Detective Fiona digs deep for history – especially in graveyards!

June 20th, 2020 7:05 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Fiona’s maternal grandmother and grandfather were born outside Dunmanway, so she has an affinity with the town

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TWITTER is abuzz with a series of historic photographs by a Cork-based family history detective.

Accountant by day, Irish family detective by night, Fiona Forde playfully admitted  that she has, thus far, lived her life as ‘a frustrated historian’.

She did, however, find a remedy for her fascination when, in 2017, she completed a diploma in genealogy studies at UCC, followed by a certificate in Arts (history).

After her graduation, Fiona began posting historic photographs on social media. Almost overnight, people started to track her down, determined to find out more about their own back stories.

It just so happens that Fiona is the kind of person who – when presented with a puzzle – is like a sniffer dog and will stay on the trail until she gets a result.

Fiona said the popularity of programmes like Who Do You Think You Are, as well as DNA testing, have made people more curious about their family history.

‘Of course, the people featured on those programmes have been hand-picked so, in my line of work, there is an element of managing people’s expectations,’ she added.

‘Throughout the country, there are lots of like-minded people who, like me, are passionate about Irish history, Cork history and their family history.

‘Corkonians, especially, are curious. They are proud of their city and county. It’s known as the rebel county for a reason.’

The fact that Fiona writes for the magazine Irish Roots also increased her profile and inspired her to form the Irish Family Detective company.

People who use her services write to her to thank her for giving them a genealogical report that counts as ‘a family heirloom’.

But out of all the research Fiona made one startling discovery: ‘You can write reams and reams of data, but it’s the photographs that give an insight into people, their character, and history.’

A recent photograph on Twitter – that shows the rebel leader General Michael Collins, aged seven, in full holy communion regalia, alongside his brother Patrick – has really captured people’s imagination.

‘Photographs bring history to life,’ said Fiona, ‘you forget these rebels, these politicians and historical figures, once had a normal childhood.’

As well as completing genealogical reports, Fiona finds the time to offer additional services like colourising photographs and creating hybrid time warp photos of her own making.

‘It was Twitter that got things moving from day one,’ she said.

‘Now the work takes up my evenings and weekends. In fact, you can regularly find me in a graveyard.

As occupations go,’ she said, ‘it’s great for social distancing.’

You can find Fiona’ page at IrishFamilyDetective on Twitter – @Fiona_Forde_Irl

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