Set!


1809 Lease between George Rush and the Marquis of Downshire

You’ve decided on a research trip, either on your own, or escorted. It’s time to focus on the repositories where you will be researching and get Set for your research. (You can check out my February blogs on some of the major Irish repositories.) Begin by researching each of the repositories you plan to visit. Find out when they are open. Do you need a Reader’s Ticket? Can you bring in your computer? What facility do they have for making copies? Can you use your digital camera or scanner? You’ll find most of the information on their website, but if not, email and ask.

Usually for any country you’ll have the large national archives but there are likely to be many smaller archives that may be more specific to your research. For Ireland, I strongly recommend the Directory of Irish Archives (5th Edition) by Seamus Helferty and Raymond Refaussé. Do you know that your ancestor worked for Guinness? Who knew? The Directory lists the Guinness Archive in Dublin which includes individual employee records. You do need an appointment to work there. Was your ancestor a member of the Masonic Order? Their Archive is on Molesworth Street across from the National Library. Do you have a Mercy nun in the family? The Mercy Congregational Archives are also in Dublin. This Directory doesn’t just cover Dublin and Belfast but lists 269 repositories all over Ireland.

Once you’ve identified an archive that might have information, check their website. Some archives are closed due to the Pandemic, or if they are open, they may have reduced hours or require an appointment. If you identify something specific in their custody, email the Archivist…even if you’re not visiting they may be able to check a specific record set and send you information. If you are emailing, be specific. You won’t be successful if you request “everything on my family.”


When planning for a visit to the major repositories, check out their online catalog for call numbers so you’re ready when you arrive. Search by locality and landlord. Keep an open mind…most of my research on the Downshire estate has been done at PRONI, however, I discovered a book in the National Library in Dublin that might provide background material.

Find out if you can pre-order materials? At the National Library you currently must pre-order material. A change since the Pandemic is that you can now apply online for your Reader’s Ticket but you must pick it when you arrive at the Library to obtain the material. Since most of the facilities will be closed stacks, you want documents waiting for you, not the other way around.


At the PRONI website, I searched in the online catalog for the townland of Ballycrune where my ancestor lived. I got a number of results, including references to leases and when I received the material I found the lease at the top of the page including the seal and signature of the landlord (the Marquis of Downshire) and my ancestor's signature. Just as an FYI, when researching at PRONI always check the onsite catalog in the Reading Room as not everything is in the online catalog.


Sometimes documents are not onsite and have to be ordered from another facility or brought up from storage. Below is an entry from the National Library. The information on the bottom is the manuscript call number. It tells you that you need to view it in the manuscript reading room which is just down the street from the Library.

The special access note tells you it is not available the same day.

At the National Archives, wills (typically after 1900) have to be ordered up from the Four Courts building. They are usually delivered the next day. If you only have one day, that’s a problem. You should check the Calendar of Wills on the site to see if there is something of interest. I've always found it exciting to find an original. Even if your ancestor left earlier, check to see if family members remained. Remember that most of the earlier Wills were destroyed in the fire.


Make sure you understand why the documents you are working with were created. If you see a reference to a type of document and you are not familiar with it, do your research. I always start with a google search. Griffiths Valuation is called a census substitute because no complete 19th century censuses survive. But it is a tax list. Many people are listed multiple times because they leased more than one plot of land so it's likely that all five of the Patrick Murphys in a specific townland are the same person. Different people of the same name in the same townland are identified differently. Look for an additional name in parenthesis after the name (frequently the father's name). If there is none, they are all the same person. Another example is what you see at the Registry of Deeds is a “memorial” of the deed, which is not a word for word copy.


Finally, give yourself a break and plan for downtime. Researching every day, all day, without taking a break can leave you frazzled and unfocused. I’ve been there! You want to get every piece of information possible and you make copies, take pictures and figure you’ll input them when you get home. When you finally get around to it, you’ve forgotten to get the source citation, or can’t figure out why you took the picture. You’re not going to get everything done in one trip. Take a break…go out and walk around. Visit EPIC, The Jennie Johnston Tall Ship, Trinity College and the Book of Kells, St. Patrick’s Cathedral or Christ Church (I always attend services on Sunday at Christ Church to hear their wonderful choir. After the service you can explore the Cathedral without paying the entrance fee.) At the end of each day, take time to review your work and adjust your research plan while the information is fresh in your mind. That way, if you are missing information, you'll have an opportunity to get it.


At the end of your research time, plan to do some traveling out to the area where your ancestor lived. There are many historical spots around Ireland that tell you something about the life of the people which gives you background information to help understand your ancestors’ life. Even if you can’t find your ancestor, you can learn something about what life was like for them. This is a picture from the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Like Plimouth Plantation it is a living history museum where you can interact with the costumed guides. You can walk through the park visiting the houses of the cottiers, the farmers, the tradesmen, as well as churches and schools and after the emigration experience visit their life in America.

Other places include the National Museum of Country Life in near Castlebar in Mayo and the Queenstown Story in Cobh. Many of the Counties also have historical parks, such as Dún na Sí in County Westmeath. Google the area you plan to visit, and check the Irish.com or Discover Northern Ireland.


Now you’re Set for your trip.

Happy Hunting!



It's almost here!

The 1950 census will be released by the National Archives on Friday, April 1st

(No April Fools Joke)



This Sale ends on Thursday, March 31st.



One final thing. I have recently experienced a large number of fake subscriptions and SPAM to my website by people who have no interest in genealogy. I have modified the Subscribe login in an attempt to block these subscriptions. If you discover you have been blocked but have a legitimate interest in Irish research please email me with the specifics of what and where in Ireland you are researching and I will unblock you. I apologize in advance if this has happened to you but it appears that this is life in the digital world.



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