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Nine Questions with Robert Williams of Ulster Ancestry

Posted On: April 5th, 2010 | Posted by: Dean


ua-logoleftOn most Mondays, I publish brief e-mail interviews with some of our lookup providers. This week’s interview is with Robert Williams, whose Genlighten username is ulsterancestry.

From UlsterAncestry’s profile

Robert is our first provider from Northern Ireland. He can retrieve documents from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast, including wills, probate records, land valuations and baptism/marriage records. He’s pursued genealogical research on a full-time commercial basis since 1998.

Nine questions with Robert Williams

1) How did you get started doing genealogy lookups/research?

I have always had an interest in history, even as a child. I also had a great love of books. I started on my genealogy journey back in the mid 1990’s researching my own family tree for my American, Welsh and English cousins. As more and more doors opened, I found myself caught up in a world that previously I knew nothing of.  I also found I had a “feel” for research  that others did not seem to have, so in 1998 I gave up my previous career and embarked on one in Irish genealogy. I have never regretted it.

2)      Do you have a genealogy “superpower”? If so, what is it?

There is some truth in this. I don’t know about a “superpower” but when primary evidence runs out, I follow my hunches and my gut instincts and they are usually right.

3) Describe a tricky research problem you’re particularly proud of having solved?

Too many over the years to detail here. I had an American lawyer some years ago, seemingly with 300 years of pure German American ancestry, who much to the amusement of his family, was  totally convinced he was Irish. I helped him prove his Irish ancestry, much to his delight. I also do Probate {living heirs} research and every case is a challenge.

4) What are the ideal elements you like to see in a well-formulated lookup request/research query?

We need to know certain basic things: The persons full name; his/her vital dates {birth, marriage, death} to within 5 years; the geographical area to within a Parish.  I get too many “Born Ireland”!!

5) What’s the most interesting record source or repository you’ve utilized in your area?

Without a doubt the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. The archive contains 36 miles of shelving holding millions of records in the form of original and copy documents, many not available outside Northern Ireland, all relating to Ulster/Irish families generally from 1630 onwards. I found 3 leases for a family, just the other day, dated 1495. I was able to get them copies.

6) What technical tools do you use to produce the digital images you provide to clients?

Images must be made by the repository, using their equipment.

7) Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

I am considering offering an “affordable” document retrieval service based on the PRONI catalogue. PRONI must offer this service under the Freedom of Information Act, but it is very expensive. With a new service any available document held in the PRONI archive and listed in their catalogue could be copied.

8 ) What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started as a lookup provider?

Get to know the archives you will use in depth.  Acquaint yourself with what they hold in terms of records. This is essential if a document is to be found and found quickly.

9) What other passions do you pursue when you’re not at the archives doing lookups/research?

I have time for very little else at the moment but I suppose my other passion is Manchester United Football Club!

Lookups UlsterAncesty Offers

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