Ireland Awaits! Are You Ready?
You didn't miss anything last week...I didn't post a blog. It's the first week I've missed in a long time. I spent the last week(s) working on the Ireland Research Trips. I noted last month, that the 2021 trip in October was on. Repositories opened on May 15th and hotels the beginning of June. Unfortunately in early June, I cancelled the October date. COVID continues to be a concern, although everyone going on the trip was required to be vaccinated. Currently Ireland is about 40% vaccinated, however, there continue to be outbreaks, and the Delta variant is of concern. Pubs and restaurants are supposed to open next Monday, however, as of this writing there is talk of postponing that for another few weeks. International travel was scheduled to open on July 19th and that, too, is up in the air. The major reason for the postponement of the trip was the limitations imposed by the repositories. PRONI, although open by appointment, is not accepting any groups until 2022. The National Archives allows only 8 people a day, 4 days a week on a reservation basis. There is no point in going if we can't research!
So my challenge was to find dates and hotels for 2022. I've decided to take two trips in 2022 (to alleviate some of the backlog); one in May and one in October. The dates and registration forms are now available on the website (once I had confirmed the arrangements, I also had to update all of the forms and the website). Buswell's, where we've stayed in Dublin for all of the years I've been doing the trip, could not provide any space for the Spring, so, with the help and recommendations of some of my Ireland friends, I was able to secure space at The Green for the week of May 7-14. The dates for the Fall (back at Buswell's) are October 15-22. The Belfast trip will follow Dublin staying at The Hilton Belfast; May 14-21 and October 22-29.
Are you excited yet? I am. I have corresponded with all of the 2021 registrants to determine which dates work for them, and I can now tell you that I have a limited number of spaces available on all of the trips for new registrants. To reserve a spot, complete the registration form and send it with your deposit.
So back to the question posed for this blog...Are you ready? We've all heard, "You can't research your Irish ancestors because all the records burned." Well, yes, the fire at the Public Records Office in Dublin was devastating, but not everything burned. Examples abound, but the best is probably the digitization of the civil records (births, deaths, marriages) that went online in 2016 at IrishGenealogy.ie. Those records were never at the Public Records Office. Yes, there are limitations...we're still waiting for the 1864-1870 deaths and privacy laws require online records to be at least 100 years old for births, 75 years for marriages and 50 years for deaths...but even those records are available in Ireland without restrictions.
The number one requirement for planning a research trip to Ireland is knowing the locality in Ireland where your ancestor lived. All records are based on time and place. The example I've used frequently is my Dalys in the parish of Kilvine in County Mayo. Church records don't start until 1870 (six years after civil registration), however in the adjoining parish of Bekan the records date back to 1832. If you're searching for your Dalys, Murphys or Sullivans and don't know where they lived in Ireland your research is going to be frustrating and unproductive. If you are still looking for the locality, check out the blogs I've written by clicking on "Finding a Locality in Ireland" at the top of this blog.
Preparation is the key to success. Dr. Desmond McCabe, one of the Archivists at PRONI tells people in the orientation session that researching in a repository like PRONI is different, because in many cases you don't know what you're looking for and that's OK. If, however, you know the time and place, your focus might be on searching for the locality (rather than your ancestor), discovering what records are available and then reading through the records. Your ancestor might show up in the landlord's estate records, the vestry or session minutes of the church, school records or in the records of the courts or poor law.
If you've made the decision to go to Ireland in 2022, you've got time to prepare. Start with the history of Ireland. There are plenty of good history books you can read, but if you're like me, you might find historical fiction a bit easier. The historical facts are accurate, but the story helps you understand the effect of the historical events on the people. I recommend The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherfurd. It is two books, The Princes of Ireland which takes you from the Druids to Cromwell (mid-1600s) and the Rebels of Ireland which takes you from Cromwell to the Irish Civil War in the 1920s. (I'll admit that getting into the first book can be difficult, so if you only have time to read one, read the second.) By learning the history you'll better understand why records might be unavailable for your ancestor. You'll find other books listed on my Links and Resources page under Historical Novels and Genealogical Mysteries. The Killing Snows is about the famine in Mayo. The next two books on the list (by the same author) tell the story from the perspective of the family member who went to England and the one who went to America.
Next focus on the geography. Look at maps so you'll recognize the surrounding area where your ancestors lived. If a lease wasn't renewed your ancestor might have moved to the next parish, and if the parish was on a County border, even into the next county. Look at other families of the same surname living in the area. Are the given names similar to the ones passed down in your family? You'll want to research these potential collateral relatives as well. It's likely that not everyone in the family emigrated (or if they did, they might have gone to other places such as England and Australia). By following the others from the same area you might just find your cousins. Make sure you know the location and denominations of the churches in the area (check this on JohnGrenham.com).
In putting together your to do list for Ireland, look at what records are available for the time and place where your ancestor lived. You can use John Grenham's website (on the parish page click into the various sources in the upper right corner). Much of this information can also be found in his book, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors. If your ancestors were from Ulster (remember, Northern Ireland didn't exist until 1922), you'll also find William J. Roulston's book, Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors to be an excellent source. Many of John's listings provide the call number for the National Library or National Archives which is very helpful. William's listings provide call numbers for PRONI.
You should check out the catalogs for the various repositories. This, however, is easier said than done. You are not likely to find your ancestor in these directories, so search on the locality or the name of the landlord. PRONI's online catalog is pretty good, although not everything is listed. The onsite catalog is more detailed, so you'll want to check that when you arrive. This is also where the Archivists in the repositories are extremely helpful. They know the collections and are frequently aware of material that may not have been cataloged yet. It's important for you to be able to frame your question. Archivists are historians not genealogists and don't want to know your entire family history. Rather than "I'm looking for William Moag," your question might be, "my Presbyterian Moag family lived in Annahilt in County Down on the estate of the Marquis of Downshire between 1800 and 1890." This opens up a number of directions for your research and the Archivist might be aware of specific records and they may even know the call numbers off the top of their head.
The Archivists at the National Archives in Dublin are invaluable since their catalog is not the easiest to use. This is another example of needing to think like an historian, not a genealogist. The National Library catalog is better and you can use that from home as well, making a list of the items you want to view in Ireland. Make sure you also use the Sources database at the National Library which catalogs manuscripts and journals which can be found all over Ireland. If the source is a book or journal, always check to see if the item can be accessed from home using WorldCat or JSTOR. Check to see if your local library has a subscription to JSTOR. You don't want to spend your valuable time in Ireland looking at material you could have accessed at home. The repositories I've mentioned so far are all "closed stacks" which means you need to have a Reader's Card and request the information and it will be brought to you or to a special manuscript reading room for you to review. Each repository has some open shelf material, but it is primarily finding aids. Both the National Archives and the National Library also have a Genealogy Advisory Service, staffed by a genealogist to answer questions.
Rather than repeat what I've written in the past, here are some blogs that might interest you.
Are You Ready to Research in Ireland?
If you are not sure if you are ready, email me to set up a consultation call.
Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!