Archives, Family History and Genetics

Children's agency as local citizens – creative approaches for teaching local history

Mary Immaculate College

6:00pm via Zoom

Tuesday 19 Mar 2024

by Paddy Waldron

WWW version:

YouTube version: TBA


The main objective of this lecture is to set out a strategy for compiling your own family history and for encouraging, inspiring and assisting your students to do likewise.

The Heritage Council's Heritage in Schools Scheme provides a panel of Heritage Specialists who visit primary schools (in-person or virtually) to help children and their teachers learn about and appreciate their local heritage.

Listen, for example, to the Cooraclare History Project.

A secondary objective is to suggest related projects that might be carried out with groups of students at either primary or secondary level.

Private records

Basic public records




Supplementary public records


In 2016, AncestryDNA sponsored a Transition Year project in Colaiste Mhuire, Ballygar, County Galway. See Ballygar & Area DNA and Genealogy and Soghain Genes on Facebook.

Software and websites

It will quickly become apparent that handwritten family trees don't work very well, as they need to be rewritten every time a new discovery is made.

Editing with a computer is far more efficient and there are numerous options.

A universal standard format called GEDCOM allows data to be transferred between the different options as you experiment.

All the options have their advantages and disadvantages:

All the options allow printing of a wide range of hard copy reports.

Reconciling conflicting evidence

DNA testing is not a substitute for genealogical research; rather the two approaches help to corroborate each other.
DNA is as much part of finding your roots today as is consulting census returns, and can help to break down brick walls in your research.

Genealogists compile family histories by matching up three categories of information:
  1. the oral traditions passed down through the generations and picked up from an early age;
  2. the archival sources encountered later in life by traditional genealogists; and
  3. the DNA evidence that often reconciles both, but sometimes refutes either or both (NPE).
The boundaries between oral and archival can be blurred:
Stanford historian Richard White wrote in his family history Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family's Past (Cork University Press, 1999, p. 4):
I once thought of my mother's stories as history. I thought memory was history. Then I became a historian, and after many years I have come to realize that only careless historians confuse memory and history. History is the enemy of memory. The two stalk each other across the fields of the past, claiming the same terrain. History forges weapons from what memory has forgotten or suppressed. Few non-historians realize how many scraps a life leaves. These scraps do not necessarily form a story in and of themselves, but they are always calling stories into doubt, always challenging memories, always trailing off into forgotten places.
The emergence of genetic genealogy has turned this two-way struggle between memory and history into a three-way battle.