James G. Ryan

Dr. James G Ryan, The In-Depth Genealogist

Dr. James G. Ryan is a biologist by training, but also a writer who has been active in Irish genealogy research and publishing for the past 25 years. He founded Flyleaf Press – www.flyleaf.ie  - in 1987 and continues to develop their list of useful titles.   He has also proved professional research services for clients,  and has lectured widely in North America and Ireland.   His book ‘Irish Records’ (published by Ancestry Inc.) has been a standard guide for Irish genealogists since its publication in 1987.

His research interests have included church records, which resulted in his editing and publication of ‘Irish Church Records’ (which details the background to record-keeping among 8 Irish denominations);   and he has also written Research Guides on two specific counties:  Dublin and Sligo.  In recent times he has been researching Rentals (i.e. records of tenant agreements and rent payments).

Jim's books include:

  • Irish Records – Sources for Family & Local History.   Ancestry Inc. 1997
  • Tracing your Dublin Ancestors:    Flyleaf Press,  Dublin 2009
  • Irish Church Records.  Flyleaf Press,  Dublin  2001
  • Sources for Irish Family History.      Flyleaf Press,  Dublin 2001
  • Tracing your Sligo Ancestors:    Flyleaf Press,  Dublin 2012

Jim Ryan is the author of IDG's new monthly column, The Emerald Isle.

Go In-Depth With James:

What is one tip you would give a newbie genealogist?

I am going to ignore the obvious tip about talking to our elders, and stress instead the importance of clearly documenting what you find.  How many of us have files which contain the incidental garbage found in our searches mixed in with documents which contain critical information of direct relevance to family lines.  Unless this information is documented to distinguish what is important from what is rubbish, our descendants may understandably treat it as the latter and consign it to the bin.  Most of us with an interest in family history are rarities within our families. There will be brief displays of kindred enthusiasm at family gatherings, but little active participation in the process of research or documentation.   It is therefore important that we leave what we find in a format which other family members will recognise as being important.  Make sure that you put what you find into a clearly titled report or file which will be kept until another kindred spirit can take up the challenge of becoming the family historian.

What is your favorite repository?     

My favourite is the National Library of Ireland in Dublin, and particularly the Manuscript Room.  It is accessed through what seems like a secret entrance within the Library’s display of conservation techniques and sources,  down the street from the main library.  Upstairs you enter a big bright room with huge old windows and wonderful carved ceilings.  In contrast to this, the room is equipped with modern reading desks and facilities for copying and photography.   What is most exciting about this collection is the relative uncertainty of what will arrive when you place your order.  The NLI maintain an excellent database of Irish historical materials most of which are within their own collection.   If I order a ‘rental of the X estate’,  or ‘A list of officers..’  it may result in my receiving a large box of material,  or a single page.  Equally, the same file may contain all sorts of other unexpected documents.  The whole experience makes this my favourite archive.

What are your feelings about adding non-blood related lines into your research?

This is an interesting question, which is directly related to my belief that family history should be what it says, i.e.  about understanding what happened to a family.  Documenting blood lines may have legal relevance but if our families closely interacted with others through marriage or adoption, then that is part of our family story and is absolutely central to what we have to tell.  It makes for complicated charts, but simplicity is usually only interesting in pictures.

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© 2013 James G. Ryan

Dr. James Ryan is a writer and publisher specialising in Irish genealogy, and based in Dublin, Ireland. He is the founder and Managing Editor of Flyleaf Press  (www.flyleaf.ie) and is the author of several books, including ‘Irish Records’ (published by Ancestry Inc.) which has been a standard guide for Irish genealogists since its publication in 1987; and guides to researching ancestors in Dublin and Sligo.

This article originally appeared on The In-Depth Genealogist and can be found here. [insert original link]