Irish Research and Famine Video.

I recently taught a class for my local genealogical society on Irish Research Techniques. As those of you who have Irish ancestors know how difficult it is to find their records and/or hometowns, we are always anxious to learn new tips or tricks.  I showed some websites that have indexes from Ireland’s County Heritage Centers where you can check birth, marriage and death records. We also checked others that have free access to the Griffith’s Valuation, the tax survey taken between 1847 -1864, which is helpful since most Irish censuses taken during this time period has been destroyed.

There were a couple sites that had some emigration databases you can search for when your ancestor would have left.  One of them is on the website, which is the page for the 1845 Emigrant Ship exhibit in New Ross, Ireland.  On our research trip last year we visited this exhibit and were able to see what the conditions were like on this small ship, sometimes when you stand in a spot that holds such history you can feel your ancestor’s story, maybe comprehend a little of what they must have went through.  I recently watched a video that really brought home what our Irish ancestors went through during those Famine years and I recommend it highly to you.

The story is in the Spring of 1849, a coffin ship called Hannah, carrying 180 Irish emigrants fleeing Ireland’s potato famine; hit an ice reef in the strait near Cape Ray, off the coast of Newfoundland. The captain, a 23 year-old Englishman, took flight in the only lifeboat, leaving his passengers to either drown or freeze to death. Seventeen hours later, the survivors were rescued by another famine ship, the Nicaragua.   The video is a Canadian production of descendants of these survivors who travel the route their ancestors did and “feel” their story by being there.  I’ve read many books and watched other things about the Great Famine but for some reason this really hit me as to what the horrors actually were and made me all the more determined to learn more about my Irish ancestors life during this time and what happened to the ones left behind.  Sometimes we have tunnel vision on our research and are only interested in that next document find, but it is good to stop and realize these names and dates were people and they laughed and cried and suffered like all humans and they want us to know their story.

See the video on You Tube.  You can go to and search on Famine and Shipwreck Hannah, the video should come up. It is the 44 minute one.   You can also try this link.

Good hunting and I hope you “feel” this video like I did.