Although this is my sixth day in Ireland, it’s the third day for the Belfast researchers. Since it wasn’t raining, we were able to walk to the Ulster Historical Foundation (about a mile from the hotel). We were welcomed by Fintan Mullen, who provided an excellent presentation on school records. The National School System began in Ireland in the mid 1820s. It was a non-denominational grammar school system and schools were constructed fairly close together especially in rural areas where students had to walk to school.
There are a number of different types of records you might find, and of course the most valuable would be the School Registers. Besides finding out when your ancestor started school, you might also find notes relating to how they did and when and why they left school. Some of the examples include, emigration, a death in the family, or simply a move to another place in Ireland. They might have also left for an apprenticeship or for higher education.
Another type of record is Grant Aid Application. When attempting to open a new school the government wanted to make sure that both Protestants and Catholics would attend so the grant applications were signed by members of the communities. It might tell you that your ancestor was in a specific place at that time.
Do you have teachers in your family? The Teacher’s Salary Books could tell you how much they were paid, and might also contain information about their performance.
After the presentation on the school records, William Roulston did a short presentation on Vestry Minutes. Remember that the Church of Ireland was the State Church until 1869 and as such had administrative functions. You might find the names of your non-COI ancestors in the minutes if they happen to do work for the church or paid the parish cess. You might also see them listed if they received alms from the church for support. Close to 60% of the Church of Ireland parish registers were lost in the 1922 fire, but the Vestry Minutes were kept locally and so many have survived. They can provide a substitute source for the loss not only of parish registers, but also census records. They will vary from parish to parish and are not online, but if you’re visiting Ireland try to view them. You can check out the Handlist for Vestry Minute Books in the Church of Ireland Library or the PRONI Guide for Church Records to see what is available. Many of the Vestry books pre-date even surviving COI parish registers.
After the presentations, the researchers had an opportunity to research in the UHF Library with the assistance of William, Fintan and Gillian. Almost everyone found some additional information and some researchers remained for the entire day with plans to return on Thursday or Friday.
In the afternoon I took a group to the Linen Hall Library to look through their collections, including local history. They also have an card index to birth, death and marriage records in the Belfast Newsletter.
A productive day!