Tuesday, 21 October 2014

National Archives Reading Room closures - October

The National Archives of Ireland's Reading Room will be closed on Monday 27 October, a public holiday.

Please also note that the Reading Room will close early – at 4pm – on Thursday 29 October.

Derry Family History Fair focusses on WW1

A Family History Fair will be held at Derry Central Library on Thursday 23 October. It has a particular focus on World War 1 and invites people to bring along objects and artefacts such as photographs, letters, postcards, diaries or other memorabilia.

Researchers from Living Legacies will be on hand using their state-of-the-art scanning equipment to help individuals interpret and tell a story of these wartime items. For those who wish to share their cherished possessions, this is an opportunity to digitally record personal legacies and reminders from the Great War. The aim is to preserve and capture memories for the benefit of future generations

A range of organisations will be participating at the Fair offering free information and advice including the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI), Derry City Council Heritage & Museum Archives & Genealogy Services, and local and family history organisations.

Five sessions will be held:

10:30am–11:15am: Digitisation and WW1 Research

11:15am–12:00pm: WW1 Resources at PRONI

12:00pm–1:15pm  : Exploring WW1 through objects memories and stories

2:00pm–2:45pm    : On-line resources from GRONI

2:45pm–3:45pm    : Shared stories from WW1 led by Brian Mitchell

Visitors will also be able to access Derry Central Library’s Heritage Collection, which includes microfilmed local newspapers of the period, use Libraries NI's free on-line Ancestry Library Edition, and discover how the Living Legacies 1914-18 Engagement Centre is connecting academic and community researchers.

Venue: Derry Central Library, 35 Foyle Street, BT48 6AL.
Time: 10am to 4pm.
Cost: Free.
Details: 028 7127 2310 or derrycentral.library@librariesni.org.uk​

Genetic Genealogy Ireland lectures start going online

Recordings of the Genetic Genealogy Ireland (GGI) lectures, presented at Back To Our Past last weekend, are now starting to appear on the GGI YouTube channel.

Those already uploaded include a brief (two-minute) Introduction to the 2014 GGI conference; DNA for beginners, with Debbie Kennett (52 minutes); and Which DNA test is best for you?, with Maurice Gleeson (59 minutes).

All the lectures presented at GGI 2014 are destined for YouTube and they'll be uploaded in programme order, so if you were unable to attend the shwo, or missed a specific lecture, you'll still be able to catch up on what's happening in the world of DNA/genetic genealogy.

(Back To Our Past's traditional genealogy and heritage lectures were not recorded.)

Stop Press: Irish Newspaper Archive to slash prices

Here's something to cheer about!

The Irish Newspaper Archive, a privately-owned commercial database offering access to some 40 Irish titles, is gearing up to dramatically reduce the cost of its subscription packages.

The new 'individual researcher' rates are not yet set in stone, but are expected to be somewhere in the ballpark of:

One Day    : €9.99 (currently €10, so not exactly a headline grabber)
One Month : €29.99 (currently €60)
One Year   : €179.99 (currently €350)

The existing 48-hour and 7-day packages will be discountinued.

The announcement of imminent big price cuts was made by director Phillip Martin in the final lecture at Back To Our Past 2014. What a great note for the show to end on!

News of the changes hasn't reached the IrishNewsArchive website yet because the figures are not yet confirmed and the new regime will not be introduced until the tail-end of November, Phillip told Irish Genealogy News today. He also advised that new titles, all covering Mayo, have been added to the database in the last month:

Ballinrobe Chronicle 03/02/1866 - 10/09/1903
Ballina Herald 06/08/1927 - 28/04/1962
Mayo Examiner 06/07/1868 - 30/12/1876
Mayo News 07/01/1893 - 29/12/2004
Western Journal 03/06/1977 - 11/03/1983

In addition, all issues for the Leinster Express from 1831 to 1877 should be available before the end of the year, and all issues of the Sligo Champion, currently online from 1950 to 1981, should, from early 2015, be available up to the current year.

There's also another major title ready to join the Irish News Archive shortly. It's under wraps right now, but more than 100 years of this publication (the span starts pre-Famine) will be uploaded in the next couple of months. I'll bring you news of the launch in due course.

NOTE: This blogpost was edited at 17:10pm.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Irish genealogy & history events, 20 Oct to 1 Nov

Monday 20 October: Using DNA to research your Northern Ireland family tree, with Brian O'Hara and Maggie Lyttle. Host: North of Ireland Family History Society, Larne Branch. Venue: Larne Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club, 112 Glenarm Road, Larne, BT40 1DZ. 7:30pm. All welcome.

Tuesday 21 October: Building the City Hall, with Robert Corbett. Part of the Belfast Corporation lecture series. Venue: PRONI, Titanic Boulevard, Belfast. All welcome. 1pm to 2pm. Free, but booking required. Email proni@dcalni.gov.uk or telephone 028 90  534800 to reserve your place.

Tuesday 21 October: Out of the dark, 1914-1918, South Dubliners in the Great War, with Ken Kinsella. Host: Dublin City Library and Archive. Venue: The Council Chamber, City Hall, Dame Street, Dublin 2. 1:10pm to 1:50pm (doors open 12:30pm). Free. All welcome. No booking.

Wednesday 22 October: Glimpses of Ireland's past: drawings in the OS Memoirs, with Angélique Day. Part of the Mapping City, Town and Country lecture series. Venue: Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2. 1-2pm. Free. All welcome. No need to book.

Wednesday 22 October: Influence of Irish on English as we speak it, with Joe O Labhrai. Part of the Irish language and culture lecture series. Venue: PRONI, Titanic Boulevard, Belfast. All welcome. 1pm to 2pm. Free, but booking required. Email proni@dcalni.gov.uk or telephone 028 90  534800 to reserve your place.

Thursday 23 October: 'If the nation is to be saved women must help in the saving': Women and War in Ireland, 1914–18, with Dr Senia Paseta. Part of The Road to War Lecture Series. Hosted by PRONI and National Museums Northern Ireland. Venue: PRONI, Titanic Gardens, Belfast. 7pm. Free but booking essential. Email proni@dcalni.gov.uk or phone 44+ 028 905 34800.

Thursday 23 October: Exploring family history – Shops and shoppers, with Dr Janice Holmes and Dr Barry Sheehan. Part of the Open University Lunchtime Lecture Series, examining the working lives of families in the past, with examples from PRONI's collections. Venue: PRONI, Titanic Boulevard, Belfast. 1pm. Booking recommended but not essential. Free. 

Thursday 23 October: Family History Fair – WW1 and You! Objects, Memories, Resources​. Host: Libraries NI and Living Legacies 1914-18. Venue: Derry Central Library. Five lectures, demonstrations, access to heritage collections, exhibitors. 10am to 4pm. Free. All welcome.

Tuesday 28 October: Signature events at Belfast City Hall, with Robert Corbett. Part of the Belfast Corporation lecture series. Venue: PRONI, Titanic Boulevard, Belfast. All welcome. 1pm to 2pm. Free, but booking required. Email proni@dcalni.gov.uk or telephone 028 90  534800 to reserve your place.

Tuesday 28 October: Family history research using the Internet, with Boyd Gray. Host: Coleraine Brance of the North of Ireland Family History Society. Venue: Guide Hall, Terrace Row Presbyterian Church, Coleraine BT52 1HF. 8pm. All welcome.

Tuesday 28 October: We are all one in the suffrage faith, with Dr Margaret Ward. Part of the Lisburn Museum Lecture Series: Ireland during the Great War. Venue: Lisburn Museum, Market Square, Lisburn, BT28 1AG. 7pm. Free but must be booked in advance – tickets available from museum reception or, for more information call 028 9266 3377.

Tuesday 28 October: The Library holdings of the IGRS, with Mary Casteleyn FIGRS. Host: The Irish Genealogical Research Society. Venue: Helen Roe Theatre, Royal Society of Antiquaries, 63 Merrion Square, Dublin 2. Starts 6:45pm. Members and non-members welcome. No booking. Free. Details.

Wednesday 29 October: John O'Donovan's work for the Ordnance Survey, with Prof. Michael Herity. Part of the Mapping City, Town and Country lecture series. Venue: Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2. 1-2pm. Free. All welcome. No need to book

Wednesday 29 October: Methodists, from the Free State to the Republic, with Revd Dudley Levistone Cooney. Host: Old Dublin Society. Venue: Dublin City Library and Archive, Pearse Street, Dublin. 6:30pm.

Wednesday 29 October: Irish family history / GRO records, a talk with the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI). Venue: Downpatrick Library. 12:30pm–1:30pm. Free. All welcome.

Wednesday 29 October: Voices from Mountjoy Prison's unmarked graves, with Tim Carey. Host and Venue: National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Free. 6:30pm. All welcome. No booking required.

Thursday 30 October: Maps and Placenames, with Dr Liam Campbell. Host: Strabane History Society. Venue: Room 5, Strabane Library, 1 Railway Street, Strabane, Co Tyrone BT82 8EF. 7:30pm

Thursday 30 October: Exploring family history – Doctors and patients, with Dr Janice Holmes and Dr Barry Sheehan. Part of the Open University Lunchtime Lecture Series, examining the working lives of families in the past, with examples from PRONI's collections. Venue: PRONI, Titanic Boulevard, Belfast. 1pm. Booking recommended but not essential. Free.

Thursday 30 October: How to use DNA to research your townland of origin, with Dr Tyrone Bowes. Host: Ballymena Branch of the North of Ireland Family History Society. Venue: Michelin Arts Workshop, Braid Arts Centre, Ballymena BT43 5EJ. 7:15pm. All welcome.

Friday 31 October: Early medieval settlement, with Finbar McCormick. Host: Sligo Field Club. Venue: Sligo IT Education Centre. 8pm.

Friday 31 October to Saturday 1 November: Mr Tuke's Fund, a conference exploring emigration from Connemara. Host: Clifden and Connemara  Heritage Society. Venue: Station House Hotel, Clifden, Co Galway. €26.50, includes lunch and refreshments. Details (pdf).

Saturday 1 November: Landlord and estate, with Dr Wm Smyth. 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.

Saturday 1 November: Getting started on Irish Genealogy, with Bridget Bray. Host: Irish/British Genealogy Group. Venue: New York Irish Center, 10-40 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY, USA. 2-4pm. Details.

Saturday 1 November: We serve neither King nor Kaiser, an Irish Labour History Society conference, focusing on WW1. Venue: Beggars Bush Barracks, Haddington Road, Dublin 4. 10am–5pm. €10, includes tea/coffee/sandwiches. Programme. ,

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Irish GRO indexes fiasco – the long wait

Judging by the last couple of days at the Back To Our Past show, genealogists remain very anxious to find out when or if the Irish civil registration indexes are going to return to IrishGenealogy.ie, the free website run by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. An update therefore seems in order.

The powers-that-be had a meeting a few weeks ago and rubber-stamped a restricted return of the indexes to the site, as per my blogpost of 15 September ie Births up to 100 years ago, Marriages up to 75 years ago and Deaths up to 50 years ago. The Data Protection Commissioner's office has given it's blessing, you'll be glad to note, and there is no requirement to wait for the Civil Registration Amendment Bill that's currently making its way through the Dail to complete its journey first. The two issues are not connected.

So it really is just a matter of 'when'. As far as I'm aware, the indexes are 'good to go' and I have no idea why they've not yet reappeared on the site.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Show report: Back To Our Past 2014, RDS, Dublin

Having got off to a very slow start (possibly because of confusion over what time the doors were to open), Back To Our Past 2014 came alive by lunchtime to the sound of clicking computer keyboards and the questions of the curious, and the inevitable queues were soon forming on some stands.

It's always great to see the genealogy and related heritage sectors coming together under the glass roof of the Industries Hall, and, while the marketplace is slightly smaller than in previous years in terms of the number of exhibitors, visitors would hardly notice. There are plenty of people, groups, organisations willing and able to help answer their genealogy/dna queries, look up records, offer special discounts, help them explore product ranges or discover more about their family history and, especially through the extensive lecture programmes, generally guide researchers to develop higher skills and knowledge.

The lectures – two daily strands of genealogy/heritage topics and one daily strand of genetic/dna presentations, were, as always, very well attended.

One thing that is noticeable at this year's Back To Our Past, just as at WDYTYA?Live in London in February, was the lack of BIG record releases to coincide with the show. We have, perhaps, been a bit spoiled over the last few years into believing that a never ending stream of important collections are stored up in a pipe awaiting an appropriate date for release. If that was ever the case, those days have certainly gone.

Which doesn't mean there's nothing new to report, thank goodness! I met up with Ancestry's Rhona Murray, Content Acquisitionist, and Mike Mulligan, Product Manager, who told me that the British Service Medal and Awards Rolls (WO329) would be released by the company shortly before Armistice Day (11 November). This collection of 6.5million records includes the soldier's battalion number, which is information missing from the Medal Rolls and allows researchers to seek the appropriate War Diary; the diaries, where they survive, may provide a much clearer idea of an ancestor's war experience and movements, even though he is unlikely to be named. Needless to say, this collection includes a huge number of Irish soldiers.

System development has also been ..er... developing. A new feature, Filmstrip, should ensure researchers recognise there is more than one page to a record. It's a kind of 'Please turn the page' notification, except in visual format, clearly indicating there are more pages to explore in the record. This sounds rather neat. I don't mind admitting that I have sometimes missed such extra pages; military service records and Irish census documents are examples where I have not always spotted on a first visit to a collection that additional information was available.

Those who have uploaded their family trees to Ancestry will be pleased to hear that the 'hinting' software has been improved to provide better, more pertinent results, and the placename variant recognition in the main search operation has become more intelligent. If, for example, you type in Queenstown or Kingstown, you should automatically receive relevant results that include Cobh or Dun Laoghaire respectively. In other words, the software knows that Queenstown is Cobh and Kingstown is Dun Laoghaire.

Ancestry is also expecting FindAGrave to grow dramatically over the next year. The company was brought into the Ancestry fold at the end of 2013; while its free records appear in Ancestry searches, it continues to maintain its own distinct identity and web presence. I was surprised to learn that some 200,000 of FindAGrave's records are of headstones in Ireland. That's a substantial collection, even if it's small fry compared with its 110million records of North American graves.

Anyway, what's important to its growth is a new Upload and Transcribe tool. Just introduced in Beta, this feature allows researchers to upload multiple images of headstones from a particular cemetery and choose to either transcribe the inscriptions themselves or have the FindAGrave community transcribe them. Mike Mulligan showed me some of the 1,400 photos he recently uploaded for Clar St Agatha's RC churchyard in Donegal, which, as if by magic, have already been transcribed by this community.

Back To Our Past visitors to the Ancestry stand should take note that there's a 20% discount on the UK Premium and Worldwide subscriptions available (have to sign up by Monday).

The Irish Family History Society, meanwhile, has uploaded its 1985-1994 journals to the members area of its website, ifhs.ie. Mary Beglan, newly elected as IFHS Chairman, told me she was delighted that these journals, many of which are now out of print, are available in digitised form for the benefit of members. They were digitised by Eneclann in memory of the late John Heueston, past IFHS Chairman and Treasurer.

An index is being created and a second tranche of journals will be added in February 2015.

GRONI, the General Register of Northern Ireland, are making their first trip to Back To Our Past and are keen to spread the word about their online civil registration site. Visitors can try out the site for free at their stand. Alistair Butler told me that the site, which went online at the end of March, already has more than 11,000 registered users. He said user feedback had been extremely positive, with most researchers very pleased with the options available and the pricing arrangements. Importantly, too, the site is meeting its running costs and demand has pretty much matched the levels forecast.

FindMyPast – as always, a busy stand with a near permanent but moving queue – was promoting the recent additions to its database of nine newspaper titles. I've covered these over the last few weeks in this blog (newspapers added to the British Newspaper Archive website are automatically uploaded to the FindMyPast British and Irish news collection), but I'll run through the titles for good measure: The Drogheda Journal/Meath & Louth Advertiser, Dublin Monitor, The Galway Vindicator & Connaught Advertiser, Limerick Reporter & Tipperary Vindicator, The Newry Examiner and Louth Reporter, Northern Whig, Pue’s Occurrences, Sligo Champion and The Waterford Chronicle.

I managed to collar Marketing Executive Niall Cullen towards the end of the day. He told me that the Clare Electoral Roll records (not the Electrical Records as I wrote them in my notebook!) will be next out of the pipe in the not too distant future. There's also another Irish release of interest coming along in the New Year, but that's hush hush for now.

However, researchers will soon begin to see some movement of records resulting from this year's merger of Irish Origins and FindMyPast.ie. First up will be the Griffiths Valuation maps, one of the prize jewels of Irish Origins, which will become available, searchable by name, on FindMyPast.ie within the next few weeks.

The Family Tree DNA stand was another lively stand, with a steady stream of people signing up for DNA tests. I was pleased to meet Debbie Kennett for the first time, even though she managed to get €70 out of me for a Family Finder test! One of my brothers took the Y-DNA test a couple of years ago, but I've never really got to grips with the findings and 'new matches' coming my way as a result. Now I've done this new test, I really must invest some time to understanding the data that's generated.

Over on the North of Ireland Family History Society's stand, there was an interesting blue rinse on display (step up, Maggie), a collection of the society's recently updated research booklets for sale and news of another two publications containing graveyard inscriptions from two local churches – Newmills Presbyterian and St. John's Lylo, both in Portadown. These inscriptions were originally recorded in 2005 by members of what was then the Portadown Family History Society (now North Armagh) but have been recently updated.

I also called in on the Dublin South Libraries Local Studies team. I'd urge any researcher with links in the area to do the same, either during the show or via their website southdublinlibraries.ie. It has a new historical mapping system dating from 1760 right up to 2009, a steadily growing collection of documents, photographs, books and journals, and ephemera, and oral history files relating to the Revolutionary Period.

Over a busy afternoon, I had lots of fun catching up with people I already knew as well as people with whom I may well have been in contact before but had never actually met. The chance to meet face to face is one of the great things about getting everyone together under one roof. For me, it's one of the most enjoyable features of an industry get-together. I also picked up a lot of other snippets, brochures and tips worth following up, and I'll bring news of these over the course of the next week.

In the meantime, I'm going to treat myself to a day of lectures tomorrow. What a sublime indulgence that will be!

Back To Our Past is open again on Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 7pm. Details and lecture programmes.