Hello there, welcome to the 5th Voices of Genealogy Interview! This series will be a collection of interviews from people who were young (early teens to early 20s) genealogists from different decades! These interviews will highlight the stories of professional genealogists, show how the field of family history has changed over the years, and promote younger people in family history by showing that even experienced and professional genealogists started at a young age. Today’s interview comes from Dublin-based genealogist and family historian, Claire!
A Little Info about Claire…
Claire Bradley has been actively researching her family history for about 30 years. She started her genealogy working on a family tree project for school that her grandparents helped her on and she has been interested ever since. She got her degree in family history at University College Dublin in 2011 and currently does freelance genealogy work and services. Claire specializes in Irish and Dublin genealogy records and research in DNA and genetics. You can read more about her work and her genealogical services on her website! Now, Claire will tell her story as a genealogist in the Hidden Branch’s ongoing blog series, Voices of Genealogy.
The Interview Questions…
- Give us a brief introduction about yourself; how old were you when you began your genealogy journey?
“So I am from Dublin in Ireland and I started looking into my family history when I was 12.”
- How did you get into genealogy? Did you do it by yourself or did someone help you?
“I was given a school project so I went to visit my grandparents. My paternal grandmother spent a morning with me answering questions, and she knew about my Grandad’s family too. Then I went on to my mother’s parents. They all lived on the same road. I remember feeling quite grown up that I was allowed to go between their houses on my own. My maternal grandmother was a fount of information. By the end of this day, I had a basic director ancestor pedigree with some of my great-great grandparents’ names and all of the great-grandparents.”
- What was it like being a young genealogist in the 1990s? Did you meet anyone your age at the time who also was interested in family history research?
“It simply never even occurred to me that I was a genealogist at 12. You have to realise that the internet was in its infancy and there weren’t any records online to investigate. We didn’t have a computer at home at that stage. By the end of that decade, I was in college and I started to look more seriously into my ancestry, but there was still no computers involved in public repositories. I did buy software for my home pc at that stage – early adopter! I would go into the library on Saturdays to work with microfilm bmd indexes and then try to get records from the GRO when I could afford to – everything cost money and as a student, I didn’t have a lot spare.
I never met any other young people who were interested. Even now, most of my Irish peers are a good bit older than me.”
- How do you think genealogy research has changed since you started back in 1991? What were the challenges of searching for family back then? How did you do your research with limited technical or less access to information?
“It has changed utterly. I remember the excitement when the first Irish bmd index went online at Familysearch in 2008. I was studying for my certificate in Family History at University College Dublin at the time. My lecturer hadn’t heard about it and I broke the news to the class. Everyone was dying to get home and have a look. I was able to make huge leaps in the months that followed by speculative searches.
I remember questioning the National Archives as to why they hadn’t put the census online, this would have been around the year 2000. You still had to look it up on microfilm, and that meant knowing the address, which in many cases was impossible. It took almost a decade before parts of the census appeared online. Most of my ancestors are from Dublin so trying to find them without an address was impossible. Once it went online, they leapt right out of the records.”
- Tell us a bit more about your work as a genealogist.
“I love my work. I focus on a few areas: freelance work for clients, either building up an entire pedigree or as a consultant to help advance research they’ve done themselves. In recent years, I’ve also begun building DNA results into this work and have helped a few adoptees with looking into their birth parentage.
I also teach a beginners’ class in Malahide Community School twice a year. Hopefully we’ll be back in the classroom next September.
My current project is completing a Masters in the History of the Family at the University of Limerick. You could say it was academic genealogy, but is giving me wonderful background to add to my research for future clients. While I’m studying, it is hard to take on a lot of client work, but I do find time to send out a newsletter, which gives tips on Irish genealogy and I produce short original research pieces, usually about my own tree, to illustrate and educate. You can sign up for it on my website www.cbgenealogy.ie or my Facebook page @CBGenealogy.”
As we can see, Claire has done a lot in her time of being a professional genealogist. From simple client work to working with DNA results to help adoptees look into their birth parentage and teaching a genealogy class for beginners. Her current goal is to complete her Masters in family history at the University of Limerick. Claire still has a lot of her career ahead and I’m sure we will hear more from her in the future! I (Tyler, Hidden Branch Team Member) want to give a big thanks to Claire for being the 5th person to be a part of my interview series.
If you wish to follow Claire and her work…