Wednesday 15 March 2017

IGRS publishes first instalment of stories that prove the wealth of detail available to Irish family historians

To celebrate St Patrick's Day, the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS) is launching the first tranche of stories from its 80th Anniversary Archive.

Last year was the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Society in 1936. To mark this important milestone, the Society launched a story-writing project to collect and preserve stories about people's favourite Irish-born ancestors.

In publishing these stories, IGRS Chairman Steven Smyrl, said: "Throughout the year, the Society heard tales from all over the world describing the colourful lives of Irish men and women during the past 300 years.

"In this first batch of stories to be published, readers will hear of a British soldier gassed in the Great War; an Irish Republican who served in both the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War; a Dublin middle-class Protestant widow who brought a case in the Court of Common Pleas against a suitor's broken marriage proposal; and of a working class Catholic girl from Belfast who became entangled in the events of the Russian revolution of 1917."

These are just four of the stories which touch on lives lived not just in Ireland, but as far flung as England, Scotland, Malta, America, Canada and Australia. What each shows is that despite the lack of so much primary source material for Ireland, the lives of our ancestors can still be researched and documented.

The IGRS project coordinator, Ruth Mathewson, said: "Not only was it fascinating to hear these stories told through the precious evidence gleaned by diligent family historians worldwide, but I was also impressed by the creativity that several writers used to illustrate the narrative e.g. writing letters across the generations and including poignant photographs. Whilst some of the tales were inevitably sad and, at times, shocking, there were also wonderful flashes of humour and even favourite family jokes!"

So great is the amount of data now online that these days there can be too much emphasis on rigid, pedigree style genealogy: generations of 'who begat whom', without a shred of contextual detail. So it has been refreshing for the Society to encourage the research of detailed family history, through the collating of tales of our ancestors: their lives, their loves, their failures and successes.

More stories from the Society's 80th Anniversary Archive will be posted over the coming weeks.