News 2012

December 2012


The Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) – the accrediting body for professional genealogists in Ireland – has introduced a new ‘Affiliate’ category for those working towards obtaining membership. It is specifically designed for those in the early stages of a career in professional genealogy who aspire to become an APGI member.

This is a new departure for APGI. Since its foundation in 1986 it has provided representation and support only for those admitted to its membership by its independent Board of Assessors. The inspiration for extending representation and encouragement to those working towards membership has come from similar programmes operated by the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) and the Association of Scottish Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (ASGRA). AGRA and ASGRA are APGI’s counterparts in Great Britain and they are organisations with which it has had close co-operation in recent years.

Those accepted as affiliates will be entitled to have their names and addresses included in the list of Affiliates issued by APGI, and to attend general meetings, professional development events and social gatherings organised by APGI. APGI hopes that close contact with its members, as well as an informal mentoring process, should prove beneficial to Affiliates in honing their skills.

Becoming an Affiliate is not a necessary part of applying for membership of APGI but the category should assist any applicant in working towards accreditation and developing their career. Affiliate status is for those who are resident in Ireland (Republic or Northern Ireland) currently conducting genealogical research in Irish records for a fee. As it is designed for people trying to develop a career in genealogy, it is not open to those currently employed at any full time occupation outside of genealogy.

Practical experience of genealogical research is the basic requirement. It is not necessary to have attended any courses in genealogy. However, whilst completion of a course will not count towards eventual application for membership of APGI, nonetheless such a course should be of benefit to anyone seeking to gain more knowledge of genealogical sources.

Affiliates must abide by the APGI Code of Practice and apply for membership of APGI within two years. They may retain Affiliate status for a maximum of four years, and acceptance as an Affiliate does not guarantee eventual membership of APGI. Full details of the Affiliate category may be found at

November 2012


In recent months two new members have joined the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI). APGI, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of its foundation in 2011, is Ireland’s only accreditation body for professional genealogists and operates island-wide. Neither new member is resident in Dublin, thus helping the geographical spread of the Association’s members across Ireland.

Michael Walsh is based near Westport, Co. Mayo. He was born to an Irish mother from South Armagh and a second generation Irish father whose family moved from Kilrush in Co. Clare to Blackburn, Lancashire. Michael was born and brought up in Lancashire. After graduating from University College London with a degree in economics and politics, Michael enjoyed a career in information technology, working for several large British and American companies in senior project management roles. Having recently retired from full-time work, he now has more time to “devote to his passion for genealogy”. Michael’s special interest lies in tracing Irish families who have settled in North America and Great Britain.

Tony Hennessy has been involved in the world of genealogy in various guises since 1986. While living in Dublin he studied genealogy in University College Dublin (1994-95) and subsequently ran a successful genealogy practice for some years under the name Irish Origins. Afterwards he returned to his native Waterford where he and his wife raised their family. In 2008 he returned to genealogy and established his new business, Waterford Origins. He also runs a very popular evening class in genealogy at Waterford College of Further Education which is now in its fourth season. Tony carries out genealogical research for all counties, but with a special interest in home county.

Michael and Tony bring APGI’s membership to 31 members.

September 2012


Bram Stoker wrote that the most significant influence on his writing were the childhood stories his mother told him of her own family history along with tales of Irish folklore. No-one has ever thought to investigate what these might have been, but now new research by Eneclann has uncovered Bram Stoker’s own extraordinary family history. Drawing on the evidence of an ancient manuscript, historical documents, and an archaeological treasure, Eneclann researchers have pieced together the real life “Da Vinci code” that Stoker drew on for his most famous work.

In a new BBC Radio 4 documentary APGI member Fiona Fitzsimons of Eneclann meets with Patrick McCabe to discuss how Stoker imagined Dracula as more Irish than Transylvanian.

Patrick McCabe is one of Ireland’s foremost contemporary writers. His novels have earned him two Booker nominations, for The Butcher Boy (1992) and Breakfast on Pluto, in 1998, and an Irish Times/Aer Lingus prize for fiction. Far more importantly, he has managed to transform the microcosm of the small town …into an arena for burlesque humour and biting satire. In the process, he has single-handedly coined his own genre, the affectionately termed “Bog Gothic”. [The Guardian, 2003]

To hear the full story, tune into BBC Radio 4, at 4pm on Monday 8th October.


In the recent Sunday Times article “Wannabe Irish warned to avoid ancestry amateurs” (September 2), some points raised were not entirely accurate. The Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) was founded in 1986. It strives to protect and sustain high standards of conduct and proficiency among Ireland’s professional genealogists and is the only accrediting body for professional genealogists in Ireland. Membership is achieved by an applicant submitting a sample of their work to an entirely independent board of assessors. APGI welcomes all professional genealogists who seek accreditation, membership of a professional association and the support of professional colleagues.

Genealogical research is a constantly evolving challenge and the aim of APGI is to ensure that our members maintain high standards and that their clients are always protected. As such, APGI gives clients recourse should they be unhappy with work undertaken on their behalf.

APGI is committed to serving the greater Irish genealogical community. In pursuit of this goal our members regularly provide talks and lectures across Ireland and abroad, often without remuneration. In addition, APGI runs a Diploma course in Family History in association with Independent Colleges. It is specifically designed to equip those new to genealogy with the necessary skills to begin family history research. APGI is a founding member of the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations which for the past 20 years has very effectively championed the rights of Ireland’s genealogical consumers.

Finally, APGI fully supports and is actively promoting The Gathering for 2013. But for the sake of clarity, we have never been asked to be the ‘official’ genealogists for The Gathering and nor have we ever claimed to be such. Our members fully recognise the importance of locally organised events that promote community cohesion as well as attracting overseas visitors who have an emotional connection to Ireland. These are objectives that APGI shares with the organisers of The Gathering and we are delighted to be able to promote this event.

August 2012


The Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, has published a report into restrictions on access to historical records of births, deaths and marriages held by the General Register Office (GRO). These records date back to 1845 and are the building blocks of genealogy. The Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) was one of two genealogy organisations consulted in the preparation of the report; the other being the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations.

In her two year investigation, the Ombudsman has found that under the National Archives Act 1986 the public has a right of access to any of the State’s civil registers of births, deaths and marriages compiled over 30 years ago. In addition, the public has a right under the Civil Registration Act 2004 to purchase extracts from the civil registers through examining the indexes to them held centrally by the GRO.

APGI warmly welcomes the Ombudsman’s findings. Helen Kelly, the Association’s President, said “The Ombudsman’s findings are a victory for common sense. Until 2004, under the former Victorian legislation, the public’s right of access to locally held civil registers was enshrined in law. Arbitrarily, this right was stripped away under the 2004 Act and all locally held register books placed beyond reach.”

In theory, the Ombudsman’s findings mean that the public can once again resolve thorny and intractable genealogical problems by leafing through original register books. However, the GRO disputes that the National Archives Act allows the public access to the original records; it states that it is relying upon advice from the Attorney General (although it refuses to disclose this advice, even to the Ombudsman).

“Anyone would think that these records are state secrets,” says Ms Kelly “They are not. They are public records and always have been. The number of researchers wishing to gain direct access to locally held registers is unlikely to prove onerous.”

Currently, the public must access civil records by identifying entries in the national indexes and then purchasing a photocopy of the register entries. The problem is that the indexes give very little information and leave researchers playing an expensive game of lucky dip! Just to add to the frustration, the GRO applies a nonsensical limit of only five photocopies per person per day! For visiting overseas researchers this is bewildering!

The Ombudsman has called upon the GRO to publish the legal advice it has received from the Attorney General and APGI adds its voice to this call. The Ombudsman has also directed the GRO to enter into talks with the relevant government departments and agencies to give effect to her report’s findings. She also wants the GRO to report back to her every six months about the steps it is taking.

In this context, APGI calls upon the GRO to make available to the Department of Arts, Culture & the Gaeltacht a copy of its database of scanned images of the civil registers so that those records can swiftly be added to the Department’s website, where many other genealogy sources are already made publicly available.


Five APGI members, Mary Beglan, Fiona Fitzsimons, John Grenham, Brian Mitchell and Eileen Ó Dúillare giving talks as part of the National Library’s twenty-minute lunchtime series. More information here.

June 2012


Wednesday 13 June 2012One of APGI’s founding members was given a special presentation at the professional development event at the Bedford Tower in Dublin Castle yesterday. Eileen O’Byrne, a past president and the second member to be awarded APGI’s Fellowship back in 2005, had recently celebrated a significant birthday.

Speaking of Mrs. O’Byrne, APGI’s current President commented that “without a shadow of doubt Eileen can be singled out as APGI’s most valued member”. Eileen O’Byrne (née Moran) was called to the Bar before her marriage. She began a new career in genealogy in the mid-1960s, after raising her family. At the invitation of the then Chief Herald, Gerard Slevin, she joined the Genealogical Office freelance research panel. The GO was then based in the Bedford Tower, so yesterday’s event was a pleasant opportunity to return to where she started in genealogy.

A bouquet of flowers was presented to Mrs. O’Byrne by Paul Gorry, once her junior colleague at the GO. Other founding members present for the celebration were John Grenham, Henry McDowell, FAPGI, and David McElroy. Another former GO research panellist, Máire Mac Conghail, was also present, along with most current members of APGI, while there were messages from many retired members.


Wednesday 13 June 2012The APGI members who ran the Genealogy Service at the National Archives until 31 May 2012 were praised by the Association’s President at a professional development event in Dublin Castle yesterday. The event was attended by all but four of APGI’s current members.

Helen Kelly was speaking of the unanimous decision of the panel of experts not to participate in a tender for the Genealogy Services at the National Library of Ireland and National Archives. Mrs. Kelly commented: The decision was taken with a heavy heart but, in view of the diminished status of the Genealogy Services as outlined in the invitation to tender, the panel providing the GS at the National Archives declined to participate in a bid. During the tendering process this decision could not be made known beyond the panel and APGI’s Council as it was commercially sensitive information. For that reason the decision is being announced only today.

APGI’s decision not to compete for the joint National Library / National Archives contract closed a chapter in the Association’s history. The ten members who formed the final APGI Genealogy Service panel were Pamela Bradley, Paul Gorry, John Grenham, Helen Kelly, Máire Mac Conghail, Hilda McGauley, Nicola Morris, Joan Sharkey, Rosaleen Underwood and Robert Woodward.

Since 1989 thousands of family historians, both tourists and Irish residents, availed of the expert advice provided by a panel of genealogists with an unrivalled combination of practical experience and in-depth knowledge. Mrs. Kelly added: The decision regrettably ends a twenty-three year tradition of assisting visitors on their journey back into Ireland’s past through consultancy work in our national institutions. Over those twenty-three years some 22 of our members took part in the Genealogy Service.

Under the Taoiseach’s Task Force on Genealogy the first ‘Genealogy Advisory Service’ was established in 1989 as a partnership between the Genealogical Office and APGI. The agreement was with APGI as a body, and participation was open to members of the Association, all of whom were accredited by a panel of independent assessors. This arrangement continued through the years.

In 1998 the GAS transferred to the National Library of Ireland, where it was operated by APGI until January 2007. Because of its success the National Archives engaged APGI to provide a similar facility at its premises, starting in January 2003. It was during the period that APGI operated the service in both locations that it won praise as providing ‘the most impressive guidance’ in an international survey of genealogical research facilities. APGI, an all-Ireland organisation founded by professional genealogists in a spirit of mutual respect and collegiality, is no longer associated with the Genealogy Service in the National Archives or in the National Library of Ireland.


The Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) confirms that, regretfully, it has withdrawn from the Genealogy Service provided by the National Archives. This brings an end to a partnership which began in 2003. The GS provided expert advice to visitors at the National Archives in Bishop Street, Dublin, free of charge. Each year the GS guided hundreds of family historians, both overseas visitors and Irish residents, who wished to do their own research, providing them with a strategy for their particular case and giving them time-saving tips. It played a central role in enhancing the research experience and was a significant component in heritage-related tourism.

Until last autumn the Genealogy Service operated throughout the National Archives opening hours. From October 2011 budgetary restraints forced the institution to reduce the GS to half days. Understanding the situation and having a good working relationship with the National Archives staff, APGI willingly co-operated in the new arrangement. The reduced service was rolled over on a month-by-month basis in anticipation of a new contract being offered through the public sector procurement process. When the invitation to tender was published it was for a single contract to provide a genealogical service in both the National Archives and the National Library. The criteria for the services in the two locations indicated that they would be fundamentally different in terms of duties and duration. In particular, under the terms of the invitation to tender, provision of a genealogy service at the National Library of Ireland would differ in many ways from that required at the National Archives – a service that has been of outstanding value to members of the Irish Diaspora.

APGI’s involvement in such advisory services dates back twenty-three years. Under the Taoiseach’s Task Force on Genealogy the first ‘Genealogy Advisory Service’ was established in 1989 as a partnership between the Genealogical Office and APGI. In 1998 the GAS transferred to the National Library of Ireland and became a free consultation service. APGI operated the GAS at the National Library until January 2007. Since then staff members and volunteers have provided advice at the Library. During the summer months of 2011 APGI members again were engaged by the National Library to assist in the GAS. Because of the success of the APGI-operated GAS, back in January 2003 the National Archives engaged APGI to provide a similar facility at its premises.

It has been both an exhilarating and rewarding period for participating members and there is no doubt visitors/readers, who availed of the Genealogy Service, appreciated it, very many of whom made several return visits. We also believe that the National Archives staff benefited from our presence in the Genealogy Room.

It is greatly regretted that the participation of APGI in the Genealogy Service ceased Thursday 31st May 2012.

During the four years that APGI operated the advisory services at both the National Library and the National Archives the services gained a reputation for high quality. In 2004, following an international survey of genealogical research facilities, David Ouimette of the Genealogical Society of Utah / Family History Library, Salt Lake City, reported ‘the most impressive guidance we saw was provided by the Genealogy Advisory Service at the National Library and the National Archives in Dublin’.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to extend our sincere thanks to staff at the National Archives and National Library of Ireland for their courtesy and wonderful support over very many years.

May 2012


A new 14-page family history supplement called Back to Our Past, edited by APGI member Paul Gorry, appears in the May 2012 issue of the Senior Times. This Irish publication, aimed at the domestic market, is described as ‘The magazine for people who don’t act their age’, but the supplement is for all ages.

Back to Our Past covers 14 pages of the magazine. It includes articles by two other APGI members, Eileen Ó Dúill and Margaret Jordan, while the well known Irish genealogy blogger Claire Santry writes on getting involved in the family history community. In addition there is a news section and a fairly full listing of upcoming Irish heritage lectures and conferences throughout Ireland (with a few across the Irish Sea).

It appears that the supplement is to become a regular feature of the magazine.

April 2012

TCD-UCD Innovation Academy

On Thursday 26th April, APGI member Fiona Fitzsimons was guest-speaker at the morning session of the TCD-UCD Innovation Academy.In a paper entitled ‘Protecting your Intellectual Property’, Fiona presented a business case study of Eneclann, a TCD Spin out company working in the Creative Industry.

In her presentation Fiona introduced core issues and actions associated with quality, early identification and protection of intellectual property.

Key issues addressed were:

A description of an individual’s legal rights concerning novelty and intellectual property both with reference to their own specific research and in relation to their wider interests.
An explanation of ownership and commercialisation issues arising out of intellectual property along with associated costs of protection, sources of funding and obligations to stakeholders.
A clear articulation of what rights of use they themselves have for intellectual property legally owned by others.

New research shines a light on Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula
Count Dracula is one of the most terrifying figures in popular culture. He first appeared in print in 1897, as the title character in Bram Stoker’s book. Since then the name ‘Dracula’ has become shorthand for all vampires.

In the century since its publication, critics and biographers have dined out on the blood-sucking aristocrat from Transylvania. They have pored over Bram Stoker’s early life and formative experiences, to try and explain how this former civil servant could have imagined the gothic horror of Dracula. Now new research has uncovered aspects of Stoker’s family history, previously unknown, which reclaims the story as essentially Irish. Research has also proven links between the writer’s family, the oldest surviving Irish manuscript in existence, and one of the treasures held in the National Museum of Ireland.

The new findings are the fruits of months of research by APGI member Fiona Fitzsimons, the genealogist who last year identified Obama’s closest living Irish relatives, enabling the U.S. President to meet them on his state visit to Ireland.

“I myself am of an old family…” Count Dracula informs Jonathan Harker, one of the novel’s narrators. Dracula tells Harker of his pride in his noble lineage, rooted in a lost age of feudal warriors and bygone heroism. Bram Stoker, we now learn for the first time, also turns have been “of an old family” with a glorious history. His direct ancestor, Manus “the Magnificent” O’Donnell, once ruled much of Ireland and led a rebellion against Henry VIII.

“We have discovered that Bram Stoker could trace his own lineage back more than 1,000 years”, says Fitzsimons. In short, his own lineage turns out to have been remarkably similar to Dracula’s.

What’s more, Stoker himself knew of this ancestry, says Fitzsimons, but the wider world did not – until now. “Stoker did not use overtly Irish references in Dracula, but his main theme is taken from Irish history – the history, we now learn, of his own family – recast in the writer’s imagination”, says Fitzsimons. “The tale of a decayed aristocracy with a great warrior past, the survivors displaced by the passage of history and now living in the shadows, is the story of Dracula, as envisioned by this descendant of Manus O’Donnell.”

To read the full story go to

New edition of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors

The fourth edition of APGI member John Grenham’s Tracing Your Irish Ancestors is now available from Gill & Macmillan.

March 2012


APGI members John Grenham and Rosaleen Underwood are among the speakers at the one-day “Tracing your People” conference due to take place in Cork on MArch 31st next. More details at the Cork Genealogical Society website.

February 2012


6 x 25min series for RTÉ

Wouldn’t you want to know if a relative of yours died without making a will? Because if this person leaves money – and if no living relative comes forward to claim it – it goes to the state. For years, brothers Steven and Kit Smyrl have been tracking down the heirs to unclaimed estates and giving them their inheritance. This new six-part RTÉ series follows their quest to find the rightful owners of Dead Money.


Steve and Kit Smyrl

This series developed by Producer Michael O’Connell of ProMedia productions was inspired by an advertisement in the Boston Globe issued by the Massachusetts state treasury department looking for possible claimants to unclaimed estates from people who were dead, on the vast list were hundreds of Irish sounding names. The next step was to find the right presenters with the expertise to to tell the stories . . . Brothers Steven and Kit Smyrl fitted the bill perfectly. Steve is, of course, a prominent member of APGI.

Programme One airs on Tuesday March 6th. Steven and Kit attempt to find the relatives of Dublin woman Maura Byrne, revealing a tale of horror and tragedy, from the squalor of the inner city tenements in the 1910s to the sad abandonment of a young boy in an industrial school.