Research Help: New to Genealogy or the Internet?

The internet has opened up a whole new world for so many, it brings in all age groups. I have met people from the age of fourteen to the age of eighty who seek their Irish Ancestry and use this medium. The world has become a very small place thanks to the internet, yet, people can wander all over and get lost very, very easily. I would like to try and give you some directions to take as you begin, and you will learn as you go along.

The first place to point you to is the Rootsweb site. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you live in, this is a centre for genealogy. Here, you will find mail lists, dealing with every country and every surname imaginable. Sometimes, the home page can be a bit confusing or mind boggling.

If you only have a surname to begin with then your search will be harder. For example, when I do a search for the surname ‘Lyons’, filling in Lyons as the given name and Lyons as the surname, then I get many results. One of the results is this:”SearchThingy has 10432 matches for keyword(s) Lyons Lyons” . If I change my search from simply the surname ‘Lyons’ and look for given name ‘Matthew’ the same SearchThingy search engine gives me 1098 matches. It would take a long time to go through all of these results.

So I would like to try and make the first steps into genealogy a bit easier for you.

We will begin with how to subscribe to mail lists at Rootsweb and then deal with searching the list archives.

If you have only a surname from Ireland then one of the best things to do is check out the Matthesons On line Report which gives the most common locations for some surnames. You will find this located on the PRONI website. That will give you some ideas for county lists which you may decide to subscribe to.

Rootsweb Mail Lists

County or Area

If you know the county your ancestors came from, or the area in a county, you can do the same with the county mail lists or area lists. Rootsweb maintains the following mail lists which relate to Ireland: Please note that while this is the list as shown on the Rootsweb site, there is at least one county mail list that I know of missing from this table and that is the County Fermanagh list, which is called just that – FERMANAGH


There are two ways of subscribing to any list. You can subscribe in the full ‘List (L)’ mode or the ‘Digest (D)’ mode.

If you subscribe to any list in the ‘L’ mode then you will receive all mail which goes to that list, including any you send to it as and when they are sent. If you subscribe to the Digest mode then you will receive a mail from that list once a day, or once every two or three days, depending on how the List Administrator also known as the List Manager sets their list.

To subscribe to any of the above lists in the ‘L’ mode, you simply click on the list name when you are on the Rootsweb Ireland page a new page will open up giving you subscription details for that list, once you click on the subscribe mail address a new e-mail will open up in your browser which will be addressed to:


You do not put anything in the ‘subject’ line of your e-mail and you simply type the word subscribe in the mail body and then send. A few minutes later the list robot will send you back an e-mail saying ‘You are now subscribed to NAME OF LIST and with details pertaining to that list. Normally, this will have the List Administrator or List Manager’s welcome message, telling you what the general content of the list is, there will be a portion on how to subscribe and how to unsubscribe and a section on how to subscribe to the ‘Digest’ form of that list.

If you are a busy person, or it is a busy list, then to subscribe to the digest mode is much handier. When you receive a digest mail it comes as one e-mail with all the e-mails which were sent to the list over the period set by the List Administrator (a day or more) as ‘attachments’. One thing to note here, the sending of a Digest is an automatic process, the Digest will be sent to you automatically and if no posts had been sent to the list itself, then you will receive an empty e-mail. There will be no attachments. With a digest mail, you can just read through the contents and see if any of those mails are of interest to you and if not, simply delete the ‘Digest’ mail and it’s attachments. This can save a lot of time with a busy list. Particularly when a List Administrator has a ‘Roll Call’ period when many people send in their family details. To subscribe to the digest form of any list the e-mail address you click on the mail address on the page you are looking at which has a ‘D’ in the address e.g. and then key in subscribe to the body of the mail with nothing on the subject line.

One thing to note here, the sending of a Digest is an automatic process, the Digest will be sent to you automatically and if no posts had been sent to the list itself, then you will receive an empty e-mail. There will be no attachments.

Surname Lists

Go to the mail lists themselves and see if there is a surname list to go with your name. Rootsweb has a Surname Mail List section, on the Mail List page. Follow the subscribe instructions for any Surname List. With surnames, you have to watch out, because there may be more than one variation on your spelling and everyone likes to think that theirs is the original version and so should be the only one. The fact is that all variations will probably have come from the same root source but will have changed differently depending on phonetics. If there is more than one – search them all. If there is more than one – subscribe to them all also, if you wish. You never know who will turn up some day, just as confused as you were in the beginning and who has that missing link that you seek.

Following Subscription

Messages and posting to a list.

When you have subscribed to any list no matter which type, and you have received that welcome message, then you will begin to receive the mail which goes to that list. Here again, List Managers can set their list to one of two ways for replies. Most lists will be set so that if you reply to author then the reply you write will go to the person who wrote the mail initially. not to the list. However, some List Managers have their lists set so that all replies to any mail which goes to that list will go to the list itself and not the author of the mail, for example the IRL-TYRONE list above is set in this way. So, that is something to watch out for also.

If you want to reply to the person who sent in a mail and have the other people on the list see your reply – then you ‘Reply to All’.

When you are writing a mail to any list you write to the

NAME OF LIST You do not write your mail to the

NAME OF LIST because that will not go to the list, but to the list robot who will send it back to you. You remove the “-request” from the email address first, then your post will go to that list

The majority of the lists are pretty friendly places, most of them have at least one person who is very interested in the county or area and who has some knowledge about how to do research, so just read the mails that come to your mail box from any list for a few days and then join in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and if you put in a request for information on your surname, don’t give up when you get no immediate reply. Researching your ancestors can take a long, long time and maybe some day someone new will turn up on that list who will search the archives and find your original message and say ‘Hey, I have those names in my tree’.

Searching the Archives of Lists.

There are two ways of searching the Rootsweb Archives. Interactive Search and Threaded Archives. We’ll take County Clare as an example here. IRL-CLARE

Open the Rootsweb Home Page, scroll down to Mail Lists and you will see the ‘Interactive Search’ and ‘Threaded Archives’

Interactive Searches

An interactive search will give you results for a specific word, words or name – even an e-mail address. On the search page you key in whatever word or words it is that you seek, you tick the year you are searching the archives for and then you search. The result will tell you how many posts were made to that list in that year, and how many results there are for your search. The posts are numbered from the first to the list in a year to the last, so the number you get is simply the order in which the posts went to that list.

Threaded Archives Search

Highlight the Threaded Archives on the Rootsweb Home page, and then highlight the letter ‘I’ click this, don’t be frightened by the box of ‘I’s’; scroll down the box until you find Ireland and you will find a section of mailing lists relating to Ireland, beginning with * IRELAN * IRELAND and the last mailing list for Ireland in this box is IRL-WICKLOW * The list is the same as the list I give above. Once you highlight any of those list names you will get a page which looks like the following for County Clare. In some instances the archives may only have begun recently and in others such as this one, they will go back to 1998

IRL-CLARE Mailing List – Threaded Archives Search Results.

The month, the year and the number of messages to that list in that month.

November 1998 – 1 messages
January 1999 – 2 messages
August 1999 – 7 messages
September 1999 – 177 messages
October 1999 – 127 messages
November 1999 – 220 messages
December 1999 – 164 messages
January 2000 – 245 messages
February 2000 – 127 messages
March 2000 – 108 messages
April 2000 – 98 messages
May 2000 – 151 messages
June 2000 – 73 messages
July 2000 – 103 messages
August 2000 – 55 messages
September 2000 – 125 messages
October 2000 – 132 messages
November 2000 – 192 messages
December 2000 – 62 messages
January 2001 – 105 messages
February 2001 – 103 messages
March 2001 – 114 messages

If you click on any of these months you will see all the messages posted to the Clare list in that month, sorted by subject matter. Replies are listed under the original message regardless of the date that they were sent.

So, subscribing to Rootsweb Mail Lists, and searching through the Archives for each mail list is all very simple really.

To Unsubscribe

To unsubscribe from any list you send another message to the NAME OF and put unsubscribe in the body of your mail. Again, nothing in the subject line. Sometimes, you may be told that you have been unsubscribed and still receive mail from that list. Just try again, it usually works the second time around and if you don’t succeed then simply write a mail to the List Manager/Adminisrator and they can manually unsubscribe you.

Latter Day Saints On-line Library Catalogue and Search Aids

The next place to go to is the Latter day Saints Family Library Catalogue – or you could go to their research guides and search for Ireland, (there you will find information on how to do Irish Research).

Once you have opened the Library Search Home Page, you are faced with the following:

Catalogue Search: On this page, you have a box with the following options: Place/Surname/Author/Call Number/ Film or Fiche Search choice.

Clicking ‘Place’ and searching for Laois as our example (Laois was also known as Queen’s County or Leix)

The result is a table showing Laois and Leix in it’s columns (right hand side of the screen). This means that Latter Day Saints Library have all items relating to county Laois tied together under a Laois/Leix heading. Whatever they have relating to either name will be in the next box. There will be no more information hidden anywhere else.

So – from there when we click on Leix we get another table (again on the right hand side of the screen) and with the following headings:

Place: Ireland, Leix

References: (Use for) Ireland, Laoighis
(Use for) Ireland, Laois
(Use for) Ireland, Queen’s

and underneath these are listed the ‘Topics’ covered. Before each topic will be the name of the country and the name of the county.


Ireland, Leix – Biography
Census – Indexes – 1911
Church history
Church records
Church records – Indexes
Historical geography
– History – 19th century – Biography
History – 20th century – Biography
Land and property
Military history
Officials and employees
Officials and employees – Biography
Probate records
Probate records – Indexes
Vital records
Voting registers

Lots of headings to search, however, for some topics there is no further reference and then for others there is a reference which is the same reference given for a number of other topics on the above list.

However – this is the way to find out what the LDS library has on film or in hard copy that you may borrow through your local centre. If you have one. once you find a reference under any topic then you continue to follow the links until you find a catalogue or film number for that reference. Most material which has been published in the last century has not been filmed due to copyright law or restrictions.

To do a search for any county will be the same as for Laois. You will get the same topic headings and then some different references. Some references cover more than one county as for example with the Marriage Licence Bonds.

Irish Library Catalogue Searches

There is something else you can do as well – you can search the online library catalogue of some university libraries in Ireland, this won’t give you a book, but it will give you titles of books and from there you may possibly be able to order these books through your own local library if it has an inter-libarary loan facility.

Go to the Home Page for University College Dublin

Click on the word ‘Library’ on the University Home Page and then go to the ‘new catalogue search.’

As an example, I have used the keyword search, and searched for ‘Monaghan’ and my result showed that there are 84 references in the library with that word in their title. However, when I then open the references I am given list a list of titles 1-10 of 63 (small discrepancy)

The Result when I show this first list of 1-10 is actually a table, with four columns.

Title – Author – Date – Classmark – Link and the results down along each column. I am just listing the Titles and Authors here for my result.

RESULT of Search:

Keyword Search Main Catalogue


Displaying references for keyword: ‘MONAGHAN’
Click on a title to display copy information. References : 1 to 10 of 63


Title Author Date Classmark Link
Homelessness in Counties Donegal, Leitrim and Monaghan
Agriculture in County Monaghan
Annual report – County Monaghan Committee of Agriculture
The Midlands : Longford, Cavan, Laois, Westmeath, Roscommon, Monaghan, Offa
The territorial organisation of Gaelic landownership and its transformation Duffy, P. J. PC
The plight of Monaghan Protestants, 1912-26 / Terence Dooley Dooley, Terence A. M.
Monaghan urban development plan 2000-2005 / Monaghan Urban District Council Monaghan, Ireland, Urban District Council 2000
Parnham’s 1911 census references for Ireland; Co. Leitrim, Limerick, Longfor Parnham, John
Plean forbartha an Chontae 1999 / Monaghan County Council Monaghan, Ireland : County, County Council 1999
At the ford of the birches : the history of Ballybay, it’s[sic] people and v Murnane, James H. 1999


When you have a result such as this, then clicking the title on the page will give you another result and this gives you details about the book such as listed below for another Monaghan book (not on the above result)

Author Livingstone,Peadar
Title The Monaghan story :a documented history of the County Monaghan from the earliest times to 1976
Publisher Enniskillen:Clogher Historical Society,1980
Description 693p,ill,23cm,
Subject Monaghan (Ireland),History,
Control number 0950104744

In this way, I may not find books which are currently on sale in bookshops around the world, but I can find out the Titles of books or articles which have been written in the past relating to the place/surname/topic I am interested in. From there, I can search the antiquarian book shops and/or try to find a library in my locality which takes part in an inter-library loan scheme, or, I can go to the various web sites which have on-line auctions (such as e-bay) and there I can find whether someone has this book, and wants to sell it. If I search for this book on the internet, I may find the names of of antiquarian dealers in Ireland or elsewhere, who do sell material through the internet and who may have this book.