The gray mist cloaking the Irish Sea melted away and the land emerged, balanced three miles distant across the ship's prow.

It was early spring and winter's chill lingered. Columns of hearth smoke arced toward the slate sky, bowing in tribute to a southerly breeze that slipped over the ragged rim of the Wicklow Mountains.

My first look at Ireland was not, I would come to learn, unlike that of the first Prendergast to approach these shores -- 820 years, 11 months and three days earlier.

I didn't know this at the time, of course, for I was woefully ignorant of my paternal family heritage. That was why I had come to Ireland. Like so many others who make these pilgrimages, I was searching for roots in the soil of the Old Country.

My expectations were as modest as my knowledge. I mainly wanted to find out why, on a similar trip 11 years earlier, my parents had been unable to find the Prendergast family gravestone, which supposedly bore an "in memoriam" inscription to my immigrant grandfather, John Prendergast. Along the way I also hoped to pick up a few family tidbits.

I spent a pleasant night in the Victorian port town of Dun Laoghaire, then headed for Dublin to begin my quest in the General Registrar's Office on Lombard Street.

In my ignorance and arrogance, I expected to spend a day or so doing research in Dublin, then hop a train down the coast to Gorey, County Wexford, to tie up any loose strings. Then I would be free to explore the rest of Ireland.


My first obstacle took only minutes to reach but hours to breach: Grandfather John's birth certificate. There was no record of a John Prendergast born Sept. 24, 1869 -- or 1868 or 1870 -- in Gorey or anywhere else in Ireland. I was stumped.

The clerk suggested it might help in the search if I could find his baptismal record on microfilm in the National Library.

Several hours later, I sat confused and bleary-eyed in the lofty research room of the library. Each microfilm roll was a morass of disordered parish records spanning decades, all written in flowery, idiosyncratic script, some in Latin.

Next to me, also wheeling through squeaky rolls of microfilm but with an air of expertise, was a woman. In exasperation, I blurted out my predicament to her, and she smiled knowingly. The Catholic custom in Ireland, Roisin Lafferty explained, was to baptize a child the day after its birth. Infant mortality was high a century ago and Catholics believed a child who died unbaptized would be barred from heaven.

I should stick with it, she said, and "look for the birthday, plus one."

I turned back to the screen and, finally, found the frame showing baptisms at St. Michael's in Gorey, County Wexford, during September 1869.

There, in some long-forgotten priest's hand, was a baptismal entry on the 25th day for a child named John. My eyes excitedly scanned the ledger. The father was William -- my father's middle name -- and the mother was Anne, maiden name Kavanagh.

But upon closer examination, I saw this family's name was Pender, not Prendergast.

"Pender is Prendergast," said Lafferty, as if to scold, It's your name; don't you know that?

I suddenly remembered my father mentioning that during his brief 1979 visit to Gorey, people referred to his late Uncle Matt as Matt Pender, which he took to be a nickname. I also recalled a throwaway sentence in a book on Irish names: "Prendergast has been widely corrupted to Pender."

Widely corrupted ... what did that mean?

I reasoned that if I could find the baptismal records of Matt, Great Aunt Sarah and what my father thought were "four or five" other male siblings, all with the same parents as this John, then I'd have found my grandfather's baptismal record, come Pender or Prendergast.

My task consumed the rest of the day.

First, I had to find the record of William and Anne's marriage; I did, on Nov. 18, 1868. Then, 10 months and one week later, came John Pender's birth.

I almost shouted when next I found Sarah, baptized on Nov. 11, 1870. Then came Patrick in 1872, William in 1874, Peter in 1876, Matthew in 1877 and Michael in 1880.

The pieces fit. I had found my family.

But why Pender? Conversely, since it was now indisputable that Grandfather John was born a Pender, why was his name Prendergast on my father's birth certificate? Had he put on airs upon his arrival in the New World? Was some stigma attached to Pender? And was that really my name?

The next morning, I got Grandfather John's birth certificate at Lombard Street. It matched the church register and added another confirming detail: His father was a baker. Grandfather John, a baker himself, had told my father he had apprenticed to his father.

Had I stopped there, I could have gone on to Gorey, hunted for the elusive gravestone, soaked up some ambiance, picked up a couple more tidbits and moved on to explore the rest of Ireland. But no, I made a significant decision: I asked for the marriage certificate of William Pender and Anne Kavanagh.

Had I not done this, I would not be getting up so early these days to head for the New York Public Library before work. I would not be bugging Irish officials for maps and documents, or relatives for recollections and attic searches.

Friends would not be enduring detailed explanations of why some passage just encountered in a musty old text is significant. My subway reading would be newspapers, not Irish histories. I would not be catching myself absently constructing historical scenarios involving dead relatives.

In short, I would not be obsessed.

On that marriage certificate were listed the ages of William Pender (34) and Anne Kavanagh (27), their fathers' names and occupations (James Pender, "baker and grocer"; Patrick Kavanagh, "shopkeeper"), the witnesses to their wedding and the priest who presided.

Suddenly, this scrap of paper became a tableau vivant of immense import. Without these kindred strangers, this century-old moment -- and dozens more like it -- I would not exist. I had to learn more, much more.

I returned to the National Library and dug through its card files and archives until the librarian literally pulled the plug on me that night. Each piece of information I encountered opened a door to the past; each generation introduced me to the one before.

The name Prendergast, I learned, came to Ireland via Maurice de Prendergast, a 12th-century knight from Castle Prendergast in western Wales, where today is the town of Haverfordwest.

On May 2, 1169, Maurice sailed into Bannow Bay in southeastern Ireland, bringing with him 10 men at arms and more than 100 archers. They joined a waiting force of Welsh-Normans massing to help a deposed Irish king regain his throne. Thus began the Norman Conquest of Ireland.

In several works, from Burke's Peerage to local histories, I found surprisingly detailed accounts of Maurice's exploits, life, lineage and descendants up to the mid-17th century, when Cromwell "dispossessed" the family of land and fortune and turned them out as commoners, even exiles in their own country. Some, however, managed to stick around Wexford County.

"Is it not wonderful," gushed George Griffiths in his 1877 "Chronicles of Wexford," "to find at the present day that the descendants of the first invaders are still located in the places of their first settlement, the Furlongs, Waddings, Prendergasts, Hays, Barrys, and Walshes, and side by side with them now dwell in peace the Kavanaghs, Murphys, Connors, Byrnes, O'Tooles, and Breens, whose ancestors so long and so fiercely disputed the intrusion of these strangers amongst them."

My great grandfather had married a Kavanagh; my own father married a Walsh, whose maternal grandmother was an O'Connor. What goes around comes around.

In this heady armchair adventure through Irish and personal annals, I became captivated by the overlay of one family's history on the grander sweep of a nation's.

I raced through eight centuries of knights, bishops, historians, poets, peasants, linguists, artists, soldiers, sailors, rebels and priests all bearing the name Prendergast and thus having some tenuous connection to me.

I followed with pride and fascination their roles in the War of the Barons and the signing of the Magna Carta, Henry VIII's break with Rome, the Elizabethan era, risings against English rule, the Cromwellian conflict and its aftermath, famines, epidemics, republicanism, more war and endless intrigues, marital alliances and squabbles over land and loyalty.

Throughout, I was hoping the archival path would provide a clue to when -- and why -- Prendergast became Pender in Wexford County.

But author Griffiths brought me terrible news: All pre-19th-century church records for Gorey had been destroyed in the Rising, or rebellion, of 1798.

The bridge was down.

That last night in Dublin passed slowly.

The next day I rode the train down Ireland's east coast to Gorey, the market town my grandfather had left as a teenager in the 1880s. A taciturn man, he never told my father or my Aunt Frances much about his life or family in Ireland or why he had left, and, frankly, I was now getting suspicious.

Why the name change in America? Why would the eldest son of a tradesman leave? Custom holds that he would have had first crack at inheriting the family business. Grandfather John obviously didn't dislike baking; that's how he made his living for half a century in New York.

Had he a falling out with his parents? Had the business failed? Was he just impatient? Adventuresome? Or was there something else?

I lugged my bags past the massive 150-year-old stone church where my great-grandparents were married, their children baptized and schooled and from which all, save Grandfather John, were buried.

After checking in at my B & B and getting directions from my cordial hosts, I hustled off across the shallow river valley to the Catholic cemetery.

A chill afternoon drizzle draped the countryside. I zipped up my windbreaker and, stooping and squinting at the decrepit headstones, began to read the rolls of Gorey's long dead. There were Penders and Prendergasts here, all right, but not the ones I sought.

After nearly an hour, I had only one row to go in the old part of the cemetery. I darkly recalled my parents' lament at how they had trod these same deathly aisles without success.

I approached a gray, weathered stone topped by a Celtic cross and scarred by a coin-sized splatter of white. The wet, fading light cast no shadow, and so I dropped to my knees and leaned to one side to catch what little definition I could in the stonecutter's aged marks. Slowly, with growing excitement, I began to read their message: Erected by Matthew Pender in Loving Memory of His Parents William Pender, died 15th Jan 1900 Anne Pender, died 26th April 1906 Also his brothers William, died 29th May 1894 Michael, died 1st August 1895 Peter, died 5th May 1896 Patrick, died 26th May 1904 Also his sister Sarah, died 30th July 1945 John Pender, died 10th June 1944 (Died in New York) R.I.P. I sat down on that cold, wet ground and stared at that rock for a long, long time.

Penders, all Penders.

No wonder my parents had walked by this stone.

I took out my notebook and began comparing dates of birth to dates of death. My great-grandparents had both lived into their sixties. Maybe they wished they hadn't.

Though Matthew and Sarah made it into their seventies and eighties, respectively, William and Anne had buried all their other children: Patrick at age 32, William at 20, Peter at 20 and Michael at 15. Grandfather John had outlived his parents, but he might as well have died a boy, leaving home a teenager never to see them again.

Why did so many die so young?

Once again, as one mystery was solved, another arose.

That evening I bought a local history book written by a town resident, Michael Fitzpatrick. For whatever more I learned about my family in Gorey, I can mostly thank this generous and dedicated man.

Within minutes of my knocking on his door the next day, he had given me a second volume on Gorey and begun plumbing his memory and his books for details on Penders and Prendergasts.

He even had a snapshot of old Uncle Matt in one of his books. Smiling in vest, tie, jacket, baggy pants and peaked cap, a sixtyish Matthew stood with two pals in front of a window with blinds. The fuzzy image became my instant treasure.

Soon, we were off in Fitzpatrick's car for the stable-turned-row house on Thomas Street where Matthew and Sarah had lived out their lives, at least since 1911, as bachelor laborer and spinster dressmaker. To this address my father had sent Matthew $25 to have Grandfather John's name added to the family stone.

The church register showed Matthew had died in 1959 in St. John's County Home in Enniscorthy, where, I was told, elderly people with little money and no one to care for them went when the end was near.

With no heirs, Matthew had left the little house to the parish priest, who sold it for a few hundred dollars to a Mrs. Kinch, who owned another house in the same row and so gave Matthew's to one of her children.

I knocked on Mrs. Kinch's door. Mary Jane Kinch, 85, is ailing but clear of mind. Sitting by a coal fire in her tiny living room, we talked about Matthew and Sarah.

Her recollections squared with those of others. They were quiet, religious people. Sarah, active in church life, was stout and austere in appearance, her gray hair pulled back tightly.

Matthew worked hard at many jobs and places, but most often at Redmond's coal yard and at Doyle's, which sounded like a combination of pub, grocery, feed lot and stockyard.

Large and strong, with powerful hands, Matthew was not much for idle chatter, preferring, at least in his later years, to stand alone in his doorway or on a street corner with friends, nodding and smiling slightly at passersby as the little world of Gorey went by.

Mrs. Kinch and others also insisted, whenever I asked which was his favorite pub, that Matthew didn't drink. "Oh, Lord, no," laughed Mrs. Kinch. "Sarah would never have permitted it!"

That was hard to believe: an Irish laborer who never set foot in a pub.

All this talk, and learning the sad circumstances of Matthew's death, had left me with yet another quest. Where was he buried? Enniscorthy, in some pauper's grave? Or with the others beneath that stone in the wide plot on the hillside across the river?

No one seemed to know. Not Father Forde, too young to remember. Not Michael Fitzpatrick, who had only hazy boyhood memories of an elderly Matt. Not Josie Curran, whose cemetery records don't include the older graves. Not affable Charlie Hogan, the white-haired gravedigger. Not Maura Lawlor, to whom Matthew gave Sarah's 1888 cookbook when she died.

Nor could anyone answer where the Pender bakery had been or why Matthew hadn't made his living in that family trade.

Fitzpatrick took me back across the river, near the cemetery, to an area called Gorey Bridge. There he showed me an unremarkable, squat brown house. In this house, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Penders of Gorey Bridge, as he said my ancestors were known, lived and worked as shoemakers and cobblers, a skill I later learned my grandfather also possessed.

Ireland being under militant Protestant rule at the time, neither Catholic Church nor priestly residence was permitted inside the town proper. So there was a small chapel across the way, on the edge of the cemetery, here on the outskirts of town.

The parish priest commuted between this chapel and a woodlands church in Kilanerin, several miles away. These Penders, Fitzpatrick wrote in one of his books, kept the priest's vestments in their house, to save him the trouble of carting them around and, perhaps, to make a quiet political statement.

They also mended his shoes, said Fitzpatrick. With regularity.

Nobody answered my knock, but Fitzpatrick told me that until a recent renovation there had been a Dutch door between the two front windows that could well have served as counter between customer and workman. Another tableau vivant.

This family also figured in another of the historical anecdotes that passed down orally until Fitzpatrick collected them between covers. I was enormously thankful he had.

The grandfather of "old Mr. Pender of Gorey Bridge" (the first names are fuzzy) as a boy used to cut the hair of an old man, who when he was a boy knew an old woman named Julie Fluggins, who when she was a girl had walked the four miles out of town "to Moneylawn to see Cromwell's Army Camp."

There it was, unarchival as hell and by any scholarly standard inconclusive, but at last I had found some link between Cromwell's dispossession of the Prendergasts and my family's presence in Gorey 150 years later.

A half mile up the road from Gorey Bridge, Fitzpatrick led me to a large but unpretentious house just beyond the end of the cemetery. The name was Sunderland, but there were Penders in the family tree.

The three generations of men in the household -- James, his son Colm and his sons Kevin and James -- were my distant cousins, thanks to a 19th-century marriage between our families.

Over the next few days, these people treated me like the Prodigal Son returned. They fed me, listened to me, chauffeured me around -- in short, welcomed me into their home, their lives and their family.

The elder James, getting on in years now, recalled Matthew fairly well, though with their age difference they weren't peers. He and son Colm both told how Matthew would drive cattle from Doyle's downtown yard up this road and past their house to a pasture that the Sunderlands have since bought to graze their own small herd.

Most importantly, they solved the mystery of Matt's burial. Sweet Maire Sunderland, elderly, infirm and blind, remembered attending Matt's funeral and burial 30 years before. She described from still-vivid memory where he was laid to rest.

She described the Pender stone.

But why was his name not on it as being buried there?

Maire didn't know, but speculated, as others later did, that with no close family surviving and Matt the laborer being of modest means and reputation, there simply was no one to think to do it.

I'm not the weepy sort, but I felt myself blinking a bit as we all sat in sudden silence that afternoon around the kitchen's wood-burning stove.

The next day I went to Jimmy O'Brien, a stonecutter who lives in a house at Gorey Bridge a few doors down from the shoemaker Penders' ancient residence. He said Prendergasts had lived in his house too, a long time ago, and he'd do what I asked before I left town.

That night Colm drove me far out in the countryside to the church at Kilanerin. Father O'Brien showed me to his sitting room, where at his own initiative he is computerizing and cross-referencing all the records for the two churches that once constituted a single parish. Even the records Griffiths said were destroyed when Gorey chapel was plundered in the Rising of 1798.

It was here, left alone to work in the glow of the fireplace, I found my answer to how Prendergast became "corrupted" to Pender, to why Lafferty and everyone else simply assumed one meant the other, and to why Grandfather John was perfectly within his rights to tell U.S. immigration his name was Prendergast.

The birth records for my family dated back to 1793. Time and again, I saw different children of the same parents registered alternately as Prendergast, Pender, Pendergast and Pindar.

My own great-great-grandfather, James Pender, and his wife, the former Sarah Vardy, had their family names mangled differently for each of their three recorded children's births. John, born in 1829, was John Pendergast, his mother listed as Sarah Vardy. William, my great-grandfather, born in 1832, was listed as Pender, his mother as Sally Fordy. Thomas, born 1835, was inscribed as Pendergast, his mother as Sarah Fardy.

Time and again, names changed, sometimes the father's, sometimes the mother's; the scribes would even mistake one brother's wife for another's.

On it went, mangled names, spousal confusion and all. Godparents, marriage witnesses, births and generations of kin. Dozens of them. Yet when I later checked the local phone book, there was not a single Pender or Prendergast still listed in Gorey. Folks said they had just died off or moved on.

When Father O'Brien returned hours later, I wasted no time in politely demanding explanations for the sins of his predecessors. It was the sort of vexation he evidently had encountered in his own archival endeavors.

Before civil registration began in the mid-19th century, he said, the church was the primary record keeper of Catholic Irish life. But times were always hard and often troubled. Priests were hunted, hounded and haggard. Accuracy was bound to suffer.

Some priests were outsiders, even foreign-born, and unfamiliar with local customs, genealogies and identities. Moreover, the people they tended were largely rural folk, often denied formal education because of their religion. Their world was informal and oral. "Official names" were forsaken for expedient "informal names" that in time took on lives of their own. To this day, some locals use only as much of a name as needed to make clear whom they are talking about.

There was no shame or stigma to being a Pender, Father O'Brien assured me. Nor was it likely the teenage baker's son put on airs when some imposing American immigration official asked him his name. For one, Grandfather John may never have seen his own birth certificate, and, besides, everyone knew Pender was Prendergast.

The next day, my last in Gorey, I went round to the cemetery again. Jimmy O'Brien had done more than I had asked. And done it well.

The Pender family stone fairly gleamed in the morning sun. O'Brien had sandblasted away decades of grit and corrosion and filled in the faded letters with black paint.

More importantly, he had done the one thing that I had asked.

There, at the bottom of the stone, in brand new letters, was: "Also the above Matthew, died 11th Oct. 1959."

Rest in peace, Matt.

I still had a couple of hours until the train for Dun Laoghaire left, and so, Matthew's snapshot in hand, I set out to find that window with the blinds.

I walked the streets of this market town of 3,500 people for some time before I spotted it. And when I did I had to laugh. It was the window of the North Parade Bar, a block from Matt's house on Thomas Street.

Inside, proprietor Connell McGuinness, three weeks from retirement, remembered old Matt as a faithful and sprightly customer, fond of stories with a touch of humor or a link to the past.

"As fine a man as ever wore shoes," Connell recalled wistfully. "And he liked his bottle of Guinness."

I ordered up two, one for me and one for Matt (which I drank, seein' as he was absent this day.)

But what, I asked Connell, was all this I'd been hearing that he never drank?

Connell laughed. "You know, it was a funny thing about old Matt. He didn't drink much -- a bottle or two in an evening -- but he hated to think anyone would see him coming out of a pub.

"So when he was ready to leave, he'd open the door just a little, look around outside to see if anyone was passing, then slip through the door quick as can be with a little twist, you know, walking away as if he were just walking by. Ah, old Matt, he was quite a character. I miss him."

I finished off Matt's bottle of Guinness with a silent toast: to him, to Grandfather John and all the other Penders of Gorey Bridge. I may only have glimpsed the face of Ireland, but I had found its heart.

Later, standing alone on the station platform, I wondered whether Grandfather John had likewise bade Gorey farewell from this spot more than a century ago.

I don't yet know, but I expect I'll find out. For all I learned, I remain driven by what I did not.

Several weeks later, as I was rooting around the New York Public Library, I found a passing reference to the Prendergasts in Goddard Henry Orpen's 1911 "Ireland Under the Normans." Baron Phillip de Prendergast, the invader Maurice's eldest son, was said to have built the castle at Enniscorthy, from which he exercised his authority as constable of the ancient kingdom of Leinster.

Enniscorthy ... That was where Uncle Matt had died in the county home.

Ah, Matthew, sturdy, calloused, mischievous, simple, solitary Matthew, the last of your line to live and die in Ireland. You breathed your last poor and alone in the shadow of the castle from which your ancestors once reigned supreme.

I wonder if you knew.

Mark J. Prendergast is an editor and reporter on the national desk of the New York Daily News. WAYS & MEANS

Thousands of Americans of Irish descent each year combine a vacation to Ireland with a little rooting around the family tree. Many, however, return disappointed because their ancestral knowledge is vague and their schedule doesn't allow enough time for research.

Make no mistake: Digging for clues in Irish record rooms and parish churches can be arduous, time-consuming work. HOW TO START: Experts say successful research in Ireland begins back home. Gather as many personal papers involving your Irish immigrant ancestors and family as possible. Of key concern is an ancestor's date and place of birth.

Sources include U.S. citizenship papers and birth, marriage and death certificates, which often contain background information such as parentage, ancestral places of birth and so on.

Talk to relatives. Ask questions. Go beyond vital statistics. Sometimes an anecdote, a trait, skill or personal observation can fill in a blank or help confirm a guess. Examine scrapbooks, letters, envelopes, wills, book flyleaves and photo albums to build a biographic profile that can expedite and enrich a trip to Ireland.

Go to the library and read Irish history to place ancestors in the context of their times. Also check Burke's Peerage and the companion "The General Armory," and any books on Irish names you can find. The U.S. National Archives has lists of 19th-century immigrant passengers.

If your Irish ancestor's family name was common, it can be intimidating to wade through reams of similar last names. One approach is to compare first names. Many -- though by no means all -- 19th-century Irish parents followed a pattern of naming their children after their own parents and siblings. This is detailed in Chief Herald Donal F. Begley's "The Ancestor Trail in Ireland," available from Heraldic Artists Ltd., 3 Nassau St., Dublin 2, Ireland, either in person or by mail order.

It is also critical to remember that records are often inexact. You must keep your mind open and consider alternatives. Names can be misspelled, shortened and altered. Ages are particularly soft. In my own case, beginning with the age of my grandfather on my father's U.S. birth certificate through several generations of family, I found that correlations of birth dates and ages were often off by up to three years, particularly the older a person got.

Finally, set realistic goals for yourself. The distance you will be able to trace your kin back through time may well depend on the amount of time you -- and any companions -- are willing to devote to it. Most people, experts say, are highly satisfied to have visited the town their ancestor came from, found their name in the parish register and seen if any cousins are still about. WHERE TO GET HELP: In this country:

The Irish Tourist Board in New York City (1-800-223-6470) will provide generalized materials to help you track down your ancestors.

The Mormon Church in Salt Lake City has extensive genealogical records for Ireland and the United States and can offer some assistance through its family history center (LDS Church Family History Library, 35 Northwest Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, 801-240-2367) or any of its research centers worldwide, including in Falls Church (538-4171) and Kensington (587-0042). There is a postage and handling charge for mailed materials.

If you have relatives still living in Ireland, write to them well before your trip. Many Irish people are genealogy buffs and have a wealth of information in their heads or know where to get it. Other options in the Old Country include:

The State Genealogical Office at 2 Kildare St., Dublin, which is operated by the Irish government. For a 10-pound fee, the staff will help you -- by mail or appointment -- determine what information you need for the type of search you want to conduct. They will also provide a list of sources where various records can be found. They do not, however, research family trees themselves, but will refer a request for such services to professional Irish genealogists, whose fees vary.

Heraldic Artists, 3 Nassau St., Dublin 2, Ireland, which publishes and sells several excellent books, some written by State Genealogical Office staff, to help you find your way through various repositories and archives of Irish history. I found the staff courteous and knowledgeable.

The General Registrar's Office, Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard St. East, Dublin 2, Ireland, which will answer -- for a fee -- mail queries for a copy of an ancestor's birth, marriage or death certificate, provided the event occurred after civil registration began in 1864. Mail applications must include a bank money order of $10 for a certified birth, marriage or death certificate. Requesting certificates in person is slightly cheaper.

Before 1864, the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church of Ireland were the primary record keepers for births, marriages and deaths, so the place to start is the microfilmed records at the National Library on Kildare Street in Dublin. However, some Catholic bishops forbid or restrict public access to the records, so it's wise to write to the local parish ahead of time to find out if it is among those restricted. If so, you'll have to write to the diocese for written permission from the bishop.

There are numerous other sources and types of records that contain vital information for centuries past, among them censuses, tithe lists, trade directories, and land and estate records. The State Genealogical Office and the Heraldic Artists' publications provide explanations of the records and where they can be found.

County libraries, historical associations and local newspapers may also have information helpful to your search. Ask around for local history books or anyone who specializes in local lore.

Many commercial travel guides to Ireland also contain tips for genealogy searches and addresses of sources.

If your family hails from Northern Ireland, contact the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, 276 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10001, (212) 686-6250, for a package of starter materials.

If your family is Jewish Irish, check synagogue records, the General Registrar's Office and census data, mostly from the late 19th century, when many Eastern European Jews fled czarist pogroms. -- Mark J. Prendergast