Argentina & Me

Hi, my name is Gearoid D. P. Clarke, you’ve probably never heard of me before as I am new to The Hidden Branch team. I’ve been building and expanding my family tree for several years now, and I’ve found loads of interesting people and places throughout my journey. But there is one place in particular that has topped the rest, Argentina. 

Now, you may be wondering, “How did you find Argentina in your family tree when pretty much all of your ancestors are Irish?” Believe me, I was wondering that too. Turns out, Argentina has a very large Irish diaspora, as many Irish immigrated to there during the 1800s. My 4th great-uncle on my father’s side, Hugh Doogan (often written as Duggan in records) had many children with a woman by the name of Jane Kelly. Two of these children, Tomas Doogan-Kelly and Anne Doogan-Kelly, emigrated from Ireland to Argentina. While I have no date or location of death for Anne, Tomas’ death took place on the 8th of June 1913, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Tomas Duggan-Kelly, FamilySearch

At first, I thought, “Huh, that’s cool, a small branch of my tree is in Argentina.” Oh, how I was so naïve. Upon further investigation, thanks to the brilliant website that is FamilySearch, I uncovered a huge branch of my tree, in fact, it’s probably the biggest branch of my family tree. It’s insane. As I uncovered more leaves, I quickly began to discover some interesting differences between Irish and Argentine genealogy.

  • Argentinians (as well as most Latin-Americans and Spanish) hyphenate their surnames. For example, Tomas Duggan-Kelly married another Irish-Argentine by the name of Marcela Casey-O’Neill. Their children bore the surname Duggan-Casey. 
  • Despite being of Irish descent, Irish-Argentines would give their children Spanish-sounding first names, such as ‘Bernardo’ ‘Juana’ and ‘Carlos.’ This would lead to the quite humorous sounding combination of eloquent Spanish names followed by thick, rural Irish surnames. 
  • Middle names were a lot more commonplace, children would often have two names, followed by their last name. This would eventually grow until you have some very, very long names. One of Tomas Duggan-Kelly’s children had the name of Alberto Huberto Duggan-Casey. 

I also noticed that I was finding more people who were well-known in Argentina than in Ireland. My first ‘famous find’ was my 3rd cousin 3x removed Juan Diego Nelson-Duggan, commonly known as Jack Nelson. Nelson was the grandson of Tomas Duggan and the son of Juana Luisa Duggan-Casey and John Nelson McCormack. Jack Nelson was a polo player and a very good one. He represented Argentina in the 1924 Paris Olympics and in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, winning a gold medal in each, becoming the first person to win 2 gold medals for Argentina in the Olympics. 

Another well-known figure I was able to find is Eduardo Casey. Eduardo Casey is the brother of the wife of Tomas Duggan-Kelly, or in other words, the brother-in-law of my 1st cousin 5x removed. Casey was a well-known businessman in the region who founded several towns in the Buenos Aires district. 

I can go on and on about different people I’ve discovered in my tree, but I’d be here for ages, so I’ll just briefly list them here and my relation to them. Mind you, because this is Argentina, which is miles away from where I live, all of my relatives here are very distant, so you’ll see a lot of ‘removed’ or ‘in-law.’ Are most of these people related by blood? No. But I think the ability to connect them back to me on a family tree is stunning. 

  • Jack Nelson, olympian (3rd cousin 3x removed)
  • Eduardo Casey, businessman and rancher (brother-in-law of 1st cousin 5x removed)
  • José Francsico De San Martín y Matorras, military general, liberator of Argentina (husband of great-grandaunt of husband of 2nd cousin 4x removed)
  • Manuel Pedro De La Quintana Saenz-de Gaona, president of Argentina (grandnephew of wife of 2nd great-grandfather of husband of 2nd cousin 4x removed)

And much more!

Jack Nelson, Ancestry
Eduardo Casey
José Francsico De San Martín y Matorras
Manuel Pedro De La Quintana Saenz-de Gaona

What’s the point of me telling you all this? Well, I just want to encourage everyone reading this to keep digging, because there is a good chance that you may find something that surprises you. Everyone has their own version of my Argentina story, some just haven’t found it yet. Uncovering new branches also helps you learn the history of new areas, which helps improve your knowledge on the world, and hey, maybe you just found a new holiday destination. If you have found it, what is it? Feel free to tweet or message me or THB with your surprising stories, it’s always fun to learn about other people’s stories!


Vietnamese Genealogy Research – the Tips and Challenges…

As someone who is half-Vietnamese in heritage, it is no surprise that I have learned a thing or two about Vietnamese research; and I have to say it is pretty tricky. Vietnam has never really been a country that has kept genealogical records, most likely due to the country’s tumultuous history. But here I will share with you my experience with doing Vietnamese research, what I have learned, and some tips on how to better research.

Here are a few tips I would like to share, knowing this will help you make sure you are recording your genealogical data correctly! Even if you don’t have Vietnamese heritage, it may still be interesting to read about.

Date Order:

The date order that Vietnam uses is day/month/year compared to the U.S.’s month/day/year format. The date format that Vietnam uses is pretty commonplace across the world but still something to remember. When recording dates for your Vietnamese ancestors, make sure you specify which date format you are using.

Vietnamese Names

General Info & Naming Order:

  • Most Vietnamese full names consist of 3-4 names
  • In Vietnam, the naming order goes in this order: Family Name | Middle Name | Given Name. Compared to how in the West where the naming order is the opposite. So for example, in Vietnamese, my great grandmother’s would be recorded as Phạm Thị Yên… 
  1. Phạm, the last name
  2. Thị, the middle name
  3. Yên, the given name
  • However, in English, the order of the name would be Yên Thị Phạm. I record my ancestor’s names with the Western name order simply because I am more accustomed to it and so I know what is the given, middle, and family name. However, you can use whichever order you feel like comfortable with, just make sure you are consistent with which order you use. So double check you have the name order correct!
  • This is the same naming system used in countries like China, Japan, & Korea.
  • Still, most people in Vietnam go by their given or “first” name.
  • Many Vietnamese Catholics also have Christian names, my grandmother’s Christian name, for example, was Maria.
  • Vietnamese immigrants to the US or other English speaking countries also adopted American or English sounding names.

Family Names:

  • Another thing to note is that Vietnamese women will keep their maiden even after marriage. However, when introducing themselves, Vietnamese women typically use their husband’s given name. For example, my great great grandmother often went by the name “Mrs. Khang” because Khang was her husband’s first name. An American example would be if a woman were to go by the name “Mrs. John” or “Mrs. William.”
  • Vietnam also has a limited number of unique surnames. The family name “Nguyen” is used by about nearly 40% of Vietnam’s population. The most common 14 surnames account for 90% of the population. So be careful when looking at records because there’s a lot of people with the same surname.

Middle Names:

  • Middle names are often used to distinguish people with the same family and given name.
  • In the past, women mostly had the middle name “Thị” and men had the middle name “Văn.” These middle names implied gender, however, these names are now considered out-dated. 
  • Sometimes they can also indicate family generation, for example, siblings often shared the same middle name.
  • Other middle names simply add meaning to the full name, with some meanings relating to happiness or intelligence 
  • Sometimes the mother’s maiden name could be the middle name for the children

Given Names:

  • Most Vietnamese given names have a literal meaning, similar to middle names.
  • The majority of these names are Chinese in origin.

Character Markings:

As you could see with my great grandmother’s name, the Vietnamese language uses the Latin alphabet but uses tonal markings, these specify the tone you need to speak/read the word and a change in tone can completely change the meaning of the word. So make sure you include these character markings when recording your ancestor’s names. 

My experience with doing Vietnamese Genealogy

How I got Information:

  • Getting information about my family was pretty difficult. As mentioned, Vietnam basically has never kept vital records of any kind until recently. So for the most part, I had to interview my family members about my ancestors and my family’s background.
  • If you or your family happens to be Catholic Vietnamese, there is a better chance of finding vital records at the parish your family was a part of in Vietnam. Often, the parish kept records such as baptism or marriage records. You may even be able to visit your ancestor’s gravestone in the parish cemetery. But, at the moment, none of these possible records are online.
  • However, many cemeteries have been converted to public land since the end of the Vietnam War.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi MInh City


  • Many lied about their age during the Vietnam War to avoid military service, usually the person would say they were a year or two younger than they actually were. So make sure you gather both dates, if they did lie about their age.
  • Remembering your year of birth wasn’t something that was super important back in the day in Vietnam. However, people usually knew what Chinese zodiac sign they were so you find that a relative doesn’t exactly know what year they were born. You could ask what Chinese zodiac they are and get the year from there.

Research all you can in the new country

  • When conducting research on your Vietnamese relatives, make sure you research all you can in the country of your relatives immigrants, whether it is the United States, Australia, etc. Often you can find public records on genealogical websites to see where your family lived and many still have their naturalization papers or certificates.

Sources and Images


  1. Vietnamese Names | ThingsAsian
  2. Vietnamese Names | A Guide
  3. Why 40% of Vietnamese People Have the Same Last Name | Atlas Obscura


  1. Map of Vietnam
  2. Common Vietnamese Names Pie Chart
  3. Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
  4. Chinese Zodiac Wheel