Thursday 27 February 2014

Book review: Researching your Ancestors in Co Cavan

Launched at WDYTYA? in London last week and mentioned in my show report, the North of Ireland Family History Society's new booklet Researching your Ancestors in County Cavan deserves a post of its own. I've had a chance to properly digest its contents over the last few days and can confidently recommend it for anyone who has family connections to the Lake County.

This isn't a booklet crammed with explanation about the various record groups. It is much more of a directional text, telling the reader where to find the research material. The Tithe Applotments section is a good example. The introduction to these records reads:

Tithes were a tax on annual income from farming and were payable to the Church of Ireland, the Established Church. The Tithe Composition Acts of 1823 and 1824 allowed for a substitution of the tithes with a set charge on land of over one acre. These valuations were recorded in the Tithe Applotment Books.

The section continues with details of where the researcher can find research material. It includes PRONI, the NAI, Ancestry, Family Search and the County's Central Library.

It's short and sweet, cuts to the chase, and then points the researcher in the right direction. An excellent reference book, in other words!

There is no Contents Page, but at 42 pages, including the cover, you're not going to get lost. It's sensibly organised. It starts with Land Records and works chronologically from the Down Survey Parish Maps to the Registry of Deeds via the Tithe Applotment Books and Griffiths Valuation, before moving on to a goodly list of Census Substitutes (16th to 19th centuries), Census Returns and Civil Registration.

The central 13-page section of the book is given over to Churches in Cavan, and is broken down into Church of Ireland (Episcopalian), Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Quaker and Roman Catholic listings. Under parish headings, the surviving dates of registers and their whereabouts are recorded with impressive uniformity. Well done, whoever typed that up!

Gravestone inscriptions is another distinct area of research addressed in this book, and researchers are reminded that the NIFHS Research Centre in Newtownabbey holds many transcripts in journals and books, including those of Kabristan Archives. The Breifne Antiquarian Society Journal (online at is highlighted as a major resource, and a great spread of websites with inscription records is also set out.

There are also sections on the Ulster Plantation, Estate Records, Printed Sources (directories and newspapers) and Wills & Probate, as well as Petty Sessions and Prison Register collections. School Records, War Memorials and Workhouses are included and the final pages of the book provides a great listing of source books, local journals, e-books and websites.

Sandra Ardis and Ann Robinson compiled the book and they've wrapped it all together with maps of Cavan's towns and villages, Poor Law Unions, Civil Parishes and Baronies, which have been reproduced courtesy of Derry genealogist Brian Mitchell. The result is a neat package of clearly presented sources that will prove indispensible to anyone researching in County Cavan.

Researching your ancestors in County Cavan can be purchased from the Society's publication page. Price £6.50. A bargain.