A TOUCH OF ENGLISH

SUBJECTS OTHER THAN ENGLISH

Several weeks ago, my wife and I decided to take a trip to Ireland. We mentioned it to a few couples who said they'd like to join us, so as of this moment, there'll be eight Americans visiting the Auld Sod in September, 2011 - Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise.

I'd always wanted to go there, maybe to see where my people lived, and also to partake of the fruits of the barley.

With my mind on that subject, what should I get on email shortly after (our decision) but an ad from ancestry.com.

Now I had an easy way to find out just where the Hayes clan rested their weary derrieres after a long day's work.

So I took a 14-day 'free trial offer', and quickly discovered I'd been had! Fourteen days passed like the blink of an eye, and all I had to show for it was one death certificate and a couple newspaper articles.

So, I took the next step, and signed up for a month at slightly under $40, knowing full well I was hooked.

Fortunately, I discovered a distant relative who had been a professional genealogist in another life, and is currently helping.

Moving around on that website, (ancestry.com) is no walk in the park. I'd describe it as "busy", with all kinds of hyperlinks, words, pictures - a site Arlo Guthrie could easily make into a song, something like 'Alice's Restaurant'.

To find things out about forebears, (those who came before, in case my spelling is off) a person would think, "Well, I started out in Philly, so I'll just trace my history back from there."

Nope.

A researcher, (a high falutin' name for yours truly) has to go back, find his earliest ancestor, then work his way forward. It took a couple days, and condescending notes from my genealogist relative before I realized I was doing things bass-ackwards. Must be because I'm left-handed.

Anyhow, I finally stumbled across a ship's list, showing a Daniel and Catherine, coming over from Ireland. Heart pumping 200 to a minute, I knew I'd hit the mother lode. Then I started looking down the list. There were a lot of Hayes's. Page after page after page of people named Daniel Hayes and Catherine Hayes. I finally came to the conclusion that a Hayes in Ireland is somewhat like a Jones in this country.

The list was endless, and this project was and is beginning to look like a super big challenge.

Years ago, an aunt sent me a story written by one of my uncles while in college. The subject was his grandfather Michael, who was either born in Ireland, or maybe on the ship coming over. Anyway, Michael's parents (who, according to the story) were quite well off both died before the Civil War. Michael's older siblings didn't want to spread the money around any more than necessary, so they arranged to have him shipped to Virginia as an indentured servant.

My uncle is a great story teller, and this one is fascinating, all the more so because it's presumably true.

So, what with endless correspondence with St Mary's parish archives in Philly, and my genealogist kin in Santa Fe, I'm taking tiny steps toward my goal.

Hopefully I'll eventually find what I'm looking for, working my way through a maze of documents, and doing the Irish thing - having a touch of the barley by my side as I work.

It's fun, folks. Gotta try it sometime.