Meet our Members: Fionnuala O'Connor

+24 votes

Hi everyone!

500px-Meet_our_Members_Photos-34.jpgIt's time to meet another one of our wonderful WikiTreers. This week's member is Fionnuala O'Connor

Fionnuala became a Wiki Genealogist in April of 2016.  She is an active member of our Ireland Project and loves participating in Sourcerer challenges.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

O’Connor, Connors, Hand, Keenan, Crotty, Cosgrave, Cullen, Moonan, Murray, Power, Ryan.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I usually only research Irish profiles unless I come across people who emigrate or marry someone from another country and then I have to find sources from that country. Within Ireland, the main locations I research are Dublin and Waterford.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

I was interested in genealogy as a child, and every so often I used to take out a notebook where I would write down information I learned from my parents and grandmother. When we visited relatives I would sometimes ask them questions about different people they knew and then scribble it down in my notebook when I got home. I always wanted to know the names of my ancestors and where they lived, and little anecdotes about their lives.

More recently, some of my family members did bits of research and they shared their discoveries with me. When genealogical records became available to search online, I was delighted to be able to research more and confirm the details scribbled in my old notebook!

Who's your favorite ancestor and why?

All of my ancestors are interesting in their own way, but there are two I am particularly proud of: Laurence Crotty on my Dad’s side, who died in WW1 at the age of 24. The other is Ellen (Cullen) Keenan, my maternal great-grandmother who lost her father at a young age, and later seven of her children because of the high infant mortality at that time. I don’t know how she coped with such tragedy year after year. She also saw two of her adult children die before her.

(interview continued in comments)

WikiTree profile: Fionnuala O'Connor
in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.9m points)

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down and/or one you hope to bust through.

Everyone with Irish ancestors has many brick walls due to the scarcity of good records prior to the mid 1800’s! One of my most frustrating brick walls is due to the loss by fire of a block of church records from Tramore parish (Co. Waterford). The missing records relate to just before the civil records started in Ireland (1864), so it means I cannot trace my Crotty family ancestors back further than the civil records. Another significant brick wall I have is to try and trace four brothers of my “O’Connor/Connors” great-grandfather who (according to family lore) emigrated from Waterford to the USA around 1870. I have not been able to find any of them or their descendants yet. 

One big success I’ve had was being able to solve a family mystery about how we are related to distant Dobbyn “cousins” in Australia. I carefully examined and compared the witness’s names given on church records in both families and found similarities in names. By chance, I then found an old letter from one of the Australian Dobbyn’s when I was clearing my deceased mother’s belongings, so I was able to make contact with a man I figured out to be my fourth cousin in Australia. He was able to prove my theory of our exact connection thanks to names mentioned in his grandfather’s diary which matched the church records I had found!

If you could pick one person in history to be related to, who would it be and why?

Honestly, I would not like to be related to a famous person! I am very happy with my humble, obscure ancestors! Anyhow, according to WikiTree philosophy, there is one global family tree and we are all related to everyone else if we go far enough back in history. So in that sense, I’m related to every famous person, and they are related to all my humble ancestors too!

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I love wildlife and the environment and have the same enthusiasm about logging records for the Irish Biodiversity Data Centre as I have for genealogy records! During the summer months, I participate in some citizen-science projects such as a “garden butterfly count” and a “bumblebee monitoring scheme”. I like to be outside with my camera, trying to get interesting photos of flowers, insects or birds. I also like gardening, music, singing and handcrafting.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing?

I joined WikiTree in 2016. Usually, I do the most genealogy research in the winter months when I have more time indoors. I still have a lot of work to do at improving my own family profiles, so I try to work on them gradually, whilst also doing other fun things like finding sources as part of the Sourcerers challenge. It is a big thrill for me to be able to find a good source and add it to a profile and make that person “real” in history!

Recently I joined the Ireland Project as part of their Profile Improvement Team. I now combine this with the Sourcerer’s challenge each month. I like to check out Irish unsourced profiles and do a bit of work improving them. There are so many of them from 1700 onwards that need work done that I have not even thought about getting the pre-1700 certification yet. Maybe I will someday, but there is plenty to keep me going for a while!

Some weeks ago, I came across an unusual surname: “Cherubini” in the list of Unsourced profiles for Dublin. I discovered that an Italian man of this name had moved to Dublin around 1820, and one of his descendants had begun adding some of the family tree to WikiTree. I became fascinated with researching as many of his descendants as I could find. I have done over a hundred profiles so far in this personal “project”, and I’m not finished yet. 

I did another personal project last year when I researched as many people as I could from Waterford with the name Cosgrave/Cosgrove. This was in an effort to connect my own Cosgrave ancestors to others in that location, but unfortunately, I did not manage to connect everyone together. There are just not records back far enough in history to do so.

What brought you to WikiTree?

Some years ago I was introduced to WikiTree by a friend Christine Frost who has been a WikiTree member for many years and is involved in different projects and challenges. She is great for giving me advice when I need it and is experienced at finding sources in the UK, so I call on her sometimes to help with that.

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree, or which feature(s) do you like the most?

I really like the collaboration between members, and the ability to acknowledge and thank other members who have helped out with something big or small. It creates a sense of connection between all members, even if we haven’t made a genealogical connection yet. This spirit is already helping to develop a sense of the global family who are all connected and helping each other out and supporting each other positively. I think the spirit of WikiTree is an example of what I would like to see in wider society.  

If you could improve one thing about WikiTree, what would it be?

I would like to make it easier to upload an image to several related profiles at the same time. For example, if I am uploading a photo of the family home, it can be a nuisance to scroll down my whole watch list and click people to connect to that photo, if I am not sure of their profile number. I often have to go in and out and scribble down the number of each person’s profile that I want to add the photo to, and then find them in the list. It’s a bit annoying. Whereas, I would love if when I upload an image to the first person, then I would see a list of their close family members (parents, siblings, spouse, children) and have the choice to connect the image to those other profiles too instead of searching for them all one by one.

What is an example of how WikiTree has helped you with your genealogy or how you’ve helped genealogy with WikiTree?

WikiTree has helped me to organise a lot of details I had collected over the years into a neat format. It is a great platform for me to share everything with family members. Also, when I am contacting DNA matches, it is great to refer the person to my WikiTree family tree, to see if they can find any connections

I think that every addition I make to WikiTree helps genealogy. The more we work on our global family tree, the more connections will be made and the more we will understand about our history and ancestors. This really excites me and motivates me to do what I can to build up our shared genealogical knowledge.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Take it slowly at first and have a look around before you start diving in and adding people. Explore different profiles and see how they have been built up or written. Learn what details are needed for each person you add and consider what your source is for this information. Is it something your mom told you but is not 100% definite, is it handed on to you from a paper-family-tree that uncle Bob did 20 years ago, or do you have copies of the real birth, marriage and death records for the person? For WikiTree you need to have good, reliable sources that are recognized, such as civil registrations, census returns or church documents. You will need to learn what websites are available to find good sources of information for the country you are researching. Ask for help from someone on the G2G forum, or from another WikiTree member if you are not sure where to start to find sources.

If you are uploading a Gedcom, please take the time to visit each person’s profile and tidy it up and add the sources for each. It might be time-consuming to do this, but you will be glad in the end, and you will be doing a massive favour for the WikiTree community. There are too many Gedcom uploads already on WikiTree that are left unmanaged and unsourced and it is left to others to eventually try and tidy them up, so please be considerate about this! 

Most of all, if you’re new, have fun and welcome to the “global family tree”. We hope to see you too interviewed as “member of the week” some day!!

6 Answers

+14 votes
Congratulations, Fionnuala, on your recognition, and thank you for your contributions to our mutual tree.  It's fascinating to hear a bit more about Irish genealogy.  One of my own brick walls is Irish.
by Mark Weinheimer G2G6 Pilot (708k points)
Thanks Mark, and I am glad to share a little about Irish genealogy, of which I am proud! I am not surprised to hear of your brick wall... we Irish seem to have provided many of them to challenge genealogists! (Not intentionally, of course, but it is so frustrating...!!)
+12 votes
Thanks for sharing a little bit about yourself and your best moments in genealogy
by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
Thank you David, I am glad you enjoyed reading my little contributions!!
+7 votes
Congratulations, Fionnuala for being mentioned as Wonderful WikiTreer of the week.

Thanks for that interesting interview and the view into the Irish genealogy. Ireland is a very interesting country historically.
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (1.9m points)

Yes Dieter, it is very interesting, and there is so much more I could have written! I just wish I could trace my ancestors back even further and find links to the Vikings from Scandinavia, because some of my male relatives have Dupuytren's disease (also called Celtic hand) in which one or more fingers become permanently bent in a flexed position. It is supposed to have come from the Vikings that invaded Ireland in the 8th & 9th centuries!

+4 votes

Congrats on one of the best names ever ! devil

by Jo Gill G2G6 Pilot (114k points)
Thanks Jo! I am glad you like my name. It comes from an ancient folk story called the "Children of Lir".
Fionnuala and her three brothers were children of a king called Lir and they were turned to swans by their evil stepmother and exiled in this state for 900 years. You can Google if you want the full version of the story!!
My mother was born near where this story begins, so that is why she called me Fionnuala - and sometimes referred to me as her "little swan"!!!
+4 votes

It was great to get to know you Fionnuala.  I too have many brick walls in Ireland that I keep coming back to from time to time, thinking it will be different "this time"!  LOL. laugh  If I can find anything on the wandering O'Conner/Conners in the US I will let you know.  Keep digging!

by Brad Cunningham G2G6 Mach 8 (84.5k points)
Oh yes Brad, I know the feeling - many times I have done a fresh search for records "in case I might have missed something"... but they really are solid brick walls!!

Yes, if you find the wandering O'Connors, I'd be glad to know... but it's possible they may have changed their names to hide, as they were "on the run" when they left Ireland. Also - note the spelling - we usually have two "o's" - not an "e" at the end!!
+3 votes
What a gem you are!

I have, among the million little things I start here, the county Kerry project.

Irish genealogy is so hard because of lack of resources but we do have some incredibly determined people here. Irish genealogists are a rare breed and we are lucky to have you.
by Maggie N. G2G6 Pilot (944k points)
Thanks Maggie!! I will continue to do what I can to contribute to this corner of the big Wikitree family!!!

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