An unusual conference has been organised by the Department of History, NUI Maynooth for Saturday 24 November. Entitled The Gathering: Local History, Heritage and Diaspora, it has a wide potential audience that ranges from heritage officers and people involved in local history studies and diaspora engagement to genealogists keen to hear about projects that may help Irish emigrants track their ancestors' migrant experiences.
The emphasis is on specialists showcasing their original work, highlighting the sources that they accessed, how they used them, what they were able to derive from those sources and how they would advise people to go about accessing and using those sources for other research.
As part of the event, there will be an opportunity for delegates to view the Morpeth Testimonial Roll – yes, the real thing – and to hear a presentation by Christopher Ridgway, curator of Castle Howard, the UK stately home where the Roll was discovered. As well as explaining what it is, he will be talking about its potential value as a pre-famine census substitute for Irish genealogy research.
The Testimonal Roll, which is wrapped around a gigantic bobbin, is 429m in length and holds around 250,000 signatures gathered from across the whole of Ireland in just four weeks. It has not been seen in public since it was commissioned more than 170 years ago. It will not go on public display until next year, so this conference is a great opportunity to grab an early viewing.
An important feature of the day's proceedings will be a presentation by Mario Corrigan, County Librarian for Kildare, about how local historians, geneaologists, librarians, heritage officers and others can help with the task of identifying the approximately 250,000 people whose signatures or marks are recorded on the Morpeth Testimonial Roll. The hope is to get local communities to share their knowledge of local history and local families so that the signatories can be identified.
The registration fee for the day is €25, which includes a light lunch and refreshments during the day. Bookings need to be received by 21 November (not 16 November as stated on the booking form!). You can download the full programme here.