Researching family ancestry tips at the library

PHOTO| ANCESTRYTOLD.COM Frank J. Cunningham will speak at Friday Night Dialogues on October 2.

Frank J. Cunningham will speak at Friday Night Dialogues on October 2.

Friday Night Dialogues at the Library will host genealogist Frank J. Cunningham, founder of, on October 2 at 7 p.m. He will share insights and tips about researching family ancestry designed for both the novice and the professional.

With the seemingly infinite amount of information available on the Internet, culling it and understanding its possible shortcomings becomes a science akin to an art form.

“For as long as people have been asking other people their age, some of those questioned have lied. You may find a birth record for your great-great-grandmother dating back to 1885, then find a marriage certificate dated 1910 that seems to be hers, but which declares her age as 22. The dates don’t match, so you think you’ve got the wrong bride. Not necessarily.

“Still other research roadblocks arise when family structures are more flexible than we expect. A farm family with eight children might send one of their children to live with and help a childless neighbor. The child takes the neighbor’s last name and eventually inherits the neighbor’s farm. All well and good for that child — but from a genealogical perspective, you’ve got a birth record, then the child simply disappears.

“The key to success, Mr. Cunningham said, is persistence. Keep asking questions and comparing files, and don’t be married to one particular outcome. ‘You might not find the answers you’re expecting,’ he said, ‘but the more you know about your family, your ancestors, the more you know about yourself.’

“Mr. Cunningham, a native of Ballina in County Mayo, Ireland, has lived and studied in France, Germany and New York. A former resident of Southampton, he currently resides on Nantucket, where he researches clients’ family trees and writes poetry.”

The information in this story has been excerpted from a story posted by Lisa Daffy for the Southampton Press, which appeared on July 20, 2015. It followed a presentation by Mr. Cunningham at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton.

Admission to the Friday Night Dialogues series is free with donations gladly accepted.

Coming up: On October 9, the Friends of the Library will host its 2016 Day Planner reveal party.