I am a genealogist working in a 5 star hotel in Dublin

  • Helen Kelly is the genealogy butler at The Shelbourne, a luxury hotel in Dublin, Ireland.
  • She helps hotel guests of Irish descent connect with their roots and uncover their hidden ancestors.
  • Here’s what his work looks like, told to freelance writer Perri Ormont Blumberg.

This narrated essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Helen Kelly, a genealogy butler from Dublin, Ireland, about her work. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I have been a professional genealogist since 1995.

woman standing in front of a hotel with her arms open

Helene Kelly.

Courtesy of Shelbourne

In 2007, I brought an idea linking genealogy and tourism to the historic five star Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.

Shortly thereafter, I took on the position of genealogy butler and began advising and assisting hotel guests in genealogy matters. In the years that followed, the post gained such notoriety and an enviable reputation that it led me to speak about Irish genealogy on radio and television stations around the world. I’m even participating in a six-part documentary series about the Shelbourne Hotel and its guests.

My counseling service is aimed specifically at descendants of people born in Ireland who have a serious interest in knowing more about their Irish ancestry

the lobby of the Shelbourne hotel

The lobby of the Shelbourne hotel.

Courtesy of Shelbourne

The service is available to all customers of The Shelbourne looking to trace their Irish roots. It is extremely popular with American visitors to Ireland, but the Irish who visit the hotel also benefit from this service when they undertake their own discovery of their family tree.

Before each consultation, the guest provides some basic information about their ancestor of Irish descent so that I can determine if they have enough information to merit a consultation.

During the consultation, the person is introduced to Irish family history records available online and additional records available at the various family history offices in Dublin, such as the National Library of Ireland and the National Archives of Ireland. At the end of the consultation, they receive a full report of their findings.

Guests can choose between one-hour consultations in which I give advice on the best resources to start their research (180 €, or $ 208), one-day consultations where I will accompany the guest in the different genealogical archives offices in Dublin (price on request) and virtual consultations, available à la carte (€ 180, or $ 208) or via the Genealogy Experience package (€ 799, or $ 925).

Each guest’s information is confidential, but I can say that many guests have had incredible experiences visiting their ancestral birthplaces.

In one case, I urged a guest to revisit their ancestral birthplace within days of their first visit and learn directly about their ancestors from the locals. This second visit exceeded all their expectations and allowed them to get in touch with more than 30 close relatives in the region.

Another guest did extensive research for many years but, until her consultation, did not appreciate the importance of identifying the ancestor’s precise birthplace in rural Ireland. Her consultation at The Shelbourne brought new energy to her research, culminating in a subsequent “trip of a lifetime” for herself, her parents and siblings to their ancestral homeland in the west of Ireland.

I am proud to serve members of the Irish Diaspora who have a deep desire to connect with their ancestral homeland

Although we are indeed greatly influenced by our parents and ancestors, we are also greatly influenced by the landscape.

For this reason, the service strives to identify the precise birthplace of the ancestor of Irish descent so that the client can tour the area and soak up the culture and landscape of the ancestral birthplace.

The pandemic has temporarily changed the way my service is provided

However, on a positive note, the pandemic has sparked a new awakening in root tourism. My services are currently available remotely, either by

or by phone call through the Shelbourne Hotel. This can continue in conjunction with in-person consultations.

Next year marks the centenary of the signing of the Irish Constitution, which was drafted and signed at The Shelbourne, so I look forward to welcoming guests celebrating this moment in history while uncovering their own personal stories.

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