Updated: Dec 26, 2018
Correspondence files from the Presbyterian Historical Society
I had not previously visited the North of Ireland Family History Society. I received an email from the Society inviting my group to visit, so I planned a half day excursion. The Society Library is located in an industrial park about 6 miles north of Belfast (the taxi drivers were able to find it without any trouble using their GPS). Just as an FYI, if you’re traveling on your own, the Library is open only on Tuesday afternoons…always check for hours. For groups you can contact the Society to make arrangements.
We were greeted by Michael McKeag (Treasurer), Ann Robinson (President) and Martin McDowell (Education and Development Officer). Michael and Ann reviewed some of the unique materials available at the Library. Members of the Society have transcribed parish records, primarily of the Presbyterian churches. Many of these are not transcribed elsewhere. They have also transcribed Graveyards, again focusing on those that have not been done, and updating those that were done many years ago. They also have pedigree charts from their members and others with Ulster ancestry who have donated them. If you do have ancestors from Northern Ireland (including Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan) you should consider sending a chart. You never know when someone might be looking for the same family.
That, of course, brings us to DNA. In addition to being the Education and Development Officer, Martin McDowell is the DNA person for the Society. He pointed out that FamilyTree DNA has the largest number of Irish contributors. If you have tested with FamilyTree DNA and have ancestry in Northern Ireland you should join the Society's DNA Project. Just click the tab to read how to do this. If you haven’t tested with FamilyTree DNA you can upload your results from another test. If you’ve tested at multiple locations, the first choice for transferring is MyHeritage which uses the same lab to process their tests. You can also upload from the other testing sites. Martin walked me through the process and up popped a 2nd and 3rd cousin I hadn’t seen.
One other unique set of records are correspondence files on permanent loan from The Presbyterian Historical Society. These are copies of letters sent to the Historical Society requesting information on Presbyterian ancestors. The correspondence is in envelopes, alphabetized and numbered and filed in plastic tubs. Members of the North of Ireland Family History Society have created an index for these records.
Although I had only planned a half day, some of the researchers from my group stayed until late afternoon. Other’s returned to PRONI for the afternoon. One researcher took the train to Portadown to visit his ancestral townland.
Tomorrow is the last day of research for this year’s Belfast trip. If history repeats itself, the big find will come just as the Archives are closing which means a return trip! What’s so bad about that?