By Frankie Meyer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Family history researchers who have Irish ancestry will be thrilled with an extraordinary new program called the Irish Reaching Out Project. Information about the program is found at www.irelandxo. com.
The website provides a map of Ireland that will help descendants determine the name of the parish where an ancestor lived. Ireland is divided into counties, which are divided into civil parishes.
One can also check county lists to learn which parishes make up each county. Once the name of an ancestor's parish is known, one can contact that parish community by registering at the website.
One of the goals of the project is for volunteers in each parish to compile information about citizens of the parish who emigrated over the past 200 years. That information can then be used to help identify the countries where the people moved and the names of their descendants. The next step is to contact and interact with the descendants.
The program was founded in 2009 by Irishman Mike Ferrick, who started a pilot program the following year. Because it was so successful, it was expanded in March of this year to include 2,500 parishes.
Some of the goals of the program are to help descendants learn about their ancestors' parishes and to provide a website and message boards by which descendants can interact with each parish and contact other descendants. Another goal is to provide descendants with online genealogy resources such as old letters, school rolls, graveyard records, church records and census records.
Since this is a new program, many aspects of the website have yet to be developed. Even so, Irish descendants who know the area where an ancestor lived should sign up at the website so they can join a parish message board and global message board.
Should a descendant decide to visit the area in Ireland where an ancestor lived, the parish can be a point of contact that provides information to help plan the trip. Volunteers will regularly update the website to add photos about each parish such as houses, lakes, rivers, buildings, fields, churches, festivals and graveyards. Volunteers will also add information about hotels, restaurants, recreation, transportation and other points of interest.
Project leaders estimate that there are more than 20 million Irish descendants worldwide. As the descendants interact with the parish communities where their ancestors lived, some will want to visit the areas. This gives the Irish Reaching Out Project tremendous potential for boosting tourism and bringing economic opportunity to all areas of the country. Consequently, the project is now sponsored by the Irish government.
Suggestions or queries? Write Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168, or email frankie firstname.lastname@example.org.