Your Home’s ‘Family Tree’: Q&A With Know Thy Place’s Colm Moloney

As an archaeologist of 25 years standing, Colm Moloney (on left in photo) knows Ireland from the ground up in a way few people do. Thus it would seem a natural extension of his work to focus on the role of ‘place’ in Irish family history, as distinct from ‘people.’ He and Know Thy Place Ltd., a firm he launched last year with fellow archaeologist (and Contributing Editor) Damian Shiels (on right in photo), are poised to provide the Irish worldwide unprecedented access to the history of their particular ancestral land. Belinda Evangelista, TheWildGeese’s Preservation Editor, recently conversed about the new business, and the growing marketplace it seems ready to dominate for years to come.  It seems to me that it was looking after the needs of your clients that brought this business to fruition, would you agree?

Colm Moloney:  That’s correct. We identified a gap in the market for archaeological research. While there are a number of well-established genealogical companies out there who trace ‘people,’ nobody offered professional archaeological research of ‘places.’  Our market research indicated that there was a substantial body of people out there that wanted to find out about the places in which they lived or, indeed, their ancestral home.  Would you explain the term “The Archaeology of Genealogy”?

Moloney:  While genealogists will trace your ancestors, Know Thy Place Ltd. will research the place that your ancestors lived – taking your story back potentially thousands of years beyond any written records. We feel this compliments genealogical research and to truly discover your (Irish) roots, we feel it is essential to look at ‘place’ as well as ‘people.’  Did you learn information about your own ancestral home?

Moloney:  I have taken my home place (Midleton in County Cork) back to the Bronze Age. My maternal family (O’Neils) lived here from at least the late 18thcentury. I have traced my paternal line back to a small holding in Clogheen near Monasterevin in County Kildare in the early 19thcentury, but the surname Moloney is almost certainly from County Clare so I have some work there just yet. It’s all very exciting and all my siblings are getting involved!  How did your initial clients learn about your work?

Moloney:  We initially prepared a chart for George Hook, a famous TV and radio presenter in Ireland. I presented his chart to him on his radio show, and the orders immediately started coming in. Since then we have concentrated on social media as we are really trying to tap into the Irish Diaspora worldwide.  What is your archaeology background?

Moloney:  I wanted to be an archaeologist for as long as I can remember. I studied archaeology at University College Cork in Ireland where I got a BA in Archaeological and Greek and Roman Civilization and later gained an MA in Archaeology and Heritage Management from the University of Leicester in the UK. I have worked as a professional archaeologist in the UK and Ireland for the last 24 years and have published the results of my work in both jurisdictions in a selection of academic and popular publications. In addition, I have managed large commercial archeological companies in both the UK and Ireland since 1997 – I currently part-own Rubicon Heritage Services, where I am the managing director. This is the largest provider of commercial archaeological services to the development sector in Ireland. This organization provides support to Know Thy Place Ltd., which I also part own and manage.

(A chart from the town of President Obama's ancestors.)  How many people do you have working with you?

Moloney:  Between Know Thy Place and Rubicon, we currently have 20 professional archaeologists plus support staff.  I would imagine that you have made many people happy through your work. Do you find your job psychologically rewarding?

Moloney:  It’s always great to connect people to their distant past – there is a gravity to that knowledge that is hard to put into words, but it certainly provides great job satisfaction.  Is there anything you would like to add?

Moloney:  Know Thy Place is more like a club than a service. We see the purchase of Know Thy Place charts as the beginning of a relationship with our clients rather than a simple transaction. We are committed to developing our social media to provide the Irish diaspora throughout the world with information about archaeological developments in Ireland and, through those media, continued exploration of their place.

For more information about Know Thy Place and for contact details, visit

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Tags: Colm Moloney, Genealogy, History of Ireland, damian Shiels, know thy place


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