Milner_Paul_SquarePaul Milner, professional genealogist and international lecturer, will speak at our 2016 Spring Seminar, From Whence They Come. Two of his four lectures will provide opportunities to learn about Irish and Scottish emigration to the USA and Canada and the tools and records available to trace your ancestors.

He will also provide guidance regarding England’s National Archives website, specifically the research tools, indexes, and catalogs that can help you find your ancestors and put them into their correct historical context. His fourth lecture goes beyond the basics of 17th and 18th century English research to identify records that can help you jump the gap created by England’s Civil War and the problems of migration due to the Industrial Revolution.

As you can see, Paul will be covering a lot of territory and initially it seemed that “British Isles Research” would be an apt title for the seminar. After all, Paul’s biographical information states that he “has specialized in British Isles genealogical research for over 30 years”. I soon discovered my understanding of the term “British Isles” was hazy and, further, that the term itself often fosters misleading or incorrect assumptions.

I therefore undertook to re-enlighten myself regarding the distinction between the “British Isles”, “Great Britain”, “The United Kingdom”, and “Ireland”. (Surely I must have known this at one time.) I reviewed descriptions on several websites, including the FamilySearch wiki. I offer you the descriptions below and I credit much of the text to “Know Britain” and wikipedia.

The British Isles

The expression “British Isles” is geographical and not political. They are a group of islands off the northwest coast of Europe consisting of Great Britain, the whole of Ireland, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the Isle of Man, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Isle of Wight, the Scilly Islands, Lundy Island, the Channel Islands, and many other smaller islands.

Great Britain

Great Britain is the largest island in the British Isles and is the collective name for England, Scotland, and Wales. Great Britain includes the small adjacent islands but excludes the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is comprised of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The official name “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” came into use in 1922 after the creation of the Irish Free State (1922-1937).


Ireland is the second largest island, after Great Britain, in the British Isles. Geographically, it includes Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. In 1937 the Irish Free State adopted a new constitution that claimed all of Ireland as its territory and officially became”Ireland” in English and “Éire” in Irish. In 1948 Ireland declared itself the Republic of Ireland but retains “Ireland” as its official name.

Perhaps Paul Milner will plan a pop quiz for the March 12th Seminar! Hope to see you there!