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 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 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 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. 

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 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.

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: 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, 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 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, 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 First up will be the Griffiths Valuation maps, one of the prize jewels of Irish Origins, which will become available, searchable by name, on 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 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.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

One day to BTOP: focus on the exhibitors

In less than 24 hours, the doors will open on Back To Our Past (BTOP), Ireland's only major genealogy fair. As ticket holders walk into the Industries Hall at the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, they'll find themselves at the heart of a bustling marketplace, and, indeed, the heart of the show with genealogy products, services and free advice at every turn.

Click to download 50% discount on entrance ticket
The Big Boys – Ancestry and FindMyPast – will be coming out to play, of course, and they'll be opening up their databases to all visitors to their stands. Also in attendance will be all four of the island's genealogical membership groups: the Irish Genealogical Research Society, the North of Ireland Family History Society, the Irish Family History Society and the Genealogical Society of Ireland. They will be joined by the Society of Genealogists, the Federation of Local History Societies and the Guild of One Names Studies, so no excuses for not finding out how membership of such associations can help your research along.

Research advice and direction will also be on hand on the stands of the National Archives of Ireland, the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (making its first appearance at BTOP), the Ancestor Network and Eneclann consultancies and, of course, the Association of Professional Genealogists of Ireland (APGI), where free one-to-one consultations may be possible. See my Focus on the learning experience blogpost  for more.

In terms of publishers, you'll be able to meet the team from Irish Lives Remembered, the free digital bi-monthly magazine, peruse the full range of Flyleaf Press books on the Ancestor Network stand, and drop in on the Antiquarian Booksellers for a leisurely browse through their shelves. You can also buy discounted copies of the highly popular Irish Family and Local History Handbook from Robert Blatchford's stand, and take advantage of special show offers for Irish Roots magazine, the long-established quarterly print title (both back copies and subscription offers will be available, I believe).

Worthwhile discounts will also be found on the My History Supplies stall, a UK-based company with a huge catalogue of items to lift the heart of any genealogist, and you should also take a good look at the extensive range on offer from County Waterford-based Irish Genealogy Supplies. Also making the trip from Waterford will be Tony Hennessy of Great Great Great Family Trees, who will be found from time to time on the APGI stand giving consultations.

Discounts of 10–20% will also be available on the Family Tree DNA stand for those purchasing genetic tests (see yesterday's blogpost focussing on the Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference, which is an integral part of BTOP).

If you're serious about developing your family history and keen for further study, you should also pop in for a chat with the folk from the University of Limerick's Irish Ancestry Research Centre and the Univesity College Cork's Ancestral Connections Summer School.

Reflecting the inclusive heritage theme of BTOP are several exhibitors – many of them first-timers – from the island's heritage sector. They include Titanic Belfast, the Little Museum of Dublin (make sure to ask about their outstanding lecture programme for 2014-15), Glasnevin Trust, Athlone Castle Museum, and the National Irish Famine Museum at Strokestown Park House in Roscommon, while the knowledgeable guys from the Western Front Association, always such a busy stand, will do their level best to answer your military queries.

As there is no show-guide or official list of exhibitors available yet, it's perfectly possible that I've missed someone... I shall be on mea culpa duty during the show. However, there are a small handful of names that you might have expected to be at the show but are not. These include the National Library of Ireland (this is not really a surprise as they haven't attended since the first BTOP), the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Dr Ann McVeigh will, though, be giving a lecture), and RootsIreland, Ireland's largest and most important database provider. The absence of RootsIreland is a shame. I was looking forward to discussing their recent switch to subscription-only access with them.

Never mind. There's a strong enough list of exhibitors to ensure a thoroughly enjoyable stroll around the market over the next three days. There's free advice to be had, essential goodies to buy, all manner of products and services to investigate and plenty of opportunity to carry out some research in the process.

Have fun.

(Free tickets are flying around all over the place. If you haven't managed to bag one, download a 50% discount voucher by clicking the image above. It'll cut the admission price on the door from €10 to €5.)

The Genealogy Radio Show: listen and learn
Raidio Corca Baiscinn, a community radio station based in County Clare, has begun broadcasting a weekly show dedicated to Irish genealogy.

It's the brainchild of medieval historian and genealogist Lorna Moloney, who many people will know as the co-ordinator of the University College Cork's Irish Genealogy Summer School, Ancestral Connections: Names, Places & Spaces. Among the many strings balancing on her bow, Lorna is a trained radio presenter, so what more natural a development than her own show on her local radio station?

"We're now into our seventh week and we're getting into our stride," Lorna told Irish Genealogy News. "We have an exciting schedule of guests lined up for upcoming Autumn shows, with a wide range of genealogists and historians ready to explore different aspects of family history and relevant historical themes.

"Although Raidió Corca Baiscinn is a community network, it already has great coverage overseas. People don't turn the dial to listen to the radio anymore; they turn on their computer, so we have listeners tuning in live, via the website, from New Zealand, Australia, and the Americas."

The Genealogy Radio Show goes out on a Thursday, live at 4pm (Irish time), with Andy Nally at the technician's desk, Lorna at the mike and an interviewee with expert credentials at the other end of a phone. Last week's show featured Aidan Feerick, a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland and director of the Ancestor Network consultancy; as well as talking about the need for maintaining and developing professional standards in the industry, he discussed Griffiths Valuation, one of the most important tools available to those researching ancestors in Ireland. Listen and learn! He passed on some very useful details and tips in the process.

Like all the shows, a recording of the broadcast was uploaded to Raidió Corca Baiscinn's website as a free podcast the following day so that those who couldn't tune in live can still listen to the programme in full. All the podcasts can be downloaded from the Raidio Corca Baiscinn website.

This week's guest – today's, in fact – will be David Ryan of the Triskel Christchurch Centre in Cork  (check in at 4pm on 92.5 & 94.8FM or via the website), and he'll be followed seven days later by Nicholas Rynne, a descendent of Mike McTighe, the light heavyweight boxing champion of the world in 1921–23.

"We've a diverse range of topics lined up over the course of the season," says Lorna. "Subjects will include workhouse and asylum history, the genealogy of the rich and famous, and the genealogy of the dispossessed. We'll have Dr Paul McCotter talking about maps and territorial expansion, Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, telling us about the National Folklore Collection, Dr David Butler discussing Famine research, and many more."

Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives: latest updates
Here's the list of items uploaded to Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives in the first two weeks of this month:

DUBLIN Genealogy Archive – Headstones
Bluebell Cemetery, Pt 3
Cruagh Cemetery Pt. 4, Rockbrook
Mount Jerome parts 88 & 89

FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives – Headstones
Kinawley; St. Nailes (R.C.)

WEXFORD Genealogy Archives – Memorial Cards
Surnames A–M

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Two days to BTOP: focus on DNA/genetic genealogy

One of the highlights of this year's Back To Our Past, Ireland's major annual family history and heritage show, is the Genetic Genealogy Ireland (GGI) conference.

It returns to the RDS after last year's highly successful first outing, and sees another exciting 3-day programme of lectures lined up with presenters from Ireland, the UK, the USA and Canada.

Dr Maurice Gleeson, who organises the conference, told Irish Genealogy News that the programme is designed to appeal to the most diverse range of people possible. "There are lectures for the complete beginner; each day starts with an entry-level talk which will help researchers understand the three main types of DNA test, what they can do for your research and how they can help break through brickwalls and dead ends.

"There will also be presentations catering to the more intermediate and advanced levels, but even these are pitched in such a way that beginners will understand most of the lecture; there might be only one or two minutes which are a little bit too technical. Feedback from last year certainly shows these talks were enjoyed by many people who had no prior knowledge of DNA."

The line up of speakers shows a good balance between academia and citizen scientists, the latter being lay researchers who have set up their own DNA projects. Many of these DNA projects are of specific Irish interests and Genetic Genealogy Ireland aims to provide these researchers a platform where they can showcase the incredible work they are doing. So, for example, Paul Burns will be talking about his Byrne/Burns/Beirne surname project, and Brad Larkin will be discussing his research and how surname projects are linking back to the ancient Gaelic annals and Norman lineages.

A balance has also been struck in the lecture programme between the different types of DNA testing. Maurice says that the autosomal DNA test, which has been around for only four years or so, has eclipsed the Y-DNA test in the popularity stakes.

"It's the most relevant for those who have hit a brickwall in their family history paper trail. It connects you with cousins with whom you share a common ancestor going back over the last six or seven generations ie back to the early/mid-1700s, and that can be very useful in Ireland where so many people face a barrier around the 1800s. The more people who do the test, the more individual researchers will be able to leap over these barriers."

Three lectures are focussed on these autosomal DNA tests. On Friday, Emily Aulicino of ISOGG will present 'Who’s Your Cousin? atDNA Knows!', on Saturday, Maurice will be talking about its use in solving adoption mysteries, while on Sunday, Rob Warthen will be giving an account of his personal quest to overcome adoption barriers.

Sunday will also see Dr Tyrone Bowes delivering his lecture on 'Pinpointing your Irish Origin & beyond'. This has proved to be the most popular video from last year's conference on the Genetic Genealogy Ireland YouTube Channel. Nearly 2,500 people have watched it, and a good audience is expected when he delivers this year's presentation, too.

Another important address will be from Dr Spencer Wells from the National Genographic Project. He's been scouring the world for indigenous people with deep roots in one place and asking them for samples of DNA to test, in order to piece together our "big family" genetic tree, and will providing an update on the project in his keynote speech at 3:15pm on Saturday.

Down in the exhibition area, away from the lecture room, the Family Tree DNA stand is likely to be one of the busiest in the Industries Hall over the weekend. It certainly was in 2013!

But Maurice says four times as many volunteers – some of them flying in from the UK or USA – have been rounded up for this year's show, so this should reduce waiting times for those wanting to speak to an expert to discuss the appropriateness of each test for their own family history.

Depending on surname, some lucky visitors will be able to have free DNA tests (see the list of surnames that qualify). Like all things 'free', these tests are not really free; their costs are borne by the surname project administrators.

For those whose surname doesn't win them a free test, Family Tree DNA will be offering 10–20% discounts on all three types of DNA tests during the show.

In summary, then, the GGI conference promises a fascinating and educational lectures programme, a chance to discuss the most suitable type of DNA test for your specific research, discounted or even free tests, and a lot less queueing.