Day 12 - Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
This morning we walked from the hotel to the PRONI (about a 20 minute walk). As in most Archives, you are limited in what you can take in, so coats, bags, etc. have to be left in lockers. The lockers require a £1 coin (new this year...it seems the tokens used in the past kept disappearing). You do get the coin back at the end of the day, so they're really free. Next was the process of obtaining a reader's ticket. The form is available on the website and requires a photo ID. Like your driver's license they take your picture, laminate it onto the card and your set. This card can be used whenever you return to PRONI (I've had mine for about 10 years).
Dr. Desmond McCabe, an archivist and historian provided a wonder orientation to the history of PRONI as well as the types of documents that might be found there. He encouraged the researchers to think like a historian and become an expert on the locality where their ancestors lived. Although you might not find your ancestors' names in some of the documents, it is likely that the names that do appear would have known and interacted with your ancestors. He had sample of deeds, rent books, letters, maps, applotment books that pre-date the Tithe, Petty Session records books, business records...the lists go on and on. PRONI is one of the most sophisticated Archives in Europe. Document requests are usually fulfilled in15 minutes.
Once set loose, the researchers jumped into the catalog to see what they could find.
From Ellen Blakeslee, "I found a will for my Glasgow’s. It is dated after they came to America so I am hoping they are descendants. All the names match perfectly. They were in different town lands than their ancestors, so I am now onto a new lead. If I can match DNA with their descendants, I will say woohoo !! Not bad for a 1st day 😀". Ellen is also writing her own blog at CeirraGeorgia Genealogical Services.
"There are so many items to look at while at PRONI that I was hard pressed to get to many of them today! It took me far longer to review the microfilm because of the old faded writing. However, I did find some items that were pretty exciting! For some of my relatives, I had previously found baptism records through rootsireland, but those records did not provide all the same information as the original church baptismal record. The microfilm copy gave me the actual townland of my Samuel Moag, which was not listed on the summarized record! In fact the online records were a little confusing, listing Banbridge (the registration district) rather than the townland. Now I know for sure I’m on the right path looking for Samuel in Ballymurphy! And in truth, it is always more exciting for me to see the actual document and original handwriting rather than the online ‘indexed’ version. It was also fun to see some of the miscellaneous records maintained by the church, although some will require more analysis before I can figure out what I’m seeing. For example, there was a record of a John Moag who was listed under “W Cluntagh 29 Mar 1827 Exam”. I’m presuming that was an exam to become a member of the church, but I have yet to determine if that is correct (and if he passed). So, like most research, the answers I found have led to more questions. I’m glad we will have some open time on Friday so I can go back to PRONI for more time in the microfilm area." Deb Thalner
I'll add additional feedback as I receive it so you can get a feel for the type of records that can be found.
All in all, a good first day. Tomorrow we're off to the Ulster Historical Foundation.