Northern Ireland

Lisnaskea genealogy workshops: Grandchildren help grandparents with technology

Genealogist Frank McHugh with Adam Porter and Eileen Stott
Image caption Technology was proving a problem for some older people researching their family tree

A project in County Fermanagh that helps older people research their family history has brought in technology experts from very close to home.

Frank McHugh runs the genealogy workshops in Lisnaskea.

Mr McHugh was finding that technology was becoming a barrier for some of the older people he works with.

He decided to ask the grandchildren of the participants for help.

"There's so much in the way of resources on the internet and really the young people were there to help the older people access the technology much, much quicker," he said.

"I could spend more time working on the genealogy side of things in terms of uncovering the different stories," he added.

'Not up to speed'

Adam Porter helped his great granny Eileen Stott get to grips with technology and Eileen admits she's "not up to speed at all".

Adam said: "She doesn't really know that much about technology, but I've definitely helped her and I've enjoyed it."

Adam was also interested in learning about his family tree.

"I have always wanted to know who I really came from and who was in my family, who my ancestors were and I've definitely found some of it out."

The research was organised by Fermanagh and Armagh Connected Together (FACT) which helps to tackle rural isolation through intergenerational schemes such as this.

Project Worker Sharon Howe said it had been a success:

"We knew we had an interest from the older people because we've run genealogy classes regularly but we really weren't sure how the younger people would engage and to be honest we have been absolutely delighted."

Image caption Sharon Howe helped some of the older people get to grips with the tablet computers

She said: "Some of the younger people have been so enthusiastic, they've gone out of their way to contact relatives.

"It's brought relatives back together again."

Frank McHugh believes that while technology can be a problem for the older generation, it can also prevent young people from learning about their past:

"The opportunity for a grandchild to sit down and talk to their grandparents about the grandparent's life, about stories within the family, it's very, very rare. I suppose kids are so focussed sometimes on the Xbox or other types of new technologies that those old fashioned types of conversations just don't happen.

"Hopefully what will happen is the young people will be left with an experience that will be there for the rest of their lives and they will have gained information and I know looking at some of the young people they were so enthused by the conversations that they had."

Image caption 11 year-old Dylan Howe found out a lot about his wider family tree

Titanic discovery

The six families involved in the project were supposed to research as far back as their great grandparents.

Eleven-year-old Dylan Howe became so obsessed that he admits: "I've found more than I should have found, very far out cousins that I couldn't really figure out how they were related to me."

His family tree now covers a roll of paper several feet long.

Talking to his relatives also uncovered a story that had been forgotten.

"My great-great grandmother's brother, William Kelly was on the Titanic as an apprentice electrician and went down with it at 23 years of age."

Dylan spoke to a great-great aunt who eventually told him of his family's connection to the tragedy.

"My nanny didn't even know that, and my father or even anyone else in the family didn't know that."

Image copyright Huw Evans picture agency
Image caption Dylan discovered a tragic family connection to the Titanic

He had studied the Titanic at school and said his teacher Mr Wilson would "probably be very proud that I found that out."

Frank McHugh is also glad that the story has been uncovered.

"That story was completely lost to the family so the process of working on the genealogy, being able to look at all of the resources out there, one conversation led to another little bit of information and the story has unfolded and that story will be there with the family for the next generation," he said.