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. . 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.

Book Review: The Big Houses and Landed Estates of Ireland – A Research Guide by Terence Dooley

The Big Houses and Landed Estates of Ireland: A Research Guide by Terence Dooley

A question about the records associated with Landed Estates in Ireland was raised in a casual conversation in the exhibit hall at last week’s FGS conference in Ft. Wayne, IN. I hope you find this review helpful.

The Big Houses and Landed Estates of Ireland: A Research Guide. Maynooth Research Guides for Irish Local History: Number 11. By Terence Dooley. Published by Four Courts Press, 7 Malpas Street, Dublin 8, Eire. US Distributor: International Specialized Book Services, 920 NE 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland OR 97213. 2007. 192 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover. $24.95.

This new book is a valuable tool for those with Irish connections for the majority lived on the landed estates, whether they were the landed magnates owning tens of thousands of acres; middlemen leasing large tracts of land from head landlords and renting them in turn in smaller parcels of various sizes to tenant farmers; cottiers who exchanged their labor for half an acre or so of potato ground; landless laborers who worked on estates or farms; or the big house or demesne servants. The estates themselves varied greatly in size from the smallest of around 500 acres to those such as the Marquis Conyngham who owned 160,000 acres. The smaller estates were generally in one county but the larger ones could have parts in many counties, making the locating of records more problematic.

At the heart of the approximately 7,000 landed estates in nineteenth-century Ireland is the “big house” built to announce the economic and social strength of their owners in the locality and in the class as a whole, and to inspire awe in social equals and possibly encourage deference in the lower classes. Even the houses on the smaller estates were big in comparison to any house inhabited by the tenant farmers, cottiers or laborers. The term “big house” also captures some of the historical resentment that was felt towards the people in these houses by nationalist Ireland, especially after the land wars of the 1880s.

This is a practical book, opening with a broad outline of the history of landed estates in Ireland from their growth in the sixteenth century to their break up in the twentieth, with particular attention given to outside influences affecting life on the estate. Researchers are directed towards the important published sources. The third chapter provides a historiography of the big house describing the growth, consolidation and decline over four centuries. The author highlights the need to be aware of local anomalies not always identified in broad national generalizations. Doing the background reading in these two chapters will provide the wider social, economical and political historical contexts for family historians and provide an understanding into whether what occurred on a particular estate was typical or peculiar to that estate.

Chapters two and four describe the important primary sources available for the study of the estates and their houses, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each which is very valuable if as a researcher you are accessing them for the first time. They do point out that not all records discussed survive for all estates. Many of the records will be familiar like Griffith’s Valuation, Tithe Applotment books, directories, gazetteers, and deeds. But the less familiar sources might include: estate records; parliamentary papers; records of the Irish Land Commission and Congested Districts Board; encumbered estates; memoirs; travelers guides; newspapers; architectural archives; maps; paintings and topographical drawings; even contemporary fiction. The references to publications and websites are useful and current. The index is good, but a comprehensive bibliography would have been a nice way to pull together the many citations in the footnotes. This is an excellent book, highly recommended, for researchers wanting to go beyond the basics and those seeking to put their ancestors into context.

Book Review: Maps and Map-Making in Local History

Maps and Map-Making in Local History by Jacinta Prunty

I am in the process of updating a lecture on Irish Maps to be given at the 2013 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. This process reminded me of what is probably my favorite book about maps and I thought readers may also want to know about it.

Maps and Map-Making in Local History. Maynooth Research Guides for Irish Local History. By Jacinta Prunty. Published by Four Courts Press, 7 Malpas Street, Dublin 8, Eire. US Distributor: ISBS, 920 N.E. 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland OR 97213. 2004. 344 pp. Illustrations, index, maps. Softcover. $30

This book opens with the quote: “Maps are graphic representations that facilitate a spatial understanding of things, concepts, conditions, processes or events in the human world” (p.15). The rest of the book expands upon that theme, successfully introducing the reader to the use of maps in research, writing and presenting local history. The illustrations are all from Ireland, so it is especially valuable for those researching in Ireland, but the concepts and ideas introduced are applicable for anyone working with maps. In fact two of the appendices are worth the price of the book alone, simply because they do apply to any location —  “Questions to be asked of maps” and “Questions to ask of your place in the search for maps”.

This is essentially a practical guide, including notes on the map series that are immediately useful for local history, and thus family history in Ireland, plus information on the major repositories, catalogs and finding aids, ways to use the maps in research, and the ways the maps themselves were made. Maps provide the context in which family historians place families within a community. In local history, researchers examine how that community operated in relationship to its neighbors, what resources were shared, how the interactions and development was affected by the landscape, all of which can be seen with maps.

The book is divided into four sections. The first, and largest, provides a historical overview of map-making in Ireland. The watershed here is the six-inch to one mile Ordnance Survey maps. Their production, content and legal standing are described in detail. The maps created before and after this significant series are also thoroughly described. This section is well illustrated and provides researchers with a glimpse of what is available. The author suggests, in the process, that the researcher should obtain any and all maps for the relevant geographic area, regardless of the time period or the maps focus (e.g. railways, canals, roads, military, plantation, geology, antiquities, estates, or bogs).

A very practical chapter on map-reading skills discusses scales, projections, orientations, national grid, grid references, sheet numbering, height, contours, boundaries, measurements, dates, and symbols. Ms. Punty explains where to locate maps, how to get started, and how to use guides to local and major archives or library collections, some of which are online. The book concludes with some case studies on how maps can be used by historians, local and family. This last section of the book also addresses the issues of copyright ownership, and provides guidelines for making your own maps, with or without computers. Many references to published and online materials provide further guidance throughout the text for researchers wanting to explore Irish maps and map-making further.

There is no doubt that this will become the standard guide for anyone working with Irish maps. It is highly recommended for personal and society collections.

Book Review: Tracing Your Huguenot Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Kathy Chater

Tracing Your Huguenot Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Kathy Chater

I gave four lectures last weekend in Rochester, New York and got a number of questions about tracing Huguenots in England and Ireland, thus I thought appropriate to share this review.

Tracing Your Huguenot Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. By Kathy Chater. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK. £12.99. US Distributor: Casemate Publishing, 1016 Warrior Road, Drexel Hill, PA 19026. US$24.95. Australia sales from Gould Genealogy and History. AUS$29.95. 2012. 152 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries many thousands of Protestants fled religious persecution in France and the Low Countries (modern day Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg). They settled in the German Protestant States and the British Isles, some permanently while others later migrated to North America, the West Indies, South Africa and Australia. The book opens with a very good summary of the wars and religious conflict that led to these migrations, reminding us just how important religion was in the lives of our ancestors.

The book focusses on the communities within Great Britain and Ireland. It clearly identifies and summarizes the history, development and decline, of the specific Huguenot and Walloon communities in London, Kent, East Anglia, the West Country, Ireland, Scotland and the Channel Islands. Ms. Chater continues by suggesting a research plan with issues to consider. This is not necessarily easy for the wealthy tended to choose to assimilate joining the Church of England, seeking business and education opportunities, while the poor needed the support of their own community. The Huguenot communities could easily be connected with the Church of England or the Dissenting Churches (Congregationalists, Baptists, English Presbyterians) and often with specific occupations so a broad research perspective is required. A nice research checklist is provided of both specific and general sources, with chapters for each. The chapter on specific resources is very valuable addressing: denizations and naturalisations; returns of strangers; Huguenot church records, going beyond the church registers; poor relief and charity records; schools; charity apprenticeships; friendly societies; wills; other foreign churches. What is nice is that these records are not usually high on the priority list for researchers and so their importance and specificity for this community is valuable. The chapter on general sources points to more commonly used records, but again highlights what to look for that might clearly identify people from this community.

The closing chapters address how to research Huguenot communities with individual European countries, and the rest of the world, including briefly North America. The bibliography includes a complete listing of all titles in the Huguenot Society Quarto Series and New Series, plus how the titles have been combined and reissued on CD-ROM, along with a select bibliography.  Compared with other volumes in this series the bibliography and guidance for further research is one of the weaknesses in this otherwise up to date research guide. For example, though the chapter on the religious wars and Edicts in Europe that created this migration is well summarized there is no guidance in the chapter or the bibliography for researchers who want to know more. It should also be pointed out that when discussing the European Huguenot churches mention is made when the records have been microfilmed by the Family History Library, while no mention is made of which British Huguenot church records have been filmed.

This is a useful, up to date, practical guide for anyone who has, or thinks they have, Huguenot ancestors in the British Isles. It provides social and contextual assistance along with guidance on what records have survived, where to find them and how to use them.

Book Review: Irish Family History Resources Online by Chris Paton

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

Irish Family History Resources Online. By Chris Paton. Published by Unlock the Past, P.O. Box 675, Modbury, SA 5092, Australia. 2011. 75 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover. AUS$19.50.

Online access to indexes and images is growing rapidly for Irish research, often with the same sets of records being available in multiple locations. This book is an expanded adaption of a lecture Mr. Paton gives, it shows and I loved the format and writing style.

The book begins by discussing records to identify who the Irish were, specifically: civil registration; church records; burial records; wills and probate; biographical databases and heraldry. It moves on to examine where the Irish were: censuses; street directories; land records; maps and gazetteers. Further sections address the major archives and libraries, newspapers and books, and a final catchall section covering: gateway sites; military, police and law; emigration; and some miscellaneous sites. The book is not a listing of websites.

So what makes this book different and so useful? Unlike many Irish research books that describe what the records are and contain, this book clearly presents how to search and use the records. For example, in the section on Civil Registration the book clearly shows how to access the indexes using FamilySearch and Ancestry, what different information each provides. It continues by showing how to use the information provided to obtain a certificate or photocopy of the registered birth, marriage or death event through different avenues, with clear suggestions on cheaper alternatives. For the section on Church Records the book online identifies resource guides, commercial and free websites, often outlining their specific strengths, contents, limitations, costs and search techniques.

Throughout the book there are numerous clear color screen captures of numerous websites giving it a lot of visual appeal. All web addresses are in bold so they stand out in the text making them easy to locate and retype into your own browser. The book is also well indexed by subject and location.

This is a book that I intend to keep close and handy to my computer. It is a very practical guide to Irish online research with lots of good practical suggestions.

Irish Treasure Trove in the News

We can’t get through the Irish celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day without a good Irish story. Here is an excellent article from the New York Times about the personal collection of a fishmonger from Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland that is being cataloged by Sinead McCoole. It’s a job where where she set aside six weeks to catalog and find the best for an exhibition. Now eight years later she is still working on what has become known as the Jackie Clarke Collection with more than a 100,000 items focusing on the retelling of Ireland’s long struggle to free itself of British rule.  The collection includes “fragile maps and rare newspapers, political posters and editorial cartoons, books, diaries, photographs, films and even a scrapbook.”  It’s an interesting story and worth a read. You never know what you might find in your Irish research.

Thanks to Beth Finch McCarthy for bringing this to my attention.

Genealogy at a Glance: English Research (or Irish or Scottish) – How to purchase in Australia and New Zealand

Genealogy at a Glance - English Research by Paul Milner
Genealogy at a Glance – English Research by Paul Milner

I have exciting news for Australian and New Zealand researchers. As I lecture in Australia there is strong interest in Genealogy at a Glance series of laminated help sheets published by Genealogical Publishing Company. I wrote the English Research guide and have a few remaining copies but expect to sell out of them at my next venue in Perth on Saturday. Brian Mitchell wrote the guide for Ireland, and David Dobson wrote the guide for Scotland, all copies sold out.
Here is how to purchase them directly from the publisher at a much reduced price from the one listed on the company’s website.   These are 1st class international postage paid prices, especially for my blog readers:
1 Genealogy at a Glance        $20
2 Genealogy at a Glance        $35
3 Genealogy at a Glance        $50
You can order via email to
You can mail an order to:, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Ste 260, Baltimore, MD 21211, USA
You will need to provide either a check in US currency or credit card information.
I apologize to the participants in Brisbane who wanted to purchase additional Genealogy at a Glance laminated folders and I hope you will be happy with this arrangement that I managed to make with the publisher.

Blogger Trail leads to online Irish Civil Registration Map

It is always fascinating following the trail laid down by the Blogger network for you never know where it will take you and what gem you will find. This morning I logged on to read John Reid of Anglo-Celtic Connections with a post celebrating the third anniversary of Ruth Blair’s blog – the Passionate Genealogist. I followed the link to Ruth’s blog and scrolled down to read a post from January 18 entitled Ruth’s Recommendations.

In Ruth’s list was a link to a free Handy Map of Irish Civil Registration Boundaries available through What a delightful map it is. Yes, similar maps of civil registration boundaries are available in print, but this is the best that I have seen online and in color. The result is that it got clipped and inserted into my updated lecture on Finding Your Ancestors in Ireland, which is one of the 38 presentations I will give on my upcoming Australia lecture tour (leaving the US this coming Wednesday).

Yes, I did leave the logo on the map to give them credit, and to also remind me and my audience where I got the map from in the first place.

Thanks for the lead.