at the FGS conference in Boston in 2006. Back then I thought I would never get anywhere with my husband’s paternal ancestors, who left County Mayo for Scranton, Penna. between 1850 and 1880. By last September, however, we were able to meet cousins and tour the homes his ancestors lived in. It hasn’t been easy but it has been rewarding!

    1. That’s encouraging that you found homes and cousins! I think I have a tough road ahead of me with my Nellins and Johnstones!

  4. I have found 3 ancestors from Ireland for me, and 2 for my wife (but suspect several more!) but have not yet done research with Irish records. This episode makes it sound like it would actually be possible to do!

  5. My father is 3/4 Irish. I need all the help I can get finding our Flaherty line. Looking forward to the book! 🙂

  6. I’m so thrilled to have had the chance to hear John Grenham speak. His book has been high up on my Books To Purchase list for some time now! Great show! Thank you!

  7. Great listening to John. My Irish ancestors went to Glasgow and Liverpool before descendants later came to Australia.

  8. wonderful interview, you can always learn new ideas and thanks for the web sites information

  9. I’ve been searching for 35+ years for my Purtell/Purtill ancestors from Kilcolman Parish in Co Limerick.

  10. After listening to this I may have to plan a trip to Boston for the event. It was so informative and the links are incredible. It’s given me so many new ideas for researching my Irish ancestry.

  11. I would love a copy of his book.
    I’ve got my Hearty who came in famine, Richardson who came in early 1800s to Quebec and Riddle who came in mid-1700s to Mass.

  12. Been researching my Irish ancestors (5 of my 16 2x great grandparents were Irish immigrants) for 40 years and I learned so much from listening to your interview from John. Thanks to you both!

  13. Hello Marian, I knew that you and John Grenham would not disappoint. It was so great to hear his voice. I can’t wait to meet you and John at TIARA in August. I’ve got my reservation, and hotel, now I gotta get that plane ticket! – Cyndi
    p.s. I hope I win the book. My current copy is first edition, fifth printing. A lot has happened in Irish Genealogy in the last 18 years!

  14. I really enjoyed this podcast and will be spending lots of time following up on the links in the show notes. I have 4 gr-gr-grandparents who were born in Ireland, and despite many years of research I have not been able to identify a specific location in Ireland for any of these families. They all came to Quebec from Ireland during the 1830s, but I haven’t found any records in either the US or Canada that identify a specific location in Ireland. I will definitely check out the Irish Ancestry Wizard and John’s book for some help.

    I also just recently discovered The Genealogy Professional podcast and have almost caught up listening to the back episodes. Another great podcast, very informative and thought provoking – I gave it a 5 star rating on iTunes. Maybe I’ll think about a genealogy business someday, but probably won’t be specializing in Irish genealogy.


  15. Marian, This is another book which I definitely need to get. My paternal grandmother has Irish roots. Her mother was a Connell (was O’Connell) and there are many other Irish names. Unfortunately they came through Nova Scotia so no Ellis Island records (yes I have looked anyway). I actually have found lots of my grandmother living relatives on my own.

    I hope there is still a chance to win this book. I miss most chances since I don’t listen as soon as they are posted.

    Thanks again for another great Podcast.

  16. I just had the opportunity to listen to the program and I must say, I think it was the best one yet. I recently bought a copy of the Third Edition of the book and have already begun highlighting information. Sounds like I’ll have to purchase the Fourth Edition as well. I don’t want to miss out on any helpful hints and ideas.
    Many thanks for a fascinating hour!

  17. Excellent interview Marian and the timing is ironic. I listened today on my drive to northern Missouri to meet MIL and her newly found 3rd cousin, who flew in from Dallas yesterday, to try and put our heads together and break down their Irish brick wall! Can’t wait to start clicking these links. Thanks.

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