GENEALOGY OF THE RISING

100 years today on the morning of what was then Easter Monday 1916, a group of armed insurrectionists seized a number of buildings around Dublin. These insurrectionists were members of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizens Army and Cumann na mBan. This included the General Post Office on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street). Soon after two unfamiliar flags were raised above the GPO and a proclamation read out which declared that Ireland was now a Republic. For most of the following week Dublin would be engulfed by the Rising.

general_post_office_dublin_20060803

GPO Dublin

people-and-places-sites-of-1916-gpo

GPO 1916 (Photo: National Library of Ireland)

 

 

blog-web-archiving-2

Original Copy of the 1916 Proclamation (Picture: National Library of Ireland)

This insurrection was the 1916 Rising and it would become the defining moment in the struggle for Irish Independence. By the time the Rising came to an end, 485 people had lost their lives. The majority of these were civilians who had been caught up in the crossfire, including 28 children. 107 Crown forces were killed, including Irish soldiers serving in the British army. 17 policemen lost their lives during Easter Week, only four of them in Dublin.  Of the Rebels, 58 were killed. 16 men were executed for their role in the Rising, including Thomas Kent in Cork and Sir Roger Casement in London.

Much has been written about the events of that week and even a century on there is still plenty of debate about whether the Rebels were justified in their actions and how they should be remembered. A recent Remembrance Wall unveiled in Glasnevin Cemetery on April 3rd caused plenty of controversy because it listed the names of all those who died, including Rebels, Civilians and Crown forces. The names are displayed chronologically.

700

Glasnevin Necrology Wall (Picture: UTV.ie)

In some respects we are also still attempting to untangle myth from fact when it comes down to who was involved and what actions they took. Fortunately much work has been done in the last few years, particularly by genealogists. Multiple new record sources have been made freely available online.

One of the best sources to consult is the Bureau of Military History. They have uploaded copies of witness statements taken from those involved in 1916. They also have press cuttings from the period. If you are looking to confirm whether a particular family member was involved in the events of 1916 then it is worth consulting the pensions collection in the Irish Military Archives. The information contained on both these websites can be extremely helpful in determining whether a family member did indeed see action during the period and where they were involved.

00085f57-942

Extract from sworn statement made by Oscar Traynor TD, former Officer Commanding Dublin Brigade IRA, before the Advisory Committee, Military Service Pensions Act, in support of Mathew Stafford’s application for a military service pension under 1934 act

00085f56-942

Undated letter from Eugene Gilbride verifying Linda Kearns MacWhinney’s position as an officer with Sligo Brigade IRA at the time of her arrest on 20 November 1920

The National Library of Ireland and the National Archives have also uploaded much of their collections connected to 1916. Of particular note are the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee 1916 compensation files in the National Archives. These files contain compensation claims from those whose homes or businesses were destroyed during the Rising. They can be extremely valuable if you had family living in Dublin at the time who weren’t directly involved in the fighting but still suffered as a result.

One of the best websites that has come online in recent years is the Letters of 1916 project. This is the first public humanities project in Ireland. It’s 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). This isn’t limited to Dublin or the Rising, but includes letters from all around the country and on a number of topics. Members of the public are invited to contribute through uploading their own letters from the period and also to assist with transcribing the letters.

Not to be outdone, Ancestry.co.uk and Findmypast.ie have both made their own contributions.

Ancestry have released Courts Martial Files and Intelligence Profiles connected to the period. They also have access to the Military Service Pension Index and the National Army Census of 1922.

Findmypast.ie have made available their Easter Rising & Ireland under Martial Law, 1916-1921 collection. The 75,000 records include reports and military intelligence detailing the events of Easter week 1916. These records are free to search until April 27th.

This is only a brief listing and there are many other great resources out there. The National Library is currently involved in compiling an archive of many of the websites which were set up to honour 1916.

Regardless of how we view the Rising and those who participated, we can at the very least find out a lot more information on what was actually happening during the period.

Update: I just realised that I neglected to include this fantastic podcast by my friend Lorna Moloney for the Genealogy Radio Show on Radió Corca Baiscinn. It offers a genealogical introduction into the lives of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation.

 

Advertisements

Remembrance Weekend

Great War Memorial on South Mall, Cork

Great War Memorial  South Mall, Cork

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous conflict. What was originally hoped to be a short and limited European war, ‘over by Christmas’, turned into a period of prolonged stalemate which enveloped the world. As part of the British Empire at the time, Ireland became embroiled in the conflict. The current estimate is that 200,000 Irishmen served in the conflict, although this is a difficult number to be sure of. With many Irish living abroad and enlisting in regiments in their new homes, it can be hard to know for certain how many were involved. It is estimated that between 30,000 to 50,000 lost their lives (depending on whether you count just those serving with Irish regiments or Irish enlisting in other armies).

Until recent years it would seem that the role of the rish in WW1 was ignored and overlooked due to the focus on the events of Easter 1916 and the subsequent War of Independence in Ireland. Fortunately perceptions of the conflict have changed, although it still remains a controversial subject for some, especially the practice of wearing a poppy. Our Taoiseach has today laid a wreath in Enniskillen as part of their Remembrance Sunday events and our Minister for Foreign Affairs was a participant in Belfast events. Our President has attended the Remembrance service in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

Members of the Cork branch, Western Front Association

Members of the Cork branch, Western Front Association

Here in Cork we are fortunate to have a number of groups and individuals who are very dedicated to commemorating those who served in the Great War. Over the last few years the members of the Cork branch, Western Front Association have organised a number of events over the weekend closest to November 11th. On the Friday they hold an Evening of Remembrance in St Fin Barre’s Cathedral. This is always a truly moving event combining songs, music, stories and poetry. On the Saturday they organise is a gathering at the WW1 memorial on the South Mall in Cork for a wreath laying ceremony. Both the Lord Mayor of Cork and the Mayor of Cork County delivered speeches. On the Sunday a seperate ceremony is held by members of the Royal British Legion, along with a number of special masses.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Chris O'Leary

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Chris O’Leary

Crowd gathered at the WW1 memorial for the wreath laying

Crowd gathered at the WW1 memorial for the wreath laying

From a genealogical point of view these commemoration events can be very important. We don’t have to approve of the War or why and how it was fought. But it is important to remember those who lost their lives in the conflict. Every family in Ireland would have known someone who enlisted to fight in the War and each had their own reasons for doing so. These commemoration events help us to learn more about the lives our ancestors lived and to appreciate who they were. Too often when we read about these conflicts it can seem like an endless stream of numbers and big battles. But by commemorating them, we realise that each of these numbers was a living breathing individual at one point with a story to tell.

As part of the Rembrance weekend, Ancestry have opened up their WW1 records to explore for free. Usually I’m not one to plug the subscription websites, simply because they are so well known. However on this occasion it’s a great opportunity to search for your WW1 ancestors and see what sort of information might be out there.

WW1 Medal Roll

WW1 Medal Roll

A Genealogical Embarassment Of Riches – Part 2

There was some very good news for Irish genealogy recently with the release of the Catholic Parish Registers from the National Library of Ireland on July 8th

                                          National Library Of Ireland

Previously these records had only been available to consult in the Catholic churches directly or on microfiche in the National Library of Ireland. They were also available on the paid site Roots Ireland.

But why are these records so important for researching in Ireland?

Ballyporeen Parish Record

Ballyporeen/Templetenny Parish Record Excerpt

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts no census records survive prior to 1901, with the exception of some fragments from various 19th century census. Civil Registration for Catholics was only introduced in 1864 and the Public Records Office fire of 1922 has meant that many other records have been lost to us forever. Surviving records such as Griffiths Valuation and the Tithe Applotment books were never meant as census records and typically only list the head of household.

The Parish Registers on the other hand in some cases go back as far as the 18th century, which is much further than most have been able to dream of tracing our family history so far. There are a number of caveats which need to be kept in mind when using these records though.

  • Only baptisms and marriages are covered. Records of Catholic burials weren’t kept up until the early 20th century.
  • The registers kept by the National Library in most cases only extend as far as the 1880s. For anything later than that researchers will have to consult with the individual parishes.
  • The registers are not indexed or searchable. While it’s only a matter of time before one of the big genealogy companies, such as Ancestry or Findmypast gets around to doing this, in the meantime consulting the registers means scrolling through each set of records to find what you are looking for.
  • The handwriting can also prove to be an initial stumbling block. Some people have described it as spidery. Compared to modern handwriting it takes a lot of getting used to.
  • The use of Latin names can also lead to some confusion. Remember this was at a time long before Vatican II, when Latin was still used for nearly everything in the Catholic Church. It’s worth searching online for a good list of Latin names and their English equivalents when examining the registers.
  • Some parishes are missing. When the registers were initially being photographed back in the 1950s some were missed due to human error. This will happen with any transcription of records to another medium. There were also parishes that simply did not exist at this time and only became seperate entities later on.

That being said these records are still an amazing rescource. It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into the website design to make it user friendly. You can type the parish name into the search box or zoom in on the map to locate it. The records themselves are clear and legible. You can zoom right in and adjust the contrast settings if a particular page is difficult to view. When you open a record you can also go straight to a particular year, which is a huge bonus given how many baptisms and marriages took place in a typical year. Once you locate your ancestors in the register you can download a copy of that specific page.

There are also some ways to make searching easier. It might sound counter intuitive but when you first start, look for a date you already know about. If you have a specific date for an ancestors marriage or baptism then try to find that first. It will give you an opportunity to understand the layout of the registers and to get used to the handwriting.

There were some concerns from some of the Local History Centres, who run the Roots Ireland website, throughout Ireland that making these records freely available would inevitably mean the end of their business. Up until now they had been the main repository for transcripts of the registers. However it is my belief that the opposite will happen. For a lot of visitors to Ireland looking to trace their ancestors, these centres will still be one of their first stops because they hold transcripts of the records and because of their local knowledge. A subscription to Roots Ireland can also be helpful for using their transcripts in parallel with the registers.

The online registers might not be perfect but they are an amazing resource and hats off to the National Library for all their hard work and dedication in getting them online. The future of Irish genealogy is looking very bright and I wonder what other previously inaccessible records we can look forward to.

You can find the registers online at http://registers.nli.ie/

Ancestral Connections and Dromana 800

The Ancestral Connections UCC Genealogy Summer School is over for another year and what a fantastic school it was. Each year the programme becomes more ambitious and expansive. There far too many great speakers for me to list all of them so I will have to stick to a few honourable mentions.

Volunteers and attendess at the Ancestral Connections 2015

Volunteers and attendess at the Ancestral Connections Summer School 2015

Eileen O’Duill and her husband Sean always help launch the school on the Sunday evening and provide the first full day of talks. It should be required for anyone embarking on researching their Irish ancestry to sit down and chat with both of these lovely people for a few hours. No matter how daunting and scary Irish genealogy can appear, Sean and Eileen provide such great advice that can make finding even the most elusive of ancestors seem possible. They are also fantastic storytellers.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the school are the day trips, where we get an opportunity to put what we have learned in the talks to use in the real world. One of these day trips involved a visit to the lovely town of Youghal. Being genealogists, our first stop had to be a graveyard. Doctor Jane Lyons and John Nangle were our experts on interpreting gravestones.

Dr Jane Lyons and John Nangle guiding us through graveyard research

Dr Jane Lyons and John Nangle guiding us through graveyard research

We also took the time to look around the church itself, which I would recommend for anyone visiting Youghal. Rosaleen Underwood provided us with some history on the fantastic Boyle tomb located in one of the wings of the church. There were also plenty of intriguing memorial plaques along the walls.Youghal Masonic Plaque Youghal Memorial Plaque

Once we were done with graveyards it was on to the Walter Raleigh Hotel for a mouth watering talk by food historian Regina Sexton on what our ancestors ate. Fortunately it wasn’t too long a wait until dinner.

Some of the other notable talks included Steven Smyrl on Probate Genealogy. An extremely important area. Stuart Rosenblatt filled is in on researching Jewish ancestry in Ireland, which also revealed some sources on tracking immigrant ancestors. We don’t always take into account that Ireland has been much more multicultural in it’s history than we realise.

My own talk on interpreting memorial plaques and monuments was the final lecture of the school on the Friday. Since there was an optional tour of UCC campus at the same time I was asked to deliver the talk twice. Fortunately it was well received both times. The actual last day of the school itself involved a trip down to Cobh, Midleton and Cloyne.

It was my first time visiting Cobh Heritage Centre and I found it to be extremely impressive. More than simply about the much celebrated links between Cobh and the Titanic, it also covers much of the maritime history of Cobh along with the history of emmigration in the area.

Cobh Heritage Centre

We also spent some time in St Colman’s Catholic Cathedral, which overlooks the town. An awe inspiring building inside and out. We then spent some time out on Spike Island, billed as Corks own Alcatraz.

St Colman's Cathedral RCSome of our group opted to visit Midleton Jameson Distillery while everyone else decided on Cloyne to see the other St Colman’s Cathedral in Cloyne. This is the COI Cathedral for the diocese and medieval in origin. It still contains much of it’s medieval character and has a wonderful historic graveyard. The round tower also still stands, although it’s missing a roof due to a lightning strike in the 1700s.

WP_20150704_068 WP_20150704_069 WP_20150704_058 WP_20150704_062Even with the Summer School over there was little time for rest. The following day, Sunday July 5th I was among a group of genealogists with Irish Ancestree providing genealogical consultations in Villierstown, Co. Waterford for the Dromana 800 festival. Villierstown Church VillierstownWe met some lovely people down there and got to put our knowledge of genealogy into practice. The always fickle Irish weather even cooperated for the most part.

Planning has already begun for Ancestral Connections 2016 – Roots To The Rising and the preliminary programme should be announced shortly.

Ancestral Connections

Tomorrow sees the start of the ACE Genealogy Summer School: Ancestral Connections: Names, Places & Spaces in University College Cork. This is an annual summer school organised by genealogy Lorna Moloney and has been running since 2013

Ancestral Connections Poster

I have been acting as a volunteer since the summer school began and it’s gratifying to see it grow each year. Last year there were roughly 50 delegates in attendance for the entire week, with others attending for one or two days. The delegates come from all over the world and is a testament to the spread of the Irish diaspora.

The range of speakers covers a huge variety of topics concerning Irish genealogy, from land records, workhouses, adoptions, military and graveyards to list only a few. There are also a number of field trips to allow the delegates a chance for some fresh air and to explore the Irish scenery.

This will also be my first time speaking at the summer school. I have been selected to deliver the final presentation of the week ‘Using genealogy to interpret memorials & monuments’. It’s a great honour to have such an opportunity.

Although the lectures come to an end on Friday July 3rd, for those who decide to stay around for the Saturday there is an opportunity for a field trip to West Waterford.

More information on Ancestral Connections is available here http://www.ucc.ie/en/ace-genealogy/