Book Review: A Decade of Centenaries – Researching Ireland 1912-1923 by Chris Paton

A Decade of Centenaries – Researching Ireland 1912-1923 by Chris Paton

A Decade of Centenaries – Researching Ireland 1912-1923. By Chris Paton. Published by UnlockThePast Publications, PO Box 119, St Agnes SA 5097, Australia. www.gould.com.au/Unlock-the-Past-guides-s/2576.htm. AUS $15.00.  Available as an e-book from http://www.gen-ebooks.com, AUS $9.95. Available in North America from www.globalgenealogy.com CAN$17.00. Available in the UK from www.myhistory.co.uk. £7.50. 2016. 52 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

If there is the remotest chance that you know of, or suspect you have, 20th century family connections in Ireland this book is going to be a must buy for it is the only book dealing specifically with this complicated period from a genealogical perspective.

The book begins with an overview of the genealogical landscape, highlighting the commonly used resources for 20th century Irish research. It covers: vital records; burials; census, probate; newspapers; archives and libraries; family and local history societies; plus online record vendors all of which is information you can find in any good research guide.

It is the following chapters that are unique addressing the many different events that are being remembered in the “Decade of Centenaries” (2012 to 2023). There are separate chapters for: Home Rule, women’s suffrage, worker’s rights; the First World War; the Easter Rising; and towards independence.  In each chapter the key players, often with similar sounding names, are clearly explained in terms of what they wanted to accomplish, what they did accomplish, and on what side of the issue they were on.  So for example in the chapter on Women’s Suffrage we learn about the key leaders and the differences between the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association (IWSLGA); Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU); Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL); Irish Women’s Suffrage Society (IWSS); Irish Women’s Suffrage Foundation (IWSF). We learn about how their campaign escalates over time but comes to a close with the declaration of War in 1914, with the women being encouraged to support the war effort. The chapter continues highlighting online resources that provide context but also enables researchers to find their ancestors who were involved. Looking at the Easter Rising we learn to understand the differences between the: Irish Volunteers; Irish Citizen Army; Cumann na mBan; Fianna Éireann (Na Fianna hÉireann); Hibernian Rifles all of whom fought against the British.

Throughout the book mini-case studies and resources highlight the Irish who were on both sides of the issues either against the British or against each other. Mr. Paton does an excellent job of simplifying the complex history of Ireland in this time period and pointing you toward the records, many of which are already online or are coming online, and of course indicating where the originals are for those not yet online. This book is highly recommended for anyone with 20th Century Irish research even if you think, like the author did, that your ancestors were not involved in the troubles or movements in any way.

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success – 4 Webinars

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success – 4 webinars recorded at Fountaindale Public Library on 16 March 2016 with speakers from the Ulster Historical Foundation

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success is the title of 4 excellent webinars recorded on Wednesday March 16 at Fountaindale Public Library in Illinois. The speakers were Finlan Mullan and Gillian Hunt from the Ulster Historical Foundation who spoke with clear understandable Irish brogues. They were both a fountain of knowledge gained from practical experience and this came through clearly in the tightly packed presentations. The webinars did keep the speakers on schedule as there was a definite sense that they had more that they could have shared. I attended in person but I have looked at segments of the webinars again since getting home.

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success (4 Webinars)
• Introduction to Irish and Scots-Irish Family History Research parts 1 and 2
• Using Land Records: Griffith’s Valuation, Tithe and Estate Records
• Census Substitutes and other important sources for Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, plus records related to different churches in Ireland
• Sources for Finding Seventeenth Century Families in Ireland

The webinars can be accessed for 30 days from the date of recording. You can find the webinars in Fountaindale Genealogy Blog posting for February 24, 2016. The YouTube videos have been inserted into the blog posting. On the same page you will find a number of practical downloadable print resources provided by PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland), NAI (National Archives of Ireland), NLI (National Library of Ireland) and the UHF (Ulster Historical Foundation). I especially liked the two timelines that are provided, but there are hundreds of pages of material here saving you the time and effort of searching for them.

There is material here for the beginner, but there also a lot here for the experienced researcher. I have been lecturing on Irish research for many years but there were still documents shown I had not seen before and the session on 17th century sources helped to clarify this complicated period in Irish history. It also showed the wealth of material that is actually available for the period. Now if only we could get all our Irish lines back that far.

Have a look at these excellent webinars with lots of valuable practical information, but remember they are only online for 30 days.

Book Review: Discover Irish Land Records by Chris Paton

Discover Irish Land Records by Chris Paton, published by UnlockThePast

Discover Irish Land Records. By Chris Paton. Published by UnlockThePast Publications, PO Box 119, St Agnes SA 5097, Australia. www.gould.com.au/Unlock-the-Past-guides-s/2576.htm. AUS $17.00. Available as an e-book from http://www.gen-ebooks.com, AUS $9.05. Available in North America from www.globalgenealogy.com CAN$19. Available in the UK from www.myhistory.co.uk. ₤7.50. 2015. 60 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Mr. Paton succeeds very nicely in his stated purpose which is to introduce the reader to some of the basic land records available online and offline, and to outline how they may be used for genealogical research.

The book is divided into five chapters. The first gives a brief overview of the troubled history of Ireland from the Gaels, Vikings and Old English, up through the partition of Ireland in May of 1921, highlighting the impact events had on land ownership. The second chapter addresses boundaries and administrations which are a necessity to understand for different jurisdictions govern how different records are organized. You get the usual explanation of provinces, counties, baronies and civil parish, but you also get descriptions of lessor know jurisdictions such as manors, demesnes, boroughs, district electoral divisions and registrations districts. The differences between English and Irish acres (or Plantation acres) are explained here.

Starting with chapter three the book gets into the records themselves focusing on where the people were examining vital records, decennial censuses, census substitutes, directories, electoral records and newspapers. Chapter four moves into records of tenancy, ownership and valuation and this is where along with the familiar, lessor known records will be found. The chapter covers estate records, leases, rentals, quit rents and ground rents, estate maps, probate records, land registration, the Down Survey, tithe and valuation records. The final chapter encourages the researcher to discover what a place looks like and how it has changed over time by examining the Irish historic town atlas, the ordnance survey maps and memoirs, along with gazetteers, journals and parish histories.

Chris, as usual has provided the researcher with an up to date practical guide for doing Irish land research. He explains how to find the records, both for the North and South, online and offline. What stands out are the record examples, usually from his own research in the North, for they illustrate well why you should go looking for your ancestors in these records. The examples include transcripts from: eighteenth century newspaper advertisements for sale of a family property; a nineteenth century lease agreement for a small plot of land describing fees and obligations; a lease for multiple lives showing how they changed over time; rental agreements showing changes in fortune and ownership; and tithe payments that change through Griffiths and the valuation books. The suggestions and ideas in this book will keep your Irish research going for a while and will likely take you into records you have not explored before. It is highly recommended.

Book Review: Irish Family History Resources Online. 2nd ed. by Chris Paton

Irish Family History Resources Online, 2nd ed. by Chris Paton

Irish Family History Resources Online. 2nd ed. By Chris Paton. Published by UnlockThePast Publications, PO Box 119, St Agnes SA 5097, Australia. www.gould.com.au/Unlock-the-Past-guides-s/2576.htm. AUS $19.50. Available as an e-book from http://www.gen-ebooks.com, AUS $9.05. Available in North America from www.globalgenealogy.com CAN$21.50. Available in the UK from www.myhistory.co.uk. ₤9.00. 2015. 64 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Mr. Paton rightly points out that the Irish, north and south, have been dragging their feet when it comes to providing access to records to assist researchers in finding their ancestors. But that is all changing, and actually very rapidly as this book illustrates, with a revision of a book first published in 2011. Great strides have been made by the General Register Office in Northern Ireland and the National Archives of Ireland with their digital platforms, new websites have been created and sadly a few have disappeared.

The book is divided into five sections. The first, and largest, examines who are the Irish, specifically addressing: civil registration; the GRO Ireland indexes; church records; burial records; wills and probate; biographical databases and heraldry. The second focuses on where were they, covering: censuses; street directories; land records; maps and gazetteers. The third section examines archives and libraries: PRONI; National Archives of Ireland; National Library of Ireland; RASCAL (research and special collections available locally) and IAR (Irish archive resource). The fourth section highlights newspapers, books, journals and magazines. The final section of useful material covers: gateway sites; military, police and the law; emigration; miscellaneous sites of interest; and magazines.

There is a growing collection of Irish records coming online through the large international sites, especially FamilySearch (free); FindMyPast and Ancestry (commercial). These collections and all the major Irish sites are thoroughly discussed highlighting when it is better to use one site over another because of better, more flexible search engines, more extensive collections, or cheaper options. Often it is not clear what collections are on which site, for what time period. This book describes the collections, the periods they cover, and importantly explains how to drill down to the correct dataset. The advanced search options are explained along with how to interpret the results. A full section about a particular set of records needs to be read because another website may provide a more extensive set of results, or more details. The book is well illustrated with numerous screen shots.

The book is full of clear practical advice that will be of value to both the novice and seasoned Irish researcher because so many resources are coming online quickly. Even though this book is new (2015), major collections (e.g. Irish Catholic Parish Records) have still come online since it was published. The records that are already online and those that are coming online are changing how we do Irish research. If you are doing Irish research this guidebook will make your life easier providing guidance on accessing online Irish indexes and records through a growing variety of websites.

Early Registration for British Institute closes September 15

Header for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History from their website
Header for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History from their website

Early Registration Closes September 15 for the British Institute.

The 2014 British Institute to be held 20-24 October in Salt Lake City is organized by the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History.

This year’s speakers and topics are:

Scottish Research: The Fundamentals and Beyond by Paul Milner
Scottish laws, regulations and records are different from the rest of the British Isles, yet with enough similarities to create confusion for the unwary.  This course will address the fundamentals of all the major record groups, examining how to search the indexes, exploring what is and is not available online. Case studies will highlight the research and record evaluation processes to determine next steps. Individual consultations are available to assist each participant with their personal research.

Researching Your Irish Ancestors by David Rencher
This course is designed to help the student of Irish genealogical research, whether beginning or advanced. Strategies for establishing a sound beginning and building on that foundation using proven research techniques will be coupled with an understanding of what records sources are available online, on microfilm and in Ireland. Individual half-hour consultations are provided with the course coordinator to assist each participant with ways to extend their research.

Welsh Family History Made Simple by Darris Williams
Welsh family history is different from other localities in some significant ways. Those differences are not impossible roadblocks. Understanding the peculiarities is a good first step to success. Record knowledge is important but not the key. Understanding how to search, evaluate evidence and collate information will resolve many difficult research situations. This course will provide examples of problems, aw well as strategies and skills for learning more about your ancestors.

From Simple to Complex: Applying Genealogy’s Standards of Acceptability to British Research by Tom Jones
Through hands-on activities, lectures, and discussions, participants will learn how to use widely accepted standards to measure their genealogical work’s accuracy and to assess others’ genealogical conclusions. In the process they also will learn about genealogical research planning, its implementation, genealogical reasoning, and the preparation of credible genealogical products.

For speaker biographies, details on lodging and registration go to www.isbgfh.org

Yes, I am teaching the week long course on Scottish Research so do come join us.

 

WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Grave Commission part 3

Option to filter a search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

In the last post we started to discuss the search options for the advanced search screen of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org.  We discussed ways to search  on Surname and Forename, so please do have a look at the last post. Let us take a closer look at some of the other search options and what they mean for your searches, and why you may want to use them.

Country – use this if you know where your ancestor is commemorated. France is not a good choice as there is hundreds of thousands who died there. But if you know that your ancestor died and is commemorated in Argentina, then you are in luck as there is only two options.

Cemetery or memorial – this is useful if you want to get a sense of context, or possibly see who else might be remembered in that location. If you start to type a place and there are multiple options a list will appear. For example, searching on Thiepval brings up four options, selecting Thiepval Memorial and searching on that location shows that 72,338 individuals are memorialized on this one memorial. These are the people for whom no identifiable remains were located to be buried. Corporal Robert Finnegan discussed in the last post is one soldier named on Pier 4D, face 5B.

War – this limits your choice to the First or Second World War

Date of Death – starting and ending – allows you to define a period in which your ancestor died, or to determine how many others died on a given day, possibly indicating if he died in a major battle or in a quiet time. For example, a search for the names of those who died on the 1 July 1916 names 18,708 individuals and obviously does not include those who died from their wounds over the following days. This was the worst day in British military history if you did not already know that.

Served with – lists the forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and South Africa. Be very cautious here as people from the United Kingdom may have served in any of the colonial forces, and many from the colonies did serve in the United Kingdom forces.

Served in – identifies the branch of service – army, air force, navy, merchant navy, civilian war dead and miscellaneous. The last category may need some clarification for this includes: munition workers, Red Cross members, Voluntary Aid Detachments, canteen workers, army cadets, ambulance drivers, war correspondents, etc.

Rank – as you start to type in this field a list of options appears from which to choose.

Thiepval Memorial with over 72,000 names from WWI

Service number – this search may be useful if you have this number from another source, such as a medal roll and want to identify where he is buried or memorialized.

Regiment – can be used to narrow a search, or used with dates to put a death into context. Again when you start to type a list of options appears. For example, searching on the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers for the 1 July 1916 shows that there were 833 deaths in this one regiment alone on this day.

Secondary Regiment – should be used with caution as the majority of records contain nothing in this field.

Awards – this enables you to identify those individuals who were awarded a medal (such as the Victoria Cross), or were Mentioned in Dispatches. Returning to the 1 July 1916, with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and identifying Victoria Cross recipients we identify Eric Norman Frankland Bell of the 9th Battalion. The descriptive citation is provided, adding more color to the day Robert Finnegan died, for the 9th Battalion preceded the 11th Battalion out of the trenches moving towards the German lines.

Additional Information – can be any term but it would need to appear in the additional information part of the database. It might, for example, be used to identify others from your ancestor’s village or street.

There is a lot of material in this database and some experimenting with the search options will narrow your options to find your ancestor, at the same time additional information can be gleaned to put your ancestor into context.

WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Graves Commission part 2

Finigan, Finnigan, Finegan, Finnegan
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website search for Fin*g*n

In my last posting I did a simple search to find my dead soldier – John Croudace. In this blog posting we are still working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org website but let’s examine the advanced search options a little more closely. To find the advanced search you can either choose it from the simple search box on the home page, or you can select “Find War Dead” from the tab bar. Either way you end up at the same advanced search box. Note that you only need one entry in any one box to do a search.

Let’s start with the first and second boxes for surname and forenames as these are the most commonly used. You can type in any surname and search. The default for the forename is initials and I on the first pass leave the space below blank. Only if I get too many options do I insert an initial. Inserting an initial will pick up the entries in the database that use only an initial as well as those forenames beginning with that initial.

With surname it gives you exactly what you ask for, there is no sounds like or Soundex option. However wild cards are allowed. So let’s look at an example and see what difference it makes. I want to search for the name Finnigan, but did the army spell it this way, or with one “n”, or did they substitute an “e” for the “i” in the middle. If searches are made on these variations, limiting it to WWI we get the following results:

Finigan 2
Finegan 9
Finnigan 63
Finnegan 27

John Finnigan Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Details for J Finnigan, son of William Finnigan of 7 Back Hammond Street, Newcastle-Upon- Tyne

This gives me a total of 101 options. However, I prefer to get all my results at once. So searching on “fin*g*n” picks up all these and a few more for a total of 105. The additions are the names – Fingleton and Finighan. The results are presented in batches of 15 names.

With these numbers of results I tend to scan all to see if any are a likely possibilities, for remember you are also looking to trace the cousins, as almost every family in the United Kingdom was impacted by the war. In this search one entry jumped out at me on the first page – Finnigan, J – buried in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (St. John’s Westgate and Elswick) Cemetery. Looking at the details in the illustration he died 10 July 1916 and most importantly he is described as the son of William Finnigan, of 7 Back Hammond Street, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. A supposition, later confirmed, was that John Finnigan was wounded on the 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and that he was wounded severely enough to be evacuated back to England. He actually died on the transport ship returning to England, and was buried in his home town.

Details for Corporal Robert Finnegan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on Thiepval Monument

John was a private in “C” company, 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Interestingly John has a brother Robert, and when the rest of the list is examined there is a Robert Finnegan, who is a Corporal in the 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, killed on the 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. In this case though there is no data entered in the additional information section. From this source alone I cannot confirm if this Robert is or is not the brother of John.  He is, but other sources are needed to confirm that.

In the next blog posting I will discuss some of the other search options, why and when you might want to use them.

WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Graves Commission part 1

Home Page fro Commonwealth War Grave Commission Website with simple search box in upper right.
Home Page for Commonwealth War Grave Commission Website with simple search box in upper right.

I said in an earlier posting that this year I was going to have a special focus on World War One research. I have had a couple of postings mentioning new resources, but now I want to start explaining how to use the existing resources to trace your World War One ancestors and to put them into context.

Let’s assume your ancestor did not survive the war. The place to start is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission ensures that the 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars will never be forgotten. The Commission is responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of those members of the Commonwealth forces who died. It therefore cares for cemeteries and memorials in 23,000 locations, in 153 countries. One of the sad parts of these numbers is that for many the person in the grave is unknown, and for many on the memorials no identifiable remains have been recovered.

Don’t lose hope though. For the family historian the important resource provided is the index to the 1.7 million who have died in the two wars. There are 1,059,642 names from the WWI and 649,489 names from WWII.

Let’s start here by defining for this database what period is being searched when WWI is selected. The first day deaths are recorded is the 4 August 1914 with four deaths, while the last day for recording WWI deaths is 31 August 1921 when 24 deaths were recorded in England, India and South Africa. Remember that the war began on 28 July 1914 with Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war with Serbia. England declared war with Germany on 4 August 1914 and so four members of the British Armed Services lost their lives on the first day of the war. England declared war later against Austria-Hungary on 12 August 1914; against Turkey on 5 November 1914; and against Bulgaria on 15 October 1915.

Let’s jump right in and do a search, partially because that is what most people are going to do. From the home page you can do a simple search using: surname; initials; service; and war. For this illustration I am doing a search on the name Croudace, and I choose WWI. I have seven results listed, and this is definitely one of the benefits of an unusual surname. In this case I can examine all seven results by selecting the surname on each line in turn.

John Croudace - Northumberland Fusiliers son of Andrew John Croudcae and Jane Croudace
Search results for surname Croudace on Commonwealth War Grave Commission Website

The soldier I actually need is John Croudace.  The results shown are in a standardized format. What you hope and pray for is data in the Additional Information field for without it you may or may not be able to positively identify your serviceman or woman. In this case we learn that John Croudace is the son of John and Jane Croudace, of 14 Bentinck Street in Newcastle-on-Tyne. I have John with his parents (A.J. – Andrew John and Jane Croudace) and siblings at this address in the 1911 census. I have my serviceman.

Details for John Croudace of the Northumberland Fusiliers, son of John and Jane Croudace

The standardized data fields are: name; rank; service number; date of death; age; regiment/service; grave reference, and the cemetery where buried or the memorial where his name is inscribed. There may also be the valuable additional information. The additional information was drawn from the soldiers paperwork where they often, but not always, named parents, or wives. This is especially valuable as many of those documents were destroyed by fire during World War II. I will come back to what has survived of these records in a later post. There can also be extensive information with photographs on the cemetery where the person in buried.

Presentation Memorial Certificate for John Croudace.

In the upper right corner of the casualty details box is a button for – view certificate. This is a very nice certificate to print to remember your serviceman or woman, and to insert into your research files. Please note that one key piece of information is missing from the certificate which would be vital if you are planning on visiting the cemetery or monument. What is missing is the grave reference number, or the panel number of the memorial.

We will take a closer look at this website in the next blog posting.

Letters of 1916: Creating History

Letters of 1916: Creating History Project from Trinity College Dublin

Letters of 1916: Creating History

Do you have letters to or from anyone in Ireland written in 1916. Then you may want to share them with the Letters of 1916: Creating History project at http://dh.tcd.ie/letters1916/

Quoting from the website’s home page – “The Letters of 1916 project is the first public humanities project in Ireland. Its goal is to create a crowd-sourced digital collection of letters written around the time of the Easter Rising (1 November 1915-31 October 1916).”  In the first two months of the project over 500 letters were uploaded from both national institutions and private collections. The Letters 1916 team is identifying, digitizing and preparing hundreds more for uploading.

The project is being coordinated by researchers at Trinity College Dublin and they are calling upon members of the public to upload old family letters and photographs to the new digital archive. It is intended that all the letters, transcripts and images will be launched in 2016 for the centenary of the East Rising.

Even if you don’t personally have letters to share, you can get involved by volunteering and transcribing some of the letters. You can even choose which types of letters or topics interest you. The letters are arranged by categories – Easter Rising Ireland 1916; Art and literature; Business; Children; City and town life; Country life; Crime; Faith; Family life; Irish question; Last letters before death; Love letters; Official documents; patronage; Politics; World War I – 1914-1918. Some of the letters are very short and easy to transcribe. One letter I looked at from the World War one category was a simple thank you for bread received, so even the apparently mundane letters are included if they fall within the desired time period.

One of the keys to this project is that it will highlight the thoughts, ideas, and feelings of the ordinary Irish man and woman, along with what was happening officially.

The project was officially launched 27 September 2013, at Trinity College Dublin. If you would like to read the full press release you can do so at http://dh.tcd.ie/letters1916/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/1916-Letters-Press-Release-27-September-20131.pdf

Book Review: The Irish: A Photohistory 1840-1940 by Sean Sexton and Christine Kinealy

The Irish: A Photohistory 1840-1940 by Sean Sexton and Christine Kinealy

The Irish: A Photohistory 1840-1940. By Sean Sexton and Christine Kinealy. Published by Thames & Hudson, 500 Fifth Ave., New York NY 10110. www.thamesandhudsonusa.com . 2002 Hardback $40, 2013 Softcover $21.95. 224 pp. Illustrations, index.

The introduction to the book points out that “photographs remain an undervalued and underused source by those who are interested in Ireland’s past. Too often they are treated as appendages to the written word rather than as pieces of evidence in their own right. Yet photographs provide a contemporary record which can complement and expand upon other sources, both written and oral. They can challenge or confirm our perceptions of Ireland between 1840 and 1940 by providing fuller and more nuanced information that many written records.” (p.22-23).

The 271 photographs used here are all high quality and clear, the best of the best. They all have clear extensive captions. Accompanying the photographs is clear text placing them into a descriptive historical context, which is in many ways a good summary of the major developments and changes occurring in nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland. The book, after the introduction, is divided into four chapters: land, landlords and the big house (Anglo-Irish landowners, the Quarter Acre Clause, Congested Districts Board, Land Commission); poverty, famine and eviction (lack of famine photographic documentation, but strong eviction evidence and why, occupations); from union to partition (role or Irish in military, Home Rule Bill, Government of Ireland Act, Irish Constitution); towards a modern Ireland (effect of Union, development especially of Dublin and Belfast, rise and fall of major industries).

This book is a fascinating read on modern Irish history, and with the photographs and their captions it is easy to dip into and explore. The reader gets a much better image of what Ireland looked like during the period than could be obtained from just reading about it.