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Presbyterian and Methodist Historical Societies

The Methodist Historical Society, Belfast

Lots going on today. Small groups made visits to the Presbyterian and Methodist Historical Societies, while most of the group returned to PRONI to continue their research. Almost all of the Presbyterian records that are public can be found on microfilm at PRONI, however there are a few which still are only housed at PHS. It turned out to be a short visit as the records viewed, did not turn up any additional information. But, even negative evidence is evidence. Now it is known that the family was not in that particular church.

Two of the researchers asked if I would make an appointment at the Methodist Historical Society. It is not a place I have visited in the past however the staff was extremely accommodating. If you do your homework prior to a trip, you may find additional repositories above what is planned, that fit your specific needs.

Here are some comments on today's research.

Deb had a reminder of the importance of looking at the original record.

At some point over the past few days Ive wondered why I was “wasting my time” looking at church records, when I already had the information on my ancestors birth date from an online source (in this case RootsIreland). Well, I found out why at PRONI! In RootsIreland my ancestors given name was written as Joseph James. I had previously only seen records for James so I was a bit confused as to whether or not this was “my James”. But, in reviewing the original church registers, and a second transcribed clearer copy, it turns out the transcriber had started to write Joseph then crossed that part out. So indeed, this record is for my great great grandfather, officially baptized as James. Definitely worth the time to check the original source!


Today with Donna’s help I ordered a Box for McMorrough Kavanagh from PRONI . It had wills in it along with papers pertaining to the Act where they had to sell off the land.

Ellen and Porsche

Busy day at PRONI searching records for more Irish family history. Handwritten records are confusing and hard to read. I spent a few hours looking for family associations with McFarmer and McLaborer before I realized they were occupations. I did find existing records on family lodge addresses in Belfast that I plan to visit on Friday.

Karen and Sara

Today, Sara and I visited the Methodist Historical Society which is housed within the main Methodist Church for Belfast. It’s located in a beautiful, tree-lined neighborhood close to the Botanical Gardens and Queens University. (See photo above)
When we arrived, we were welcomed and led to a research area where all our requested material was ready for us to dive into. We spent a couple of hours going through very early membership lists as well as pre-civil registration baptisms and marriages. We’re excited to say we have some promising leads to follow! It was a really good day for us!

Pat and Bill were kind enough to set up a Pub Dinner for those interested at McHugh's, the oldest pub in Belfast. It was great craic!

Although not part of the Belfast trip, I wanted to share a message I received from Kelsey and Tim about their trip out to Sligo after Dublin.

Hey Donna…we’re sitting at the airport to head home, but I wanted to tell you about something interesting that happened in Sligo. Sunday morning we were a little discouraged and thinking the day was going to be a “wasted” day because many of the places we wanted to go were closed or too far for us walk or to even take a cab and the bus route wasn’t really convenient. Anyway, we decided to take a 10 min walk to go to Sligo Cemetery, which was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We were there for about 2 hours or so, taking pictures of Hart headstones and any other relevant surnames. After going through almost the entire cemetery, a woman was tending the grave next to one my dad was taking a picture of. She asked if he was finding everything ok and he asked her if she knew any Harts. They started talking a bit and she said that she happened to have a free day and was willing to drive us to the Ahamlish Cemetery where we’re pretty sure our Harts were. She was the loveliest woman. She drove us there but also stopped at lots of special spots on the way for us to be tourists and take pictures. After we got back to the hotel I was going through all of the pictures and trying to catalog them when I came across one from the Ahamlish Cemetery that wasn’t a Hart but it caught my eye. The names sounded familiar to me. After thinking about it for a minute, I immediately remembered that the man on the headstone was the grandfather of a DNA match on MyHeritage! I went to double check and sure enough, it is the same family. It had his wife and daughter’s name and the townland where they lived on the monument. It all fit. This was a huge breakthrough for me.
She gave me her email and she’s still been helping me! The next day she told me that she had a friend who made some of the modern monuments in the cemetery and she was meeting with her that morning to see if she had records of the monuments they’ve made. She told me she wants me to keep in touch and she is willing to help by tracking down any living relatives when I’m back home.

Irish people are just great! Happy Hunting!

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