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SCGS Spotlight: The Irish Interest Group, Leader Sheila Benedict, and Where to Search for Irish Ancestors

Updated: May 9

One of the many ethnic special interest groups (SIGs) sponsored by the Southern California Genealogical Society is the Irish Interest Group. Since March is Irish American Heritage Month, we thought it would be an excellent time to spotlight the Irish Group.

Since 2022, Sheila Benedict has been the Irish Interest Group leader. A resident of Solvang, California (yes, the Danish capital), Sheila conducts meetings online in a Q&A format. "I do try to start meetings with any new information that might have come from Ireland," she says. Members are interested in Irish research for their families, and Sheila tries to help each one with Irish history. Most members have taken DNA tests, which help them in their family history research. While Sheila has guided the group, some members have had luck breaking through brick walls. Could it be some of that Irish luck?

The Irish Interest Group currently holds three or four online meetings annually—check the calendar for dates. This gives Sheila time to travel to Ireland at least once a year. If not in a specific place for research, where in Ireland would she recommend visiting? "Any place on the island is worth visiting," she says. "I spent a whole month in Dublin in 2019 and loved every minute of it. In lots of ways, the West is my favorite."

A professional genealogist for over 30 years, Sheila has lectured at national conferences, and taught beginning and intermediate genealogy and oral history at a community college. She retired in August 2018 after more than 17 years as the archivist at Old Mission Santa Inés in Solvang, one of the 21 historic California Missions. Sheila is a past president of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) Writers Special Interest Group, past president, 20202023, of the APG Virtual Chapter, a current board member of the Genealogical Speakers Guild, and past corresponding secretary of The Irish-Ancestral Research Association (TIARA). In addition, she is a life member of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society.

Sheila's specialties include all California counties, state archives and libraries in Sacramento and San Francisco, courthouses statewide, along with the Southwest, West, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and England. She is author of the NGS's Research in the States: California, along with

articles on forensic genealogy, methodology, Irish immigrants who settled in the western United States, ground penetrating radar and forensic canines, and more. Her goal is to concentrate on writing and speaking (virtually preferred).

Interested in Irish Genealogical Research?

Check out these sites:

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