Monday, 29 June 2015

Online debut for Co. Clare Guardians' Minute Books Ireland has released a collection of more than 63,000 Board of Guardians' Minute Books from two of County Clare's eight Poor Law Unions.

They cover the Kilrush and Ennistymon unions, and this is the first time the records have been made available online.

The Board of Guardians oversaw the running of the poor law unions as well as the hiring of teachers, staff and contractors so there's quite a mix of people recorded in the Minute Books. You can find mention of inmates, guardians, staff members and suppliers. There are also weekly statistical reports on the number of inmates, new arrivals, births, deaths and discharges and details of expenditure such as food suppliers and salaries. The number of inmates receiving medical treatments was also reported.

Guardians were elected by those who paid the taxes that funded poor law relief.

Each record contains a transcript and an image of the original handwritten minutes. The transcripts don't necessarily include the full details of the corresponding entry.

Irish genealogy and heritage events, 29 June–12 July

Monday 29 June: Using Online Resources for local and family history research, first of a three-part course with genealogist Mary Jackson (second and third parts on 13 July and 14 September). Host: South Dublin County Libraries. Venue: Lucan Library, Supervalu Shopping Centre, Newcastle Road, Lucan, Co. Dublin. Some experience of computers and the Internet is essential. 6:30-8:00pm. Free. Need to book: T: 01 6216422. E:

Tuesday 30 June: Witchcraft, heresy, magic & gender in the 14th-century Anglo-Irish colony, with Maeve Callan. Host: Friends of Christ Church Cathedral. Venue: The Music Room, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. 1:15pm. Free. All welcome.

Tuesday 30 June: Family History Open Day, at Lisburn Library. Taster sessions using Irish genealogy websites including Ancestry; screenings of short films of Lisburn 1930s-1950s from NI Screen Digital Film Archive; North of Ireland Family History Society's Lisburn Branch will be on hand to help with queries involving ancestors from the local area. Venue and host: Lisburn Library, 23 Linenhall Street, Lisburn. 10:30 to 15:30. All free. Phone library for more details: 028 9263 3350.

Tuesday 30 June: Four Courts Memorial Lunch, commemorating the loss of records in the 1922 explosion. Organised by Western Australia Genealogical Society, Irish Special Interest Group. Based Bayswater, WA, Australia. Venue: An inner suburban Irish pub. Noon to 2pm. Booking essential. Email.

Wednesday 1 July: Curious tales of heroes, kings and saints at Tara, with Dr Edel Bhreatnach. Host: Tara Lecture Series 2015. Venue: Hill of Tara Visitor Centre, Navan, Co Meath. 8pm. Free. Come early as seats are limited.

Thursday 2 July to Sunday 5 July: Dromana 800, a celebration of the Fitzgerald family taking in and around the Blackwater valley in County Waterford. Talks by some of Ireland’s leading historians, culinary delights at a Medieval Feast, music and concerts, a Georgian Fête and, on Sunday afternoon, bookable one-to-one genealogy consultations with IrishAncestree at nearby Villierstown.

Friday 3 July: The aftermath of Magna Carta: King John's charter to Dungarvan, with Professor Seán Duffy. Part of Dungarvan 1215. Venue: Town Hall Theatre, Dungarvan, Co Waterford. 8pm. Followed by a performance of medieval music by Laoise O’Brien. No need to book. €5 at the door; includes refreshments. It's fully booked but the SOG are running a waiting list.

Saturday 4 July: Tracing Irish ancestry, with Rozalind McCutcheon and Jill Williams. A full-day course at the Society of Genealogists, London EC1, UK. Full details and costs.

Tuesday 7 July:
Wills & Their Whereabouts, with Steven Smyrl discussing testamentary records. First of the 'Your Ancestors and the Nation’s Archives' lecture series presented by Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI) and the National Archives of Ireland. Venue: Reading room of the National Archives of Ireland, Bishop Street, Dublin 8. 5:15pm. Free but need to book email

Tuesday 7 July: Nuns in medieval Ireland: the other monasticism, with Tracy Collins. Host: Friends of Christ Church Cathedral. Venue: The Music Room, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. 1:15pm. Free. All welcome.

Wednesday 8 July: Tara in the Bronze Age, with Dr Eoin Grogan. Host: Tara Lecture Series 2015. Venue: Hill of Tara Visitor Centre, Navan, Co Meath. 8pm. Free. Come early as seats are limited.

Saturday 11 July: Genealogy workshop, with the Mayo Genealogy Group. Venue: National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Turlough, Castlebar, Co. Mayo. No need to book. 11am–1pm. Free. New members always welcome.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Of scoops and poops

Last weekend, Eneclann, one of Ireland's largest genealogy research companies and partner to FindMyPastIreland (part of D H Thompson Family History), chose to follow up on an issue raised in the June issue of the Genealogical Society of Ireland (GSI)'s Genie Gazette.

It concerned Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI), the much respected collective of some of the country's top genealogists, some of whom have 30 or 40 years of professional experience. Many of them also have formal genealogical qualifications. The group recently changed its name from the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI).

Eneclann, in its newsletter's newly-created 'Polemical Corner' conveniently quoted GSI's Genie Gazette: ' Neither APGI nor the newly named AGI [have]… any State recognition as a professional accrediting body.'

Eneclann declared this a 'scoop'.

But it surely can't have been a scoop or a revelation to Eneclann because the company’s director, Fiona Fitzsimons, was a member of APGI for several years. She even served on its Council in 2000. Surely she can't have been unaware that her accreditation did not have state recognition? The association has never claimed it had state recognition.

Ms Fitzsimons resigned from APGI (now AGI) in December 2013. I've been told by more than one APGI member that there was a personal dispute between her and some of her APGI colleagues.

But back to Eneclann's 'Polemical Corner'....

In it, Eneclann advocates formal genealogy qualifications rather than accreditation as the way forward for Irish genealogy.
So I popped over to the company's website to 'Meet the Team' page (click the image, right, to view a copy of the page as I found it). Either the company has forgotten to acknowledge its staff's educational prowess or Eneclann has only one member of staff with a formal qualification in a family history related subject*.

Given its high profile in the industry and its partnership with FindMyPastIreland, this might be the real scoop.

*The Meet the Team page reports that one member of staff has a 'Masters in Family History from the University of Limerick'. There is no such course currently running and I can find no details of a past course of that name . The University of Limerick runs an MA in 'The History of the Family'. You can view a copy of the 2013-14 prospectus here (this was the most up to date I could readily find). The course looks fascinating and I'm sure it could be argued this is genealogy-related subject, but is it a genealogical qualification?

Plagiarism: the GSI should respond to the claim

Following on from my earlier blogpost, here's an example of how cowardly I've been.

Last Autumn, I don't recall exactly when, I was emailed a link to an Open Letter written by Sean J Murphy. Most people in the industry will know the name: Sean has been the Genealogy course tutor at University College Dublin since I don't know when. Yonks.

His letter is addressed to the Genealogical Society of Ireland* (GSI), the membership group based in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

It was not Sean who sent me the email but an ex-student of his who had come across it online. 

To my shame, I didn't report it. I should have done because the behaviour of one of Ireland's membership groups is always going to be relevant to the wider Irish family history community.

But I sat on it because I didn't want to create a rumpus; I also didn't particularly want to draw attention to John Hamrock, the GSI's chairman at the time, with whom I have always had courteous and professional dealings;  I also heeded the warnings of others that the bullies would start firing mud at me. Not only that, my mother was seriously ill in hospital at the time and I didn't want the extra hassle.

I'm ashamed to say it was easier to keep quiet than to give it air.

We can all learn from our mistakes.

Read Plagiarism: An Open Letter to the Genealogical Society of Ireland .

*For absolute clarity: the GSI is not in any way associated with the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS).

The Irish genealogy industry: it's time to speak out

Okay, I admit it. I've been a coward.

For too long I've heeded advice 'not to get involved' or been told 'they'll get bored eventually', and I've watched on, frequently incredulous at the spite and pettiness of supposedly professional adults, as empire-building bullies within the Irish genealogy industry have thrown insults and innuendo at those they dislike or bear a grudge against in the hope of ruining their reputations and livelihoods.

Sometimes I have had, and continue to have, absolutely no idea of the person or organisation's motivation, or where the grudge was born. Other times I know exactly what lies behind certain comments and statements (they're typically dressed up as rightful concern or a desire to stimulate debate, but that's not the real motivation) and it's usually personal.

It goes way, way beyond the normal competitiveness and political manoeuvring found in most industries.

Most of the aggression is confined to Dublin. I'm happy to say that Northern Ireland is an oasis of calm and, outside the island, grown-up behaviour still seems to rule.

In the capital, however, it's become so dirty I can no longer ignore it. I was brought up to be strong and to speak out against cruelty, unfairness and the mis-use of power, fame and wealth. Like many of my generation, the poem "First they came for the Communists" helped form my philosophy. So it's time for me to speak out against the bullies and hypocrites.

Inevitably there will be a backlash. Not only will some regular readers prefer my blog sticks to reporting news rather than my observations and opinions, others will be disappointed that I’ve aired the industry’s filthy laundry in public. And then there’s the certainly that I'm stepping out into the bullies' firing line.

What do I want? Call me an old hippy but I want peace. This is not what I signed up for when I started my website and blog. The industry, then principally formed of self-employed individuals, looked so pretty from a distance. It has grown mighty ugly close up. If enough people want it to be restored, it can be. Those that have kept quiet up to now could start challenging the protagonists, and those that have some influence or control over the mud-slingers could also contribute to the healing process.

I will do my bit here.

Those of a delicate disposition had better look away.

Links to subsequent blogposts: 

Plagiarism: the Genealogical Society of Ireland's stance

Of Scoops and Poops

FindMyPast releases Sligo Union Workhouse registers
FindMyPast Ireland has released a collection of admission and discharge registers for Sligo Union Workhouse.

Indexed and with images, the registers cover two time frames: the five months from 27 November 1848 to 17 April 1849, and from 28 March 1854 to 3 August 1859.

Although the earlier registers cover only a five-month period, they are significant because this is the Famine period; due to the paucity of other records from this time in Sligo, the admission record may hold the only documentary evidence of some people's lives.

There seem to be just over 9,000 records in the collection. They include a person’s name, age, whether single, married, widowed, deserted, bastard or orphan, condition upon entering the workhouse (typically 'wholly destitute), and the dates when they were discharged or died.

These records will be greatly welcomed by researchers with Sligo ancestors.

Lose yourself in Irish heritage this weekend
I just love websites like the Digital Repository of Ireland, which launched yesterday.

It's a site where you can lose yourself in Irish heritage, whether you're searching for something specific or just want to soak up some culture.

Among its gems are a collection of postcards, letters and hurriedly written notes from the excellent Letters 1916 project; cultural heritage objects – paintings, sculptures, crafts – from the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork; paintings, film and installations exploring ideas of space, identity, language, communication, conflict, consciousness, and other aspects of life and modern art, from the Irish Museum of Modern Art; and a great collection of photos, manuscripts and drawings by Irish artists of the 19th and 20th century from the National Library of Ireland.

There's also a vast collection of historical material – documents, manuscripts, photographs, posters and maps – covering major events, political movements, policies, and personalities in Ireland from the 17th to the 20th century, from the National Archives of Ireland.

In its introduction, the Digital Repository of Ireland site explains: 'We have created this repository with two central purposes: to preserve Ireland’s digital heritage for the long term, and to provide you, the user, with access to that heritage.'

So pull up a chair over the weekend and start acquainting yourself with this terrific online treasure chest.