Pandemic leads to surge in people tracing their Irish roots

Numbers outside Ireland connecting with Ireland Reaching Out has more than doubled.

The numbers of people connecting with Ireland Reaching Out to trace their Irish roots has doubled since last year – with the bulk of that increase happening since the start of the pandemic. 

Ireland Reaching Out is a volunteer-driven, non-profit organisation connecting people of Irish heritage with the local community in their place of origin in Ireland.  The community-based charity invites emigrants and their descendants to connect directly with their ancestral place of origin.

“We believe that the sense of family connection through spending more time with family was heightened during Covid-19”

Members can avail of free advice to trace their roots and connect with their Irish place of origin through its online platform IrelandXO .

Based in Galway, Ireland Reaching Out was established in 2009 by tech entrepreneur Mike Feerick, who is CEO of the free online education website Alison. Feerick remains chair of the organisation, which receives funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and has been supported by The Heritage Council.

Last year, Ireland Reaching Out was one of the 36 finalists in the National Lottery’s 2019 Good Causes Awards and was Regional Winner for the West in the Heritage category.

Empowering the digital Diaspora

A snapshot of the past two months shows that website sessions on the organisation’s online platform were up 100pc on the same period last year, new members were up 35pc since the beginning of the year and the number of ancestor profiles created was 70pc up on the same period last year.

This trend has continued as lockdowns around the world are eased and the group believes this engagement with our diaspora could help in Ireland’s recovery post Covid-19.

The platform ­— which has more than 100,000 members — enables members of the diaspora to post or edit individual profiles of any Irish person, building or event that ever existed. These profiles – known as Chronicles – have topped 10,000 in the last number of weeks.

The group believe the surge is as a result of four things that occurred during the periods of lockdown as a result of Covid-19. They were: people having more time on their hands, an increased desire to discover their roots during uncertain times, the unprecedented number of clear-outs happening in houses around the world which sparked memories and an increase in computer literacy among the older generations during Covid-19.

Laura Colleran, Ireland Reaching Out Programme Manager said: “These Diaspora connections with local communities could be a real benefit to the country as we try to kickstart our tourism industry. It is important that we now focus on developing and deepening these direct relationships, which will be so important when the country opens up to tourism once again.

“We believe that the sense of family connection through spending more time with family was heightened during Covid-19. It made people think about their roots. Most people have a drive to gain a sense of connection and to deeper understand their own personal identity and Covid-19 might have been a catalyst for that.”

Pictured at top: Ireland Reaching Out’s CEO Mike Feerick and Programme Manager Laura Colleran

Written by John Kennedy (

Published: 30 June, 2020