Friday, 28 October 2016

The Forgotten Irish: a heartbreaking education for Irish family historians

Published by The History Press Ireland
I'd been looking forward to publication of The Forgotten Irish by Damian Shiels for some time, and it has completely lived up to expectations.

Its 288 pages hold the stories of 35 Irish families who lost loved ones who served in the US military between 1861 and 1910, the majority through the American Civil War. The narratives have been developed from the rich files of the widows' and dependents' pension record collection held at the National Archives in Washington DC (not online), which holds the claims and supporting documentation relating to the families of 1.3million deceased servicemen, many thousands of them Irish. The individual files hold military records, baptismal records, medical reports and affidavits showing the deceased soldier supported the claimant financially, as well as original letters exchanged by the family and serviceman.

The latter provide the most poignant details for each real-life story told by the author, and many of them have been carefully transcribed in the book, capturing the emotions of the writer and the atmosphere of the time.

The book and the stories it tells are arranged into four themes, as Damian explains in his Preface: "The first two sections, 'Wives and Parents', and 'Community and Society', emphasise the lives of soldiers' families... and seek to illustrate how the pension files can be used to examine topics such as family emigration, chain migration, financial dependence and the maintenance of tranatlantic connections, as well as social issues.... The final two sections, 'A Life in Letters' and 'A Death in Letters', are aimed at providing a direct insight into the lives and emotions of some of these emigrant soldiers, using their own correspondence, and also at investigating how their loved ones received news of, and coped with, their deaths."

By their nature, the stories are sad. They are also incredibly rich with detail about the Irish emigrant experience and the lives of those left behind, either in Ireland or in America. I consider this book a must-read for the Irish family historian. It's easily my book of the year.

The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America is now available in good bookshops in Ireland and online (The History Press Ireland, Amazon, Book Depository etc.).

FindMyPast adds Wicklow and Dublin publications

FindMyPast has added a number of publications today relating to Counties Wicklow and Dublin.
  • Corn Growers, Carriers & Traders, County Wicklow, 1788, 1789 & 1790
  • Kilcoole School Registers, 1862
  • Newcastle School Registers, 1864-1948
  • Shillelagh & Ballinacor South Memorial, 1837
  • The People of Wicklow 1798: The Rebellion
  • Booterstown School Registers 1862-1872 & 1891-1939
  • Whitelaw’s Census Street Index Dublin City 1798
  • Petitioners Against Closure of Kill O’ The Grange Cemetery 1864
  • Glasthule, Harold (Boys) School Registers 1904-1948
  • Dalkey, St Patrick’s School Registers 1894-1970
  • Dun Laoghaire, Rathdown Memorial Inscriptions
All originally published by the Genealogical Society of Ireland (GSI), these titles are, as far as I'm aware, making their online debut.

Today's upload additionally includes publication of local indexes and transcriptions of censuses for Counties Cavan, Kilkenny and Dublin. These were compiled by the GSI's volunteers long before the National Archives of Ireland's free Genealogy website made all of Ireland's surviving census returns freely available (and now additionally available on FindMyPast and elsewhere). I have not included these publications in the list here. If you're interested to see them, just follow the links above.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Republic of Ireland: Bank holiday, Monday 31 October

There's a long weekend ahead for the Republic of Ireland, where Monday 31 October will be a bank holiday. Most libraries and archives will be closed on that day.

The major exception is the National Library of Ireland in Dublin. While its exhibitions will be open 12Noon to 5pm, the Reading Rooms in Kildare Street will be closed. It's free Genealogy Service won't be running, either.

Public lending and local studies libraries in Dublin and around the country will be closed on both the Saturday (29th) and the Bank Holiday Monday, returning to regular hours from Tuesday.

This bank holiday does not apply in Northern Ireland where repositories, libraries and commercial enterprises are open for business as normal.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

More County Armagh records join RootsIreland has added 1,147 new records to its County Armagh database, as follows:

Derrynoose Tithe Accounts 1785-1787:
This collection holds 850 records of tithe payers by townland.

1821 Census of Armagh: This 1821 Census transcript for some townlands in various County Armagh parishes come from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (source T636). It is a hand-transcribed record which would most likely have been taken from the original Census return and transcribed pre-1922, when the original records were destroyed in the PRO fire. It is not included in the more mainstream collections of Irish census fragments available at the National Archives of Ireland and elsewhere. A copy of this record can be obtained from Armagh Ancestry.

View a full list of County Armagh sources currently on RootsIreland.

The new Townland Valuation Translator breaks the 'code' used by Griffith's surveyors (1824–1856)

Here's something new and different: the

It's been devised by Irish genealogist John Schnelle from Boston, who has combined his interests in maps and the history of rural agriculture with a drive to apply new technology to genealogy research, to unlock the 'code' used by the surveyors in their Field and House books. He aims to translate their findings into easily discernable information about our ancestors, their land, what they grew, and how they would have worked and managed their land holding, however small.

I checked out how my maternal ancestors near Caher would have fared – the Townland Valuation Translator described their land holding as 'second class wheat land', yielding high quality and quantity of crops with proportionally low investments of time, labour and financial resources.'

By contrast, my paternal ancestors near Clonakilty had a harder time surviving. Their land was 'third class oat land', the 'least valuable class of soil' (which probably explains why they gave up half of it to the sea about 70 years ago!).

The Translator's detailed reports make for interesting reading, not just about what was would have been grown and the likely rotation of crops for such a land holding. It also gives an analysis of how my ancestors would have managed and worked their land, whether it was suited to the use of a plough or other tools; how a horse might, or might not, have been loaned occasionally to facilitate the cultivation or harvest; and how the difficulty of working the poorer land might have required community imput and a lot of potatoes for dinner! The translator delivers a good spread of detail about how our rural ancestors lived.

The website is still in beta right now, and only the Field Books can be fully interpreted, thus far. Check it out. First up, search for your family in the Valuation Office Books (1824–1856) collection, which is freely available on the National Archives of Ireland's Genealogy website. You'll need to imput some of the information in the books into the Translator search form. Then scroll down the page to read the report.

IGRS publishes 1803 directory of Dublin's Merchants

The Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS) has created a free database of the Merchants and Traders listed in Wilson’s Dublin Directory, published in the 1803 edition of The Treble Almanac.

The database holds more than 7,500 entries searachable by individual name of the merchant/trader. You can also search by occupation (here's where to find out how many milliners, for example, were trading in the capital at the start of the 19th century (33)) and by street address (there were 31 businesses – nearly all of them legal firms – trading in French Street, now Mercer Street).

Each entry is also linked to a map from the Statistical Survey of the County Dublin, (Dublin, 1802).

To find out more and to search the Directory, see the IGRS website:

Monday, 24 October 2016

National Archives of Ireland: early closing of Reading Room on Wednesday 26 October

The National Archives of Ireland has announced that its Reading Room will close early this Wednesdary (26 October) to facilitate a special event.

The doors will close to the public at 4pm.