Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SLIG 2011 ~ Irish Family History Research ~ Day 2

Tuesday's classes began even earlier (at 8:30 am) and since David Rencher was giving the first lecture I made sure I had plenty of Starbucks in my system so I could keep up with him!

  • Something I enjoyed (although I am not sure about some of the other attendees) is that neither Rencher or Ouimette lectured directly from their written materials.  We have all been to conferences where the lecturer simply reads his written materials or his PowerPoint presentation ~ not fun (and I always wonder if they think we can't read, they are uncomfortable in front of groups, or they just didn't prepare)! 
  • Neither Rencher nor Ouimette read their materials to us and in fact, while their written materials provided the "bones of the lecture," they were both quite fluid and their PowerPoint presentations added to and expanded upon their written materials.  For some attendees this was disconcerting at first, but both Rencher and Ouimette were good sports and provided copies of any "new" materials and certain charts or lists they used in their presentations. 

  • Tools for Irish Reference
    • Rencher discussed the importance of understanding the basic jurisdictions in Ireland through the years.
    • Since recordkeeping is based on jurisdiction, this is a key concept.
    • Rencher also discussed the breakdown between records kept in the Republic of Ireland (Dublin) and those kept in the Northern Ireland (Belfast).
    • He mentioned that one important research tool is Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilization. This multi-volume index is a listing of known manuscript sources by surname, county, issue, and other keywords.  Definitely a resource to check out at FHL!
    • Other key reference materials were outlined and discussed in detail:
      • Published Family Histories/Pedigree Indexes
      • Maps & Gazetteers - especially Ordinance Survey Office maps (in this regard check out these maps online - fascinating!)
      • Church Records
      • Censuses and Census Substitutes
      • Householders' Index
      • Register of Griffiths' Valuation and the Tithe Applotment  
    • Rencher reiterated that it is imperative that you conduct all your American research and acquire records of any information that will assist you in finding your ancestors' place (down to the townland if possible)
    • He provided and discussed in detail an extensive bibliography of reference materials to assist the researcher with both the substantive information as well as the methodology required to successfully conduct Irish records' research.
    • He reminded us that oftentimes Irish records may be in England ~ specifically as they relate to military records and records regarding the "Irish question."
    • Since so much of our research effort will be spent trying to determine if the record we are interested in existed in the first place (and where an index or summary of it may have been maintained if the original no longer exists) and what efforts we undertake to find the records, maintaining accurate research logs is important.
      • (I saw this coming when he mentioned that much of our results would be "negative" ~ drat, another reason we need to be organized and methodical!)

(A screen capture from Ordnance Survey Maps online ~ St. Mullin's, County Carlow, Ireland)

  • Identifying Irish Locations
    • We got two lessons for the price of one (geography and Gaelic) as this lecture covered in detail the system and sources of place names as well as land jurisdictions in Ireland.
    • The first thing to keep in mind is that the same townland can be spelled a multitude of ways.  Ouimette provided an example from his own research of a townland in parish registers for Killury with eight different spellings ~ none of which was the "official" or present day spelling of the townland. 
    • Oftentimes it helps to sound out phonetically the townland name your ancestor either said or wrote on his documents if you are having a hard time determining the townland and its possible variants.
    • Ouimette laid out the various jurisdictions in great detail working from largest entity to smallest:
      • Nation ~ actually two; the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (although my ancestors considered it the North of Ireland or the occupied counties!)
      • Province ~ four
      • Diocese ~ we need to keep in mind that there are both Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland dioceses and they are not the same and they do not usually overlap (just another wrinkle!)
      • County ~ thirty-two
      • Barony
      • Poor Law Union
      • Superintendent Registrar's Districts
      • Parish ~ of course this can't be simple as there are three distinct types
        • civil parishes
        • Church of Ireland parishes
        • Roman Catholic parishes
      • City and Town
      • Electoral Division
      • Townland
    • Ouimette discussed how to find the various jurisdictions for your ancestors by using a variety of resources including townland indexes (some of which are online), maps of Ireland, and Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland.
    • Ouimette gave an interesting piece of advice ~ "Treat places like family" and learn about the surrounding jurisdictions to your place.  
      • It is important to understand the physical layout of the townland, including the layout of estates, buildings, and natural features (lakes, waterways, railroads, paths, etc.).  Of course this is true in all place research but sometimes we forget ~ try to get a feel for the place or get the big picture in your mind.  
      • Check out the Ordinance Survey maps online as they will be of utmost assistance to your research. 
    • Once again we were provided with an excellent bibliography for further reading ~ two of the many resources to check out are:
      • General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland: Based on the Census of Ireland for the Year 1851. 1861. Reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2000.
      • Mitchell, Brian. A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland. 2d edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2002. 

  • The Irish Collection in the Family History Library
    • Evva Housley, an FHL librarian, gave us an overview of the Irish collection at the FHL.  She laid out the physical location of the materials and the types of records. The records break down by the following groups:
      • Civil Registration of births, marriages and deaths ~ this did not begin until 1864 (although non-Catholic marriage registration began in 1845).  Many indexes and registers are available on microfilm (and some on now online at FamilySearch.org).
      • Census records
      • Church records - broken down by denomination (including Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Quaker and others)
      • Registry of Deeds
      • Irish Wills 
      • Census substitutes
      • Periodicals and Indexes ~ Housley pointed out that this is a very underutilized resource
      • Old Age Pension Claims ~ Housely discussed the importance of this resource and how to search them
      • Encumbered Estates
    • This lecture was basically to help us understand both the breadth and depth of the FHL Irish collection as well as understand the cataloguing system employed by the FHL.

  • Irish Records and Resources on the Internet
    • We finished out the day with a virtual trip to Ireland and all things Irish research to learn what is available online for Irish researchers.
    • Ouimette started out by discussing how the Internet has altered both the content (what is available) and the process (how to find it) of genealogy research.
    • Ouimette outlined three main portals for the Internet ~ these are basically the directories or finding aids to help the researcher locate what is out there on the Internet.
    • Ouimette was quite complementary of several of the major collections for Irish records. His written materials listed and described many of the well-known sites (Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org) as well as several lesser known (at least to me) sites. A few of those that I checked out after class stand out:
      • Historical Mapping Archive ~ I love maps and this site does not disappoint with its historical maps, so check out where you ancestor lived and what his world looked like (the example above is from County Carlow, Ireland).
      • Public Records Office of Northern Ireland ~ an excellent example of "genealogy done right" as it is user-friendly, has excellent articles and a wealth of materials and indexes (as well as some digital images) for the Irish researcher.
      • Waterford County Library ~ this is an example of a great county library, see if your ancestor's county has something similar.
      • IreAtlas ~ Another great finding aid for finding places in Ireland.
    • Ouimette mentioned that several Irish counties have a "web presence."  Be sure to check out what local researchers have placed online for their communities (similar to our rootsweb community projects).
    • The 1901 and 1911 Censuses are online through the National Archives of Ireland ~ this is a great resource for searching out surnames ~ perhaps not all of your family came over and this is a great "jumping off point" for further research.  Check out the whole of the Archives for lots of tremendous historical and genealogical records.
    • Ouimette's final thought on online research was to remember that although there has been an explosion of indexes, registers and actual scanned documents placed online, Internet  research is only the tip of the iceberg.  After you scratch the surface online, remember that the largest share of Irish records research is still found in libraries and archives or in the personal possession of individuals and communities. 
On that note, we finished up for the day and had the option to check out the FHL on our own and get started with our research.  Since we finished up by 3:00 pm and the FHL didn't close until 9:00 pm, we had six hours to get hopelessly lost on level B2 of the FHL ~ let the games begin!

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