Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Back To Our Past: 2015 dates announced

Ireland's only major annual conference and exhibition – Back To Our Past – has announced its dates for 2015. They are:

Friday 16 October – 12pm to 6pm
Saturday 17 October – 11am to 6pm
Sunday 18 October – 11am to 6pm

This will be the fifth consecutive year of BTOP, which brings together a significant proportion of the genealogy and related industries to exhibit their wares and services as well as offering three full days of family history, heritage and dna lectures.

Once again, the show will be held in the Industries Hall at the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Details of the lecture programme won't be published for some months; for now, just get the dates in your diaries.

Exhibitors should contact the organisers on 00 353 1 496 9028.

Irish Emigration in the 19th century: seminar

On Friday 13 February, Edenderry Historical Society is to host an evening seminar exploring Irish Emigration in the 19th century.

Here's the line-up of lectures:
  • The Irish in South Africa: a miscellany, with Dr Ciaran Reilly
  • 'We are all well and fat': the Tuke Irish in Minnesota, 1880-1930, with Dr Regina Donlon
  • In seach of Irish emigrants in the American Civil War, with Damian Shiels
  • Fleeing famine: assisted emigration from Earl Fitzwilliam's Co Wicklow estate, with Fidelma Byrne
  • Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore Irish Famine refugee, superstar of American music, but today, unknown, with Jarlath McNamara
Venue: Edenderry Town Hall, O'Connell Square, Edenderry, Co Offaly.  
Time: 7pm start. Ends c10pm.  
Admission: €10  
All welcome.

Monday, 26 January 2015

BBC documentary, Ireland's Great War, starts 1 Feb

A two-part TV documentary, Ireland's Great War, begins on Sunday 1 February at 6pm on BBC One Northern Ireland. It's part of the BBC's World War One Season.

Made by 360 Production, the film charts Ireland's role in the First World War. At the outset of the Great War, Ireland was still part of the British Empire, but was on the verge of a civil war between Nationalists and Unionists. When Britain declared war on Germany, both sides joined up and three Irish Divisions were formed, with the first seeing action during the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. While Irish soldiers fought and died abroad, a little-known Republican minority sparked Dublin's Easter Rising, forcing Britain to allocate much-needed troops to Ireland.

Re-examining the full story of Ireland and the Great War are Diarmaid Ferriter of University College Dublin, Richard Grayson from University of London and Timothy Bowman from the University of Kent.

Following its broadcast, the one-hour episode will be available on the BBC iPlayer. I'm not sure what access limitation will be imposed.

Irish genealogy and history events, 26 Jan to 7 Feb

Monday 26 January: The Sabbath Disturbed: The Curragh Mutiny Recalled, with Liam Kenny and James Durney. Host: Clondalkin History Society. Venue: , Arás Chronáin Irish Cultural Centre, Watery Lane, Clondalkin, Co Dublin. 8pm. All welcome.

Tuesday 27 January: After the Workhouse: Providing shelter and relief in Kilrush 1921–1939, with Rita McCarthy. Host: Kilrush and District Historical Society. Venue: Teach Ceoil, Grace Street, Kilrush, Co Clare. 8pm. Free for members. €5 for non-members.

Tuesday 27 January: Violence, law and migration in modern Irish history, with Dr Richard McMahon. Followed by Q&A session. First of the 2015 Slattery Lectures 'Migration: Ireland, Europe and Beyond'. Hosts: Trinity College Carlow and Carlow College. Venue: Cobden Hall, Carlow College, College Street, Carlow. 5–7pm. Free. All welcome. Enquiries.

Wednesday 28 January: The Medical Front, with Dr Robert Whan. Host and Venue: Newry & Mourne Museum, Bagenal's Castle , Castle Street/1A Bank Parade, Newry BT34 2BY. Starts at 7:30pm. Light refreshments served. Free but need to book by phone to 028 3031 3173 or email

Thursday 29 January: Researching WW1 Servicemen – Suggested sources, with Nigel Henderson. Host: North of Ireland Family History Society, Ballymena Branch. Venue: Michelin Arts Workshop, Baid Arts Centre, 1-29 Bridge Street, Ballymena. 7:15pm.

Friday 30 January: 16 Dead Men, The Easter Rising Executions, with Anne-Marie Ryan. Host: Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society. €5. Non-members welcome.

Friday 30 January: Irish society and identity in Victorian Melbourne, with Sophie Cooper, and Writing from the Congested Districts: J.M. Synge and the Modernisation of the West of Ireland, with Seán Hewitt. Host: IES Irish Studies. Venue: Room G22 (Ground Floor), Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU. 6-8pm

Sunday 1 February: Cobh Lusitania Centenary 2015. A recital on the 49 bells of the cathedral commences at 5 pm, followed by the Cobh Confraternity Band in the Promenade and a short ceremony where the 1,198 victims of the wartime tragedy will be remembered. At 6 pm schoolchildren will read the names of the 169 victims buried in the Old Church Cemetery in Cobh as the Irish Coastguard launch flares from the quayside in Cobh and from the ramparts of Fort Mitchel on Spike Island. Details.

Monday 2 February: History of Derry through the River Foyle, with Roy Hamilton. Host: North of Ireland Family History Society, Foyle Branch. Venue: City's Central Library, 35 Foyle Street, Derry, Co LondonDerry BT48 6AL. 7pm. All welcome.

Monday 2 February: Family and Business Memories of Killyleagh – T M Martin and Sons, with John Martin. Host: North of Ireland Family History Society, Killyleagh Branch. Venue: Killyleagh Masonic Hall, 50 High Street, Killyleagh, BT30 9QF, Co Down. 8pm. All welcome.

Monday 2 February to Friday 27 February: Londonderry Papers Exhibition. The exhibition focuses on the ‘Ark’ club set up by Edith, Lady Londonderry, in 1915 and immortalised in the Dodo Terrace at her gardens at Mountstewart. Members of the Ark club read like a roll call of the great and the good in British and Irish society at the time. Members were given a nickname, based on an animal or a mythical creature. Venue: Comber Library, Newtownards Road, Comber, Co Down BT23 5AU. Telephone for more details: 028 9187 2610.

Tuesday 3 February: Hidden pages from WW1, a seminar exploring previously unknown archival sources on soldiers and civilians, recounted by the curators who recovered them. Five short presentations (from 7:30pm), a Q&A session, private viewing of the cathedral's Lives Remembered exhibition and wine reception at 7pm. Chaired by Bryan Dobson. Hosts: Irish Society for Archives and St Patrick's Cathedral. Venue: The Lady Chapel, St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. Open to the public, free and no need to book.  Details.

Tuesday 3 February: The Digital Mapping of Ireland’s Eighteenth-Century Built Military Heritage: Or, Rambles in Rural Armagh, with Ivar McGrath. Host: School of History and Archives Research Forum. Venue: Room K114, University College Dublin. 4 p.m. Free admission. All welcome. Details.

Tuesday 3 February: From the Plum to the Pau France, with Claire McElhinney. Host: North of Ireland Family HistorySociety, Omagh Branch.  Venue: Omagh Library, 1 Spillers Place, Omagh, Co Tyrone BT78 1HL. 7:15pm. All welcome.

Wednesday 4 February: Military Antiques Roadshow. Bring along your WW1 artefacts to have them viewed and catalogued by experts, watch the documentary The Boys from East Belfast, and attend two talks at 2pm and 3pm. Host: Living Legacies 1914–1918. Venue: St. Mark's Parochial Hall: Heyn Hall, 2 Sydenham Avenue. Belfast BT4 2DR. 1–4pm. Free.

Wednesday 4 February: Seeking Refuge: Germany to Ireland in the 1930's, a half-day Conference. To mark Holocause Memorial Day, this event will examine the impact of the rise of the Nazi regime on Jewish communities in germany and Northern Ireland. Venue: PRONI, 2 Titanic Boulevard, Belfast, BT3 9HQ (Lecture Theatre). Starts 2pm. Three speakers. Free but need to reserve your place by email proni@dcalni.gov.uk or telephone: 028 90 534800.

Wednesday 4 February: Charity during the Great Famine in Connaught, with Ciaran McCabe. Host: Strokestown Park Winter Spring Lectureseries. Venue: Strokestown House, Co Roscommon. 8pm. Admission €5.

Wednesday 4 February: The Home Front: Newry and Mourne in the Great War, with Dr Robert Whan. Host and Venue: Newry & Mourne Museum, Bagenal's Castle , Castle Street, 1A Bank Parade, Newry BT34 2BY. Time: 7:30pm. Light refreshments served. Free but need to book by phone to 028 3031 3173 or email.

Thursday 5 February: The Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland and its resources, with Valerie Adams. Host: North of Ireland Family History Society, Belfast Branch. Venue: Holywood Arches Library, Holywood Road, Belfast BT4 1NT. 7:30pm. All welcome.

Saturday 7 February: Photography and other pastimes, with Pat Holland. Part of The Big House lecture series. Venue: Tipperary County Museum, Mick Delahunty Square, Clonmel, Co Tipperary. 10am to Noon, with refreshments provided. €5 per session. Bookings: julia.walsh@tipperarycoco.ie or 076 106 5564.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Source information for Ancestry's new Death Indexes

I reported yesterday on the latest release from Ancestry: the Scotland and Northern Ireland Death Index, 1989–2013. I described it as a strange collection, and the lack of detail about its source didn't make it any less strange.

A similar collection, the England and Wales Death Index, 2007–2013, was released on the same day and it didn't reveal any insightful information about its source, either.

So, I contacted Ancestry and have the following details to pass on.
  • The source of both collections is GreyPower Deceased Data, compiled by Wilmington Millennium, a business that facilitates the prevention/detection of deceased identity fraud. (If you're really keen, you can Google the company name and get a clearer idea of what they do.)
  • The data is compiled from funeral directors' records and obituary notices.
  • The Scotland and Northern Ireland Index is estimated to include some 45% of deaths during the 25-year period.
  • The England and Wales Index is estimated to represent 55% of deaths during the seven-year period.
Knowing the level of coverage will help to explain why so many of you (thanks for the emails!) can't find people you know to have died during these time frames.

UPDATE, Saturday 24 Jan: Ancestry has now added some of the above to the search page 'Source Information' for each index.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Irish Family History Day: FindMyPast adds 7m records

FindMyPast has declared Friday 23 January to be Irish Family History Day – the company's annual celebration of Irish heritage – and it comes with quite a splash!

Nearly 7m records have been added to the database, including, for the first time online, the Irish Poverty Relief Loan records and Clare Electoral Registers. A free webinar, followed by a Q&A session, will be held and there's a money-off offer for new subscribers, too.

New Records

Irish Poverty Loan Records, 1821–1874
This collection comes from the National Archives in Kew, London, and relates to the Irish Reproductive Loan Fund, a privately funded micro credit scheme set up in 1824 to provide small loads to the 'industrious poor' ie those most affected by poverty and famine. It's a gem for those with ancestors from some of the poorest parts of the island (see map below) and it's the first time it's been available in full online. (I know the transcriptions for Skibbereen have been available for some time on the Skibbereen Heritage Centre's website (http://goo.gl/uIi5yJ) because I'd already downloaded the records for my own family, but I've never seen the images of the loan fund's pages before. They're interesting as they show the weekly/monthly instalments being paid, as well as any defaults on repayments and other details)

Click map for more details about these records
This collection of almost 700,000 records, which span the period of the Irish Famine, provides unique insight into the lives of those living in Ireland during one of the darkest periods in its history. The handwritten ledgers and account books reveal the changing fortunes of Irish ancestors and their subsequent movements in Ireland and across the world.

Many of the records are loan application forms, which include the name of the borrower and two names of guarantors, who were often close family members or neighbours. Other details recorded include occupation, notes of health, family circumstances and whether the borrower emigrated.

These are often the only official records of people who died during the Famine or who emigrated during those awful years.

Announcing this latest addition to the Irish collection, Brian Donovan, Head of Irish Data and Business Development for Findmypast, said: “These incredibly important records provide an exceptional insight into the lives of the poor across the west of Ireland from Sligo down to Cork. The people recorded are precisely those who were most likely to suffer the worst of the Famine or be forced to emigrate. These remarkable records allow us to chart what happened to 690,000 people like this from the 1820s to the 1850s, giving a glimpse of their often heart-breaking accounts of survival and destitution, misery and starvation. We are very lucky to be able to tell their stories.”

Find out more about the Irish Poverty Loan Records.

Clare Electoral Registers
These 311,080 records are also making their debut online. The collection shows who owned or leased property worth at least £10 between 1860 and 1910. Male owners or leaseholders of property worth at least £12 a year were entitled to vote in parliamentary elections, while female property holders of the same value could vote in local elections. You can find both in this record set.

Each record contains an image and a transcript of the original document. The amount of information varies depending on the kind of document featured but you can find out the following about your ancestor: Name, address, barony, registration unit and polling unit.

The image will often show further details including whether the vote was objected to on the grounds that the voter did not meet the qualifying criteria and the nature of the qualification (usually the type of ownership or lease). In the case of someone who qualified because of the property they were renting, details of their landlord are usually given.

Find out more about the Clare Electoral Registers collection

Irish Census 1911 plus Census fragments 1821–1851 and Census Search Forms 1841 & 1851
These three record sets are available, free of charge, at the Genealogy website of the National Archives of Ireland (NAI); on FindMyPast's site, the Census 1911 database links through to the NAI site to display images of the census returns.

However, there's an interesting advantage to using this database when searching the 1911 Census because FindMyPast's search engine allows researchers to search for more than one family member at the same time, helping to narrow down results, and by birth year and by spelling variations of a name. These options are not available at the NAI site and will certainly make some searches a lot easier.

Transcriptions and images for the Census fragments and Census Search Forms databases are held entirely on the FindMyPast site. As family historians quickly become aware, having alternative search engines can be useful; one engine may identify a record that the other cannot find.

Just as at the NAI website, these three records sets are free at FindMyPast. To view them at FindMyPast, you need to register but you don't need a subscription of Pay-As-You-Go credits.

More about the Ireland Census 1911, the Census Fragments, and the Census Search Forms.

Irish Marriages 1619-1898
This record set of 852,000 names has been available for some years on Family Search.org, the huge site managed by the Church of Latter Day Saints. I've looked into this collection before and found it to be rather curious lucky-dip collection of transcriptions made by LDS members from civil registration records, parish and other records.

It is certainly not comprehensive, either geographically or across the time frame. Some localities are not included. Some have a random collection of entries covering a wide time span; others have a more systematic collection of records from a short time frame. Most seem to have a bit of a mix of source material. Others do not. County Carlow, for example, has 4,046 entries, all transcribed from civil registration entries ie the marriage certificate, while County Offaly has no civil registration entries.

For all its random and often imprecise collection methods, this is a useful record set, worth checking as part of a thorough search. Just bear in mind its limitations.

Find out more about the Irish Marriages record set.


As part of Irish Family History Day, Findmypast will be running an online webinar and Q&A session hosted by Irish family history expert, Brian Donovan. The webinar will cover getting started with Irish family history, as well as hints and tips on getting further with your research.

The webinar will be held at 5pm GMT on Friday 23 January. Brian will be on hand to answer questions after the webinar. For more information, and to register interest, visit http://bit.ly/irishlive.

Exclusive offer

Another feature of the Day is a special offer for new and lapsed subscribers only.

Researchers in Ireland can join for just €1 for their first month using the discount code IFHD15. Subscribe here.

Researchers outside of Ireland can sign up for a World subscription, granting access to over 2 billion records, for just £5/$5 for their first month using the code IRISH15. Select from FindMyPast Britain, FindMyPast North America or FindMyPast Australia.

These offers expire at midnight on Tuesday 27 January.

Enjoy Irish Family History Day!

Did your Clare ancestor serve in the American Civil War?

Clare County Library has added another fabulously useful record set to its free online materials: Claremen who served in the American Civil War, 1861–1865.

The collection has been donated by Sharon Carberry who has transcribed data on 381 individual soldiers recorded in obituaries, pension records, official muster rolls, biographies etc. Some of the entries are quite detailed, including personal descriptions, occupation, place and date of enlistment (and, often, age at that date), date and method of discharge.

This is a 'must-check' collection for those with ancestors from County Clare.