When I recently began getting more serious about my genealogical research after several years of dabbling, I began to think about possible blog names to document my journey. As an information technology professional with expertise in information security, Hacking Your Ancestors first occurred to me as a potential blog name.

Then it also occurred to me that that name was slightly more homicidal than I’d intended.
Plus, my good axe is just now at the cleaners.

I may still use that blog name if I decide to write more on techniques and tools and how some tactics of an infosec professional mesh nicely with those of the genealogist.

But, in this blog I hope to focus more on the journey of discovery that almost inevitably occurs when researching one’s own family and how they fit into history. It likely helps when you have only limited clues to much of your family history, making the search that much more surprising and interesting.

Group Photo: Egans of Creggan, Ferbane, Ireland on Flickr As I find more documentation of the lives of my forebears I feel a strangely stronger sense of the parallel linearity of theirs and mine. While I cannot claim that records and documents give a clear insight into our ancestors’ personalities, there is a glimpse of dreams or, at least, hope that this new country held promise beyond their original ken.

Such a trip requires a vehicle, whether it is ridden or written. The sadly late poet John O’Donohue’s poem Beannacht, or Blessing offers some solace from the pulling weight of the land, the dimming vision of time and leads our boat, or Currach, on a protected path home with a healing cloak of wind.

Listen to his words below.

Beannacht recited by John O’Donohue on NPR’s Speaking of Faith


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

— John O’Donohue


  • avatar

    Comment by Anne Tierney — August 20, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    I love your blog! Very fancy schmancy with the picture thingie [I’m very tech savvy] at the top.

  • avatar

    Comment by John — August 20, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

    Thanks! I just need to un-break whatever I did in the portfolio page.

    And then actually write something. to. post.

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    Comment by Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith — August 28, 2010 @ 7:50 pm

    Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill 😉
    Author of “Back to the Homeplace”
    and “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories”

  • avatar

    Comment by johnjt — August 29, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

    Thanks Bill – The trouble with Geneabloggers is there are too many interesting things to read! Looking forward to participating…

  • avatar

    Comment by Anne Tierney — September 22, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

    psst! psst! Hey! Anybody here? Someone needs to get crackin’ on their blog. [ek-hem!] Just saying…

  • avatar

    Comment by John — September 22, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

    I know, right? What’s up with this guy?
    Oh wait, I’m driving this thing.
    I’ve got about 8 pending draft posts – think I need to unhinge the perfectionism from the cart and let them roll. Or some such metaphor.

    And why don’t my avatars show up in the comments? I’m all avatarred up in the settings but they don’t show. Mysterioso.

  • avatar

    Comment by Smallest Leaf — May 2, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

    Hi John –

    Your blog has a very nice look to it and you’ve written some very good articles. Maybe we’ll discover an Irish or Eastern European connection somehow and find that we are cousins. It would be great to collaborate. 🙂

    I enjoyed reading about how you named your blog. John O’Donohue
    is one of my favorite poets.

    “Beannacht” on this “Currach” and your search for ancestors!

    Smallest Leaf

  • avatar

    Comment by Anne Davison — August 25, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

    Hello John:
    I just posted a comment on Ancestry’s blog where they shared the story & photos of Michael who won the trip to Ireland, and noticed a few of the other ‘posters’ had a link under their names~~so I clicked on yours & found myself here. Serendipitous! Your blog inspires me~~well written, thoughtful, interesting & helpful, visual, and makes me smile. I’ve just begun to read genealogy blogs to get an idea how others treat the endeavor. I want to create one of my own and I’m glad I ‘tripped’ across yours. I’ll have to check out Geneabloggers. I think you should definately call your techniques & tools blog Hacking Your Ancestors; I would read that! Mostly, love the poem that inspired you; it’s beautiful. The connection we develop with ancestors we never knew much about, is profound. In that spirit, “may the protection of the ancestors be yours” as well.

  • avatar

    Comment by John — August 25, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

    Thanks for your kind words! Serendipity seems to be a nice side benefit in genealogy research, and the blogging community is filled with both interesting and helpful folks, I’ve found.

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    Comment by Claire — January 12, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

    Hey, nice blog!!!! Just stumbled onto your site, and have to say I LOVE the poem, and your wit, and your ability to put into words that wonderful sense of the “parallel linearity” we share with our ancestors, which I’ve often felt but have had no luck describing!

    I’m a bit behind the welcome wagon, but glad you’ve joined the Geneablogger world!

  • avatar

    Comment by John — January 12, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

    Claire, Thank you very much!

  • avatar

    Comment by CeCe Moore — November 28, 2012 @ 2:19 am

    “Hacking into Your Ancestry” might be slightly less gruesome, but still get the point across! 😉

  • avatar

    Comment by John — November 28, 2012 @ 11:39 am

    Thanks CeCe – and less sharpening involved. 😉

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