Read the Local History


I thought I might have finished my sketch on Bridget King to post today, but it didn't happen. As some of you may know I had a full shoulder replacement a couple of weeks ago, and am limited in the amount of time I can sit and type. Physical therapy starts this week, so I'm hoping it will get better.


While I'm not researching and typing, I've been doing some reading. I encourage those who go on my research trip to plan to spend some time reading about the history of the area where their ancestors originated. It helps to fill in the details, especially when you run out of records (which in Ireland can happen quickly). One of the places you can go to find out more is JohnGrenham.com. I write about this site quite a bit, and have to say it's one I use almost every day. John allows 5 clicks a day before he asks for a subscription. You can subscribe for a day, a month or a year. (An alternative would be John's book, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors - 5th edition.) On his website, go to the Site Map and click on the Civil Parish Map. Select the county, and then the parish of your ancestor. In the upper right you'll find "A summary of research sources for _____" (in my case, Drumgooland).


Notice there are 14 "book format local histories," as well as 22 "local or family history journals." When you click on one of the sources, it will provide the location of the material. Most of the call numbers are those of the National Library of Ireland, which, if you're in Dublin or planning a visit, you should review. If you're not in Dublin (or Ireland) check WorldCat to see if the materials are available at a library near you, or for Inter-Library Loan.


One of the books mentioned was Down and it's Parishes, which looked interesting. There was no call number, but it was published in 1907 (out of copyright). Sure enough, a search at WorldCat provided an online version of the book. Upon review, it turned out to be about the Down Parish Church (Church of Ireland) and my research was focused on Roman Catholic history. What I found fascinating, however, was that it named individuals who served in the church, both clergy and laity, as well as pew lists with some biographical information back into the early 1700s. Some of the material, pre-dated available church records. This would be important reading for anyone with Church of Ireland ancestors in Downpatrick!


Not all of the local history information is listed so you need to do your own research. Another source, especially for Ulster, is William Roulston's Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors. I would also check out any "how to" books for your specific county, such as the series by FlyLeaf Press. And of course, don't forget to google the locality including the words "local history." There's even a site with free Irish Local History eBooks. Since I'm writing about Down, Ros Davies has a wonderful site just full of information on County Down. You may find similar sites for the places where your ancestors lived. Don't forget to join Facebook groups for your area. In addition to members whose ancestors came from the area, you also have local people who can answer questions or suggest resources.


John also has a section on Journals. Although it is not likely that you'll find a full run, you may also find them through WorldCat. One of the Journals listed was Saintfield Heritage. The earliest records I have for my Moag family were baptisms in 1783 at First Boardmills in Saintfield. Turns out that there are copies both at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Some of the most valuable material may only be found locally. One of the books that I have is Drumgooland - A Parish Divided, edited by Michael McCartan and Teresa O'Hare and published in 2000. Although we had corresponded in the past, in October Michael joined cousin Anita in taking me to the King homestead in Ballymaginaghy. His local knowledge of not only the area, but of all the families that lived there was invaluable! A good reason to consider a research trip to Ireland!


Michael McCartan on the left with me and cousin Brendan. Michael is holding a map outlining the King property.

One last resource...historical novels. I sometimes have trouble staying awake while reading a history, however I am a big fan of historical novels. Not only do you get the history, but you get it in context. I encourage people to read The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherfurd before visiting Ireland. It is actually two books: The Princes of Ireland (Druids to Cromwell) and the Rebels of Ireland (Cromwell to the Irish Civil War). Another book that makes me ask the question, why are we here, is The Killing Snows about the famine in County Mayo. A must read for those of you with Mayo ancestry.


I hope this has given you some ideas on research that doesn't focus on the hatches, matches and dispatches and allows you to bring some context to your family story.


Happy Hunting!



The Ireland Research Trips for next October are starting to fill up. If you (or any of your friends) are interested you should mail in your registration. There is a maximum of 15 researchers per trip. Not sure if you're ready? Why not schedule a consultation.





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