Climbing the Family Tree

New resources for those with German and Irish roots


The Massachusetts Society of Genealogists will meet on Saturday, March 18, at Somerset Public Library, 1464 County St. The program at noon is by The Gravestone Girls. They will talk about gravestone art, history and symbolism and offer a visual tour from colonial burial grounds through the rural cemetery movement of the 19th and 21st centuries. It is free and open to the public.
And, there are lots of new sites out there just waiting to help you with your genealogy research. Here are just a few I’ve stumbled across.
• If you have German roots, check out the Geogen site at The name stands for geographical genealogy. It’s a surname mapping site that helps you find surnames in Germany. Before you start, click on “Information” on the homepage and read the short tips and description of the site.
When I entered my only German surname, Zufelt, there were no hits, but they asked if I meant Zofelt (two dots over the O). There were 38 entries in 15 counties. Then, check out the map. As you hover over each colored section, it tells you the name of the county.
Archion is at It was founded in 2013 by the Evangelical Church of Germany with 11 regional evangelical churches. Its primary goal is “to make church books and other biographical and genealogical resources available.” They are adding church records from across Germany every day (and not just evangelical churches). At this time, there are 16 million pages of church books. Click on browse to see what they have. Searching is free, but if you want to access book material, there is a fee starting with a one-month pass.
• In September, those of us with Irish roots were thrilled to see the release of online Irish civil registration records at In 1863, it became compulsory to register all births, marriages and deaths by Jan. 1, 1864. These civil records (and non-Catholic marriages from 1845), over 12.5 million individual records, are free. At this time, they include births (1864-1915), marriages (1882-1940) and deaths (1891-1965) from the General Register Office (GRO). They are working on adding marriages back to 1845 and deaths back to 1864. The site also has links to the GROs in Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland.
But, you will want to combine these records with church records when possible. Fines were assessed for late registration, so it’s obvious in some of my records that a parent lied about a birthdate to keep from being fined. Luckily, the church records are more accurate. But, the civil records have great information, including the mother’s maiden name, occupation of the father (or of the deceased) and more.
• A good source of Irish surnames is a “Special Report on Surnames in Ireland” from the Cornell University Library at Other maps of Irish surnames I’ve seen were never helpful. But, this one dates from 1894 and was compiled from the birth indexes in the General Register Office in 1890. My two Irish surnames are listed – McAree with three births in Antrim and three in Monaghan (where mine are from) and Ward – 168 births in every county, but chiefly where mine are not from.
• And, this is a perfect time for a reminder to not forgot Cyndi’s List ( Cyndi Howell’s fabulous website is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The portal site has grown from a webpage with 1,025 links in 1996 to over 330,000 links today. No matter what you’re looking for, you can find something on the subject at Cyndi’s List. It’s free and offers everything from what to do if you’re just starting out to countries, vital records, DNA and so much more.
The David Rumsey Map Collection at has grown by 8,000 maps (to 75,000) since the last time I visited. There also is a blog, new pictorial maps and atlases, and a bunch of cool tools. You can zoom in on the maps and, a really neat feature, lets you use Google Earth to overlay current maps over the historic maps. A video on You Tube explains it at is a free website with history listed by category (ancient world, Middle Ages, Renaissance, 17th century, Civil War, World War I, etc.) or check the index for a list of events.

Lynda Rego has a Facebook page at where she shares tips on genealogy and other topics. Stop by, click on Like and share any interests you have for upcoming columns.


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