By Jayne McGarvey
Visiting the homeland of your ancestor can be extremely rewarding, and even more so if you wish to combine a holiday with some research and or meet living relatives. We love to have you here, to show you our beautiful island and connect with the descendants of those who left so long ago. There’s a Irish saying – You can take the man out of Ireland but you will never take the Irish out of the man!
To get the most out of the family history side here are 10 tips that will make a big difference:
- If you plan to visit the places your ancestor once lived and where they are buried check out the car hire companies and what type of driving license you need. Remember the island of Ireland is made up of two countries – Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland so if you intend to visit both make sure vehicle insurance covers both jurisdictions. If you are planning to hire a car and you are used to driving on the other side of the road, possibly even more so if you are not used to driving a stick-shift vehicle consider pre-booking a one-hour lesson with one of our many approved driving instructors. It’s not obligatory but a lesson combining the rules and road signs of both countries plus a driving section may be a small price to pay when it comes to your stress levels, and the lives of your passengers and other drivers!
- If you prefer not to drive, there are drivers or guide companies that can help you plan your trips. If you need specialist transport (e.g. wheelchair accessible vehicles), it is best to book in advance to avoid disappointment especially if you are traveling in peak season.
- Public transport will vary considerably between high-frequency routes and more rural areas. It is worth it to check up in advance the areas where you can hop on and off and access gorgeous scenic journeys and tours.
- Call the relatives – if you know you have living relatives, make contact with them before you book – check your dates are convenient for you both to meet up. Ask in advance if they have photos, and if they can they show you ancestral homesteads or gravestones or introduce you to other (perhaps new) relatives.
- Find a local genealogist – Decide in advance how much time you have for research and what you want to find. Check with the genealogist if this is realistic and where and how the records can be accessed. It may save you a lot of time to get a local genealogist who is familiar with both the archives and the area you wish to visit to do some preparatory work on your behalf – Do you want to spend several hours locating a headstone or would you like to know exactly where it is? Local genealogists will know when archives are open, can locate the best records for you to search in, how to travel between hotels, archives, cemeteries, relatives. A genealogist can help locate and make introductory contact with living relatives.
- Do your homework before you visit – read up on the area, culture, traditions (a genealogist can help you here too!). After all you don’t want to find the family farm still in operation the afternoon before you travel home! If visiting both countries you will need 2 currencies (Euro in Republic of Ireland) and (Sterling (GBP) for Northern Ireland) – many but not all business will accept both currencies, but check exchange rates first.
- Make appointments and check opening hours before you confirm travel arrangements. You don’t want to arrive and find that the archives or the documents you wish to view are closed for preservation work!
- Bring several printed copies of your family tree that you can share. It is also useful to have a copy on USB memory stick or easily accessed through on-line storage such as Dropbox or Cloud. If you have pictures you are willing to share, bring hard copies if you have room or download them to bring with you.
- Check that your technology, internet connection AND charging equipment are compatible before you travel. There is nothing more annoying that having everything you want at your fingertips and a dead battery or no internet connection! Check your mobile phone compatibility and the charges for usage – it may be cheaper to purchase a cheap phone and local tariff when you get here. Bring spare memory cards for your camera.
- If English is not your first language, you may wish to check out translation services before you travel.
Click here to read the other posts in this series on Genealogy in Ireland:
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