Sligo Heritage and Genealogy Centre are working hard to help people from around the world connect with their roots.
Passionate about connecting people with their roots in Sligo, Adrian Regan, the manager of Sligo Roots, says that genealogy research is very much a bug you catch.
Once you have it, people tend to research as much as they can, no matter where in the world they are. “It’s amazing, the amount of people that have come to us from the States in particular that have had DNA tests done,” explains Adrian.
The Sligo Heritage and Genealogy Centre is a social enterprise within Sligo, and its primary goal is to help people in and outside of Ireland connect with their roots. Established in 1988, it began as a heritage and genealogy society with the main objective to collect, record, and computerise all records within Sligo. At its outset, they received all available records from clergy, institutions and religious institutions and began computerising them. Now, the Heritage and Genealogy database has around half a million records of people who were born, lived, married, and died in Sligo.
“Basically, our main remit is to operate a genealogy centre that caters for people who want to search up their ancestry and roots,” says Adrian.
The Heritage and Genealogy Centre serves a second purpose, though, and maybe an even more important one. The centre drives tourism to Sligo and allows people from outside the country to experience smaller communities, and experience their heritage richly and individually. “We want to be very productive in the development of local heritage and tourism,” Adrian explains. “We want [the Centre] to drive people into the local communities so that they can experience community life in Ireland or in a small county, which we believe they will enjoy.”
As Ireland is the land of storytellers, being part of the community is vital to the Centre. It relies a lot on people within local communities to share their experiences to add to the database. One way this is done is by going to retirement homes and showing residents images of the past. It has a dual purpose, as Adrian says it gives back to the community as well. “People just come alive, and their faces light up because you bring them [back] to their era, and they love it. It’s such a simple thing that can make a real difference to their day.”
Being part of something like this is impressive on its own. Adrian is particularly proud of the connections he’d helped foster. “There’s great satisfaction in being able to help people connect with their ancestral past,” says Adrian.
People come from all over the world, most coming from Canada and the US. As the Centre’s whole purpose is to help others in the community, Adrian hears many stories from people from all walks of life. No two days are the same, and seeing people connect with their Irish roots helps make a difference to visitors and locals alike.
So what’s in store for the future of Sligo Heritage and Genealogy Centre?
Short-term, the Centre’s goal is to recover from the pandemic and encourage more people to visit Sligo once more. Long term, the government is organising a gathering, where the call is put out internationally for people to come home to Ireland and visit where their ancestors lived. This gathering has a lot of input from the local community and is a team effort.
The Centre is also involved in the diaspora organisation in Sligo, which is a newer organisation. As the Centre already has a strong link with the world’s diaspora, it will be able to help facilitate those connections. Developing the centre is also on the list. As Adrian pointed out, they are on the Wild Atlantic Way route, making it an attractive stop-off point for tourists.
Finally, Adrian has a few mentions who the Sligo Heritage and Genealogy Centre wouldn’t exist without.
“The Irish family history foundations, the network of genealogy centres in Ireland; we wouldn’t be open without their help… The Department of Community and Rural Development as well. As you know, we receive great help from Sligo County Council and from the leader partnership. Finally, our committee, the board of voluntary directors: without those guys putting in their time, we couldn’t be here. It’s a testament to their generosity and their approach to life in Ireland that we have a centre like this.”
As a volunteer-led social enterprise in Sligo, the Sligo Heritage and Genealogy Centre has a big impact locally, and across the world – with plenty of aspirations to keep serving the community and those with ties to Sligo.
Find out more at www.sligoroots.com