You can get free genealogy consulting at the KC Irish Festival this year

Kansas City Irish Fest

In the 1800s, Irish immigrants used their knowledge of quarrying and bricklaying to, quite literally, pave the way for downtown Kansas City. Today, their descendants, who make up 10 percent of the metro area, gather on those same grounds to show Celtic pride every August.

Last year, the event at Crown Center drew nearly 100,000 people. The weekend includes several Irish folk bands, traditional and modern ceili dance, Irish pub food, whiskey tastings, comedy and a Sunday morning mass followed by an Irish breakfast.

Irish or not, anyone can take a deeper dive into their own heritage at the festival, as expert genealogists will be volunteering all weekend.

“We can’t do a complete family tree, but we can get them started,” Irish Fest’s genealogy co-chair Barbara Scanlon says. “Sometimes, if you have a very unique name, they’re easier to trace. There are names in Ireland that are very specific to one area. Some families know exactly where they’re from.”

When Scanlon started researching her own family in 1962, she made the mistake of interviewing her grandfather about his dad’s side but not his mom’s. It took her over 50 years to fill in the gaps.

Scanlon says too many people trust everything they see on ancestry websites.

“The big thing is how you find your information,” she says. “You look online, and there are a lot of trees, and somebody will put on a mistake and other people just copy.”

For some tips on how to do the work, Irish Fest is offering a new ticketed genealogy workshop. Led by international genealogy consultant Kathleen Brandt, the first three sessions will include information about where immigrants went when they arrived in America, how to trace a changing surname and how genealogists can use DNA.

As a fourth bonus session, Brandt will speak on the festival’s culture stage about tips for tracing Missouri Irish ancestors.

“To know where you came from is very powerful,” Scanlon says. “If you ever have the chance to walk the path that your ancestors did, it really is spectacular. It’s important to know the trials they went through to get here and the strength that they had to persevere.”

GO: Crown Center Square, 25th Street and Grand Boulevard, Kansas City, Mo. Find genealogy staff in the Crown Center Atrium. 5-8 pm Friday, 11 am-7 pm Saturday-Sunday. The genealogy workshop will be held in Crown Center’s Washington Park Ballroom. 8:30-11:45 am Saturday. Registration is $40-65.

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