Sunday 22 January 2012

Around the archives

The Balfour Album, an outstanding collection of photos taken by Belfast photographer Robert John Welch in 1893-1895, has been added to The latter is a site where cultural institutions from across Europe can upload, link and share their digital projects; some 20million items are accessible on the site.

Already available on NUI Galway's website, this new initiative will allow the collection to reach a wider audience. And it deserves to, because it includes some really wonderful images of Galway during the years when the Galway to Clifden Railway was being built. Here are men carrying curraghs across the beach, children resting beside a holy well, spinners outside a whitewashed cabin, as well as some marvellous landscape views.

The album, which was a gift to the former Chief Secretary for Ireland, Arthur J Balfour, in recognition of his support for the building of the railway, was presented to him a year after the railway opened. It's only 50-images strong, but its recent arrival on the wider European stage is a good excuse to take a look.

The National Library of Ireland has published a report of a project that its Learning & Outreach department worked on last summer with a group of adults with intellectual disabilities.

This was the 5th annual such project, and the tricky subject of the Irish Famine was chosen, broken down into specific themes. Research was carried out into the type of meals the majority of Irish people ate, what their houses were like and the style of clothes they wore. Eviction and emigration, two such integral features of life during and after the Famine, were also studied.

Find out more about the six week project here.

The National Archives of Ireland is revamping its website and improving its search capabilities. It looks great, really very impressive, and navigating around the site is now a lot, lot easier. However, I was a bit thrown to begin with when I typed "Census" into the search box and was returned with along list of documents about the Irish census but no obvious link to the searchable census database.

I found it after a while, under Quick Links on the home page. Trouble is, those quick links are 'below the fold' and I can't help think that many new visitors to the site won't spot them. They'll either do as I did, and type Census into the search box, or they'll click through to the Researching your Family Tree page where there's no mention of the Census.

Suggestion to the web developers: add a link to the census database from Researching your Family Tree page.

Suggestion to researchers: bookmark the direct link!

National Archives (UK): I followed a link from I know not where (possibly Twitter) the other day and discovered a treat – a useful podcast on the subject of Irish land records.

Land records are often a bit of a minefield for beginner researchers. They're not as clear cut as census and bmd records. Best advise is to understand why the different records were created in the first place, as this often informs the best route for research. So I recommend taking some time out to get a clear idea of what's available rather than try the scattergun approach.

This podcast was first published in 2009 but has plenty of useful information that's worth listening to. Pull up a chair – it's 43 minutes long.