You think you know what your name is?

When I looked more carefully at my grandfather’s birth entry, I realized his name was “Sweeny”, not “Sweeney” which we have all carried since his arrival in the US in 1903. This made me question the validity of my father’s family research. I subsequently did enough research to convince myself that my father was correct.  The place of birth, the rough time period, the names of siblings and their birth records, and census information leaves little doubt that Sweeny became Sweeney when the first sibling arrived in the US.  I also checked with other relatives to link various uncles together.   All the links are there, just no explanation of the reason for the name change. Maybe it was an error entering the name into the ship manifest. I’ll never know the reason.  Perhaps, when the other siblings needed to put down the name of a relative already in the US, they used the same spelling to avoid questions.

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You think you know when your grandfather was born?

In my genealogy research, I found no less than 5 documented birth dates for my grandfather that differed from his birth certificate.   These dates spanned 12 years and two seasons!  I obtained copies of his birth certificate, the passenger manifest on the ship from Ireland to the US, census information in Ireland, multiple census records in the US, his immigration and naturalization papers, and his World War I draft registration card.  As the years progressed he failed to age at the proper rate. That leads me to guess as a laborer he wanted to appear younger to keep his employment.   There are still two living siblings of my father.  However, neither has the slightest idea of their father’s birth date or even the season.  Hard to imagine they never celebrated his birthday.  Although, as a child I don’t remember a birthday party for him either.

Thank goodness my grandmother told the truth about her birthday.  It was a treat to see everything match when I obtained similar records for her.

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Podcast: The Mathgrad is back!

Another favorite podcast of mine was on hiatus for 2 years – the Mathgrad by Chris Frederick.  Chris was podcasting as a PhD student at Colorado State University until life evidently got in the way – finishing the PhD, a child, …  As of February, 2009 he is back.  He completed his PhD and is teaching part time.   There are numerous episodes from 2006 as well as new monthly episodes.  Old or new, the episodes put mathematics into everyday terminology.

Chris has a knack for picking topics that are fun, interesting, and relatively brief.  He covers classic math problems as well as topics from daily life.  Examples include The Monty Hall problem, Moore’s law, Deal or No Deal, Sudoku, and recently the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the multiplier effect related to today’s economy.  Give it a try!

p.s.  I assume he will be updating his web site soon.

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Podcast: Irish Fireside (a great example of social networking)

A favorite podcast and blog of mine is Irish Fireside.   Irish Fireside is about travel to Ireland, Irish customs, … and all things Irish.   There have been 88 episodes and I’ve listened to every one of them.  I was actually interviewed on episode 32 about my dual citizenship.  Unfortunately, the audio quality is poor because were using a new setup and didn’t test it adequately beforehand.  I don’t think I had a second take in me, so we left it as is.

Besides the fact that I enjoy the content, what is very interesting to me is how Liam and Corey have established real connections with people through their podcast and blog.  I truly feel like I know them.  They recently drove from Milwaukee to California and blogged along the way and back.  It was billed as an Irish-American Roadtrip.  They met listeners along the way.  People opened their homes to Liam and Corey for meals and free lodging.  People contributed at the web site to cover trip costs.  It was amazing.  There has been real trust built through this social networking process.  I’ve had similar examples at work building relationships, trust, and teamwork.  However, at work we have the advantage of knowing we are already part of the same company.  With Irish Fireside, there was absolutely no foundation for trust other than the podcast and blog.  I think listener comments and enthusiasm also contribute to a level of group trust beyond what could be done with one way communication.

Liam and Corey have also increased their reach by being active on Facebook and  Twitter.  I find the regular reinforcement on twitter definitely adds to the strength of the community.   All in all, I must say they’ve found a niche and have built a brand through social networking.  It will be interesting to see where Irish Fireside goes from here.

Posted in podcasting, social computing | Tagged | 9 Comments

Obtaining dual citizenship – U.S. and Ireland

The United States allows dual citizenship with numerous countries, including Ireland.  A few years ago I found out Ireland offers citizenship by descent.  It is called “Citizenship through Foreign Births Registration (FBR)”.  The background work took me a couple of months and the whole process cost a few hundred dollars.  The FBR application took about 16-18 months to process.  I received my dual citizenship in May 2007.  I then applied for an Irish passport which I received in August 2007.

The rules:

One can become an Irish citizen by descent even if your parents were not Irish citizens.  If one of your grandparents was an Irish citizen you can apply for entry in the Foreign Births Register.  There is no requirement that you have ever stepped on Irish soil.  Since 1986, citizenship only takes effect as of the date of registration so any children born prior to your becoming a citizen are not automatically also citizens.

You need three forms of identification for your grandparent.  I sent in information for both my grandfather and grandmother just in case.  I used their Irish birth certificates, marriage certificate, and death certificates.  All these records can be obtained through contact information on the Internet.


I was interested in genealogy and had created a fairly extensive record of my family history in the Family Tree Maker tool based on the research my parents had done.  My father made copies of my grandparents’ birth records on a visit to Ireland but I never paid much attention to the details.  I decided to pursue Irish citizenship for the following reasons:

1. After my father died, I rekindled my interest in my family history.  I realized I could no longer get first hand answers to my questions and my children would have little hope of finding information if I did not document it.

2. I thought it would be easier to travel in Europe with an EU passport.  I found that to be true on a number of occasions, especially on a trip to London where my wife and I bypassed a long line at Heathrow.

3. I assumed this would be an advantage if I ever wanted to work in Ireland or somewhere else in Europe.

4. I thought it was something interesting to pursue.

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Podcast: Daily Source Code with Adam Curry

Adam Curry, the so-called podfather, provided my introduction to podcasting a few years ago. His podcast, the Daily Source Code, was about the process they were going through to start a business around podcasting. It was interesting to hear about getting venture capital, building a business, developing software,  and hearing Adam’s thoughts on where the podcasting was headed.  I don’t think I missed an episode during this phase.

Once they launched, now called, Adam mixed in a personal discussion format which sometimes included his wife and daughter.  Hearing about the ups and downs of the business, tight delivery schedules, web site issues, and other challenges running were very insightful and interesting.  The personal conversations added another dimension.  Eventually, his wife and daughter seemed get very busy with their own lives and stopped coming on to the show.  The show then morphed into a  current issues phase with talk of all types of gadgets, interesting projects, and world events.   After a time, this led a phase which seemed to be dominated by conspiracy theories.  I still listened, although not as consistently as before.

The show appears to be on the shelf now, replaced by No Agenda, which is co-hosted by Adam Curry and John C. Dvorak. The format of No Agenda is a little long for me and I’m not the loyal listener I once was.  They do have a large audience and episodes are often over an hour.  I tune in a couple of times a week, but usually don’t listen for more than 30 minutes.

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I’m a podcast enthusiast

I’ve always been an avid radio listener.  As a kid, I would listen to New York Knicks basketball games and the Jean Shepherd show.  Jean Shepherd was a great story teller and late in his career he was best known as the narrator of the movie A Christmas Story.   As I grew up, I listened to news radio and sports radio.   Driving in the car, it’s all talk and sports radio.  I’ve also listened to many audio books on tape, then CD.  A few years ago I got an iPod and I became a podcast fan.  Now, the most used preset buttons on my car radio take me to empty spots where I can have my iPod play through my FM transmitter.  I spend a good deal of time in my car and I have listened to many different podcast talk shows and audio books.  Over the coming weeks, I’ll add blog entries about my favorite podcasts.

By the way, I tried creating a podcast of my own to see how it was done, but I didn’t have a topic to sustain the effort.   When I created my first podcast – about how to make a podcast – I showed my youngest daughter what I had done.  She was probably 17 at the time.  Her immediate reaction was “take it down – now”.  My podcasting career ended there 🙂

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How many social networking tools does it take?

I was listening to the most recent podcast.  Matt and Luis were talking about how many different social networking tools people want or need.  One was not enough, but many people get confused trying too many.  They mentioned about 5 as a reasonable number.  That just happens to be what I have settled on.  See “My Persona” on the right.  Besides my blog site, here’s how I see the five I have chosen in very simple terms:

Delicious – sharing/storing bookmarks and mining areas of interest

Facebook – social interaction

Flickr – photo sharing

LinkedIn – professional connections

Twitter – ad hoc connections – real time news and getting to know people better by hearing about their interests and how they spend their time

A blog can provide an in depth view about a person’s expertise, interests, sense of humor and lots more.   I’m just dabbling for now, but over time will paint a more complete picture with my blog.   I’ve chosen not to have a general “web site” for now, as the wordpress blog gives me everything I need.

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I received my first blog comment!

Unfortunately the comment was spam 🙁 I haven’t “advertised” the existence of the blog, so I would have been surprised if I actually did have a valid comment.

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My name is Bill Sweeney, hence the blog at .  I plan to talk about a myriad of topics.  One topic of great interest to me is the value of social computing inside the corporate firewall and the movement of that across the firewall, blending the two communities.  This blog is part of that process for me.  I work for IBM, but this blog is not associated with IBM.  Statements in this blog are completely mine and not to be construed as speaking for IBM in any way.

My goal is to keep this blog positive and free from rants.  I found this Irish expression that seems to fit what I’m trying to do: “Nior bhris focal maith fiacal riamh” – A good word never broke a tooth.  Meaning … it doesn’t hurt to pay a compliment.  Hopefully, there will be a compliment or two along the way.

I try many Internet services and have about 150 IDs floating around out there.  Here are just a few sites that make up my core Internet persona:

I hope to get a comment or two along the way, so this is more than just a public diary.

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