Irish History, Memory and Genetics

Paddy Waldron

Tralee Library

1:15 p.m. Thursday 19 May 2022

WWW version:

(This lecture was not recorded.)


Irish history is part of world history.

How was our culture transmitted by our ancestors from place to place and down through the generations to us?

Today's examples are Irish, but the underlying principles are universal.

Culture has many overlapping components:

The stories of these components can be thought of as micro-history.

How are these created, nurtured, transformed, contested and reconstructed?

Our ancestors wanted to be remembered; some of our contemporaries want to be forgotten.

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.

How can you preserve the history, memory and genetics of our families and communities, for us and posterity, as our ancestors preserved them for us?

Irish examples


What are the two biggest mistakes made by genealogists?
  1. assuming that two records referring to different but similarly named individuals both refer to the same individual; and
  2. assuming that two records referring to the same individual, but with slight differences, refer to two different individuals.
Genealogy is about




Religious history


The revolutionary period 1913-1923



Family history

Families and Communities