New genealogy and family history course announced by RPCI


RPCI announces new Genealogy and Family History Course.
Maretta Dillon speaks with Joe McDermott, one of the two course leaders.

Joe, a Local History expert living in Co Mayo, is very excited about the new two-day Genealogy and Family History Course which the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland (RPCI) has just announced. Joe and his fellow trainer, Dora Murphy, want to get people started on researching and writing their family history.

‘This is not a kind of just pure genealogy with lists of names and dates of birth. I come from a background of writing local history and writing family history,’ explains Joe. ‘What we’re hoping from the course is that people will end up with the skeleton or the bones of their own story and the ability to write a family history.’

The course is designed for people from beginner to intermediate level. At the end of the course, participants should know about the major sources for Irish Genealogy. They should also be comfortable about researching online sources. The idea is to work backwards from dependable sources to find historical records so from the known to the unknown. They should be able to store and save family records such as photographs. Adding historical context to their family history so that is interesting and informative but still an individual story is the aim.

Joe makes the point that context is everything, ‘usually we do genealogy for ourselves, we want to find out where we came from, but we want to be able to tell others, hey look, at Uncle Martin who fought in the First World War or something like that, we might want to give a bit of context, what was it like in the trenches, how did people survive?’

Using the internet to investigate the various online records is a key part of the course. For those who feel they might benefit from a brief overview of the required IT skills, they need not worry. ‘Dora is an expert on technology – that’s her role in this. She’s going to do an IT overview on the first morning for anybody who wants to get used to opening files, opening different websites and knowing how to move between them,’ adds Joe.

The rest of the course is divided into different chapters or headings looking at: Census Data (history of Irish censuses, using the 1901 and 1911 census); Griffith’s Valuations (history of Griffith’s Valuation and Ordnance survey maps); Tithe Applotment Books (finding and understanding data from these books); various Irish records available online including births, deaths and marriages; emigration and records about the Irish abroad.

The second day begins with a recap of learning on day one before looking at the various repositories in Ireland including the National Library and National Archives of Ireland. Other places where major records of Irish interest are held include: British Parliamentary Papers; Land Records; Chief Secretary of Ireland’s Office Registered Papers; School and Folklore records. How and where to find photographs and maps will be investigated before finishing with a session on Putting It All Together. This will explore writing your story, what format and style might you choose and what is the best structure to use in terms of chapter headings etc.

Joe explains how he sees the course working for participants, ‘I will do the introduction, explain the differences between primary and secondary sources. Let’s say we talk about the census. I will explain census data and where it comes from. And then Dora will say, now folks open your laptops and go to the following sites. She will show them how to use the online sources that are there.’

Joe also adds that Dora is, ‘going to take participants through the various software programmes that are available like She’s going to point out which ones she recommends and how best to access them. Dora will go through software you can download for free and others that you can subscribe to. She will also talk about the DNA profiling that’s going on now.’

It’s quite a lot to cover in two days but Joe stresses that both he and Dora have a lot of experience in the area. ‘Could I say that myself and Dora have been involved together in running courses here in Mayo. We have individually been involved in doing local family stuff. In 2011, I was involved in the Chambers family here in Newport where they had a get together and we produced a book on their history. Dora has done the same with a place called Ballintubber which is quite well known among historians because of Ballintubber Abbey, so she got people together to research their own family histories and put the whole lot together into one production. I taught a Diploma Course in Local History for NUI  Maynooth both here and particularly in Northern Ireland which included cross community stuff.’

Joe stresses that all through the course there will be opportunities for questions and answers as well as feedback from participants. Each course costs €250 and includes tea/coffee and lunch on both days. The next course will take place in The Retirement Planning Council of Ireland’s training room in Camden Street, Dublin 2 on 12th & 13th June 2018. If you are interested in attending please contact RPCI on 01 4789471 or at

Established in 1974, the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland (RPCI) is a Registered Charity, a not for profit organisation, wholly independent of all financial institutions and with a voluntary board of directors.  RPCI is based at 14/15 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2   Ph: 01 478 9471 /  Courses are held in Dublin and around the country on a very regular basis. Please check the website for more details.



About Author


Senior Times also publishes Senior Times magazine and are organisers of the 50 Plus Expo’s in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Killarney.

Comments are closed.