Wednesday 3 October 2012

Back To Our Past: official preview

Back To Our Past is just over a week away, and the organisers have issued the following preview of what's on offer.

The organisers of the Back To Our Past Show are pleased to announce that has become the event’s title sponsor. recently moved its international operations to Dublin and its support for such an important feature within Irish genealogy is a welcome development.

BTOP 2012, an Irish heritage experience, takes place in the Industries Hall at the RDS, Dublin, on the weekend of 12-14 October 2012. This time it embraces the broader historical world, while genealogy remains at the core of the event.

The programme of presentations to be given over the three days of BTOP may now be viewed on the event’s website The Friday morning starts appropriately with ‘In the Beginning … ’ and Sunday afternoon finishes with ‘Dead Money’. Sandwiched between are talks on diverse historical and genealogical topics given by highly regarded speakers.

There are two strands of presentations running concurrently. They are free to those attending BTOP and there is no booking facility, so the tip is to choose your favourite talks in advance and get to the relevant presentation area early.

There’s a great choice. From care of documents and photographs to exploring your DNA, family historians have plenty to look forward to. In the run up to The Gathering in 2013, Helen Kelly talks about the deeply personal connection involved in ‘retracing ancestral footprints’. If looking overseas for emigrant great-granduncles and their descendants is part of your research, Else Churchill’s presentation on the Irish in Victorian London may be on your list, while there are other talks on researching British, American and Canadian records. Back home, John Tierney talks about exploring graveyards on-line.

You can also learn about two new genealogical sources. One is TIARA’s Foresters Project, involving over 50,000 life insurance policies from the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters. The Foresters were founded in 1879 by Irish immigrants, and the records provide valuable genealogical information, often linking back to Ireland.

The other new source is the Morpeth Testimonial Roll, a document containing the names and addresses of almost 300,000 Irishmen. The roll was presented to the departing Chief Secretary, Lord Morpeth, in 1841. Currently it is held in NUI Maynooth and it is being indexed as part of’s World Archives Project.

As all genealogists know, historical context is vitally important. Lorna Elms of the National Museum – Country Life – introduces her audience to the on-line Irish Community Archive Network, which is bringing local history to the world. Also championing that cause is Larry Breen of the Federation of Local History Societies. Learning about the Irish Landmark Trust or post office history are other options. Then there are three authors telling you about the Cistercian Order in medieval Ireland, Martello towers in Dublin and some of the greatest villains of Irish history.

Don’t forget that Eric Knowles of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow will be offering his expert opinion on treasured heirlooms, while other familiar faces from television – Nicola Morris, John Grenham and Steven Smyrl – will be offering advice on genealogy when they’re not speaking in the presentation areas. You may be planning to visit BTOP on one of the days, but when you study the line-up of speakers you may just be tempted to spend the whole weekend at the RDS.