Sunday 14 October 2012

Day Two at the Back To Our Past show

Saturday brought a crisp and sunny mood to Dublin, and the anticipation of another full day at Back To Our Past.

While I rather assumed that I had pretty much harvested all details of imminent new records, I was soon to discover that another crop of news awaited! I'll launch straight in...

Ask About Ireland
, the Library Council's site best known to Irish genealogists for its free version of Griffiths Valuation, is currently indexing the Ordnance Survey's Namebooks & Letters collection.

I confess I'd never heard of this, so there follows a short explanation for others similarly ignorant.

The Ordnance Survey was set up in 1824 to carry out a townland survey of Ireland and to map the entire island at a scale of six inches to one mile. The surveyors were also asked to study individual townland names, including each one's varient, and determine a standardised spelling for those which didn't already have an established English form. This information was recorded in a series of volumes known as Name Books.

New IFHS logo. See yesterday's report.
Other details were also recorded, such as local monuments, buildings of note, archaeological objects etc. making these books valuable for local history research, as much as providing additional information about the places in which our ancestors lived.

Volumes of Letters comprising the correspondence between the field researchers and the Ordnance Survey office were also published. These provide further details of interest concerning the history of places countrywide.

Importantly for Irish genealogy researchers, many of these letters also mention local individuals and families.

Once indexed, this collection will be added to the free-to-access site with an option to either view the original page on screen or download it in pdf format, along with a map. It will be searchable only by placename.

More good news was to be delivered at the stand of the National Archives of Ireland where Aideen Ireland and Catriona Crowe were busy, busy, busy pretty much all day. Aideen told me there was a distinct difference in the type of visitors on the first day to those on the Saturday.

'On Friday, most of the queries we fielded were from beginners,' she said. 'Basically, they didn't know where to start, so we helped them along the way with that. Today has been rather more mixed. Many visitors said they had hit a brickwall, but they hadn't really; they were either looking in the wrong institutions or they weren't aware of a record collection that could probably give them an answer.'

Aideen was able to reveal two terrific pieces of news. Firstly, the Tithe Applotment Books, which have been indexed by Family Search, are expected online by the end of November, and secondly, the wills of Irish soldiers 1914-1917 will be appearing on the NAI's site within the next month. Those for 1918 will be added in the New Year.

While on a Military topic, I'll drift over to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission stand where I had a quick chat with Steve Rogers, the project co-ordinator of the War Graves Photographic Project. He told me that there are more than 5,500 Commonwealth war dead buried or commemorated at more than 1,000 burial grounds or churchyards throughout Ireland.

I was surprised at the numbers, but it became obvious when Steve explained. Although some of the graves (especially in the west of Ireland) are those of non-identified men who lost their lives in the many ships torpedoed and sunk by German U-boats in the early years of WW2, most are of Irish soldiers who returned home wounded and died of their injuries or were taken home for burial by their families in their local churchyard.

It was good to hear Steve talk about the sea-change in attitude in Ireland towards the Irish who fought in the British Army. This was reflected in the numbers visiting the stand.

Another busy stand, as you'd expect, was FindMyPast Ireland. I don't know how many times I sloped past, hoping to catch a few words with Ross, the company's marketing executive, but with a more or less continuous queue waiting to get a one-to-one with one of FMP's experts, he was hardly coming up for air. However, I did eventually collar him and he gave me the good news that another batch of records from the Petty Sessions Order Books are due to be released very very soon.

The Petty Sessions records have been one of the stand-out collection releases of 2012. If I'm counting correctly, some 5.5million entries have been released already. This next tranche will consist of 4million records, leaving approximately 5million still in the pipe for release by the end of the year.

Moving on from new record releases, I also talked to Pádraic Ingoldsby on the Guild Of One-Name Studies stand who told me that there are now 42 surnames registered in Ireland. The idea of One-Name Studies has been slow to take off in Ireland, but at least it is moving in the right direction.

The Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS) was showing off its still-in-development new website, which it hopes to launch on a new domain by the end of November. Among many new features, this website will provide an Irish genealogy 'wiki', a never-before-online 1861 census transcript, and details of some surprising new resources. Some of these will be available to non-members.

Those looking for access to the resources held for members-only should consider the value of the Society's membership 'bundle' for 2013; this comprises membership, a subscription to Irish Roots magazine and a cd of the IGRS's well-regarded journal – The Irish Genealogist – from 1937-1993), all for 60 Euros (a saving of 24 Euros). This offer continues after the show ends.

Another worthwhile visit was to the stand of Flyleaf Press. If you've got ancestors in Westmeath and Sligo, you'll be interested to know that two new books for these counties have been added to the 'Tracing Your Ancestors' series. A further addition to the line up will come in time for Christmas for those researching ancestors in County Clare.

So that was it for Day Two, and I'm taking Sunday off... There's only so much fun a girl with a knock-out dose of a filthy lurgy can take before she is, indeed, knocked out!

But I'll leave you with something rather more tantalising than my germs. I'll be doing a third and final report of the show on Monday. It will concentrate on Ancestry, the main sponsors of this year's Back To Our Past, and I promise some exciting news.