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

Visit to the Representative Church Body Library

Representative Church Body Library

Last week I made my first visit out to the Representative Church Body Library, the Church of Ireland archives. Based in Churchtown, Co. Dublin (near Dundrum) the RCBL is the repository for many of the surviving Church of Ireland parish registers and other records. It was founded in 1931 and has been at it’s present location near the Church of Ireland theological institute since 1969.

It is impossible to overstate just how valuable the collections in the library are. A law passed in 1875 declared that marriage registers dated pre-1845, and baptismal and burial records pre-1871 were public records and should be deposited in the Public Record Office of Ireland in Dublin. Some parishes opposed this decision and there was a further Act passed in 1876 which allowed records to remain in local custody, provided there was provision made for their safe keeping in the form of a fire-proof safe. This typically meant the larger churches that could afford such a measure. By 1922, the records of 1,006 Church of Ireland parishes had been deposited in the Public Record Office, while a further 637 parishes kept their records in local custody. When the Public Record Office was destoryed by fire during the Irish civil war in 1922, all but four sets of registers were completely destroyed. Those in local custody which survived comprise roughly a third of the records.

But given that the Church of Ireland was never the majority faith in Ireland, with most Irish people remaining Roman Catholic, why should you need to be aware of their records? Up until 1869 the Church of Ireland was the Established Church. This meant that it was the official state church. Many of the Civil Parishes (as opposed to the more modern Roman Catholic Parishes) correspond with the Church of Ireland parishes who inherited the medieval parish system. Before the creation of county councils, most local civic services (even the fire brigade) were administered by the Church of Ireland. This is also where the phrase ‘parish pump politics’ comes from, referring to the old fire pump kept by the local Anglican churches. Tithes were paid by the populace, regardless of denomination, for the administration of these services. By the early 19th century this was a cause of much resentment among the non Church of Ireland populace but that’s a story for another time. Because these churches were so central their records may contain references to events in the local parish, which is important for understanding the social context in which our ancestors lived. Since record keeping in Catholic churches before the 1800s was so patchy there might be no other surviving church records for that area.

It is also quite feasible that your ancestors had Church of Ireland ancestry. When consulting the parish register for Holy Trinity, Cork (now the Triskel Christchurch) for the early 1800s I was surprised at the amount of typical Irish surnames in the register. We tend to assume that Irish society of this period was fixed. That it was only the descendants of British settlers who were members of the Church of Ireland, with no mixing between them and the ‘poor’ Irish Catholics. However this is an overly simplistic view of Irish history. Both groups lived side by side and membership of the Church of Ireland did not necessarily imply wealth and position. Inter marriage did occur between Catholics and Protestants, as did conversion (sometimes on more than one occasion). There were also quite a number of other small Protestant dissenter denominations that your ancestors might have been part of. We should always be careful not to make too many assumptions when examining the past. Our ancestors were real people with complicated and sometimes baffling lives. This especially applies to the issue of faith and belief.

For the purposes of this visit I was consulting the Parish register for Holy Trinity along with the Vestry Minute Books. The early part of the Parish register was very well laid out with details on baptisms, burials, marriages and churchings. However by the 1820s it was evident that a new Parish clerk had taken over the record keeping, and it became much more difficult to read. The Vestry Minute Books detailed the day to day running of the church. While these may not contain as much genealogical information, they are still very informative for learning what was happening behind the scenes of the church. The names of prominent parishioners occur often, along with details on changes made to the fabric of the church, including the commissioning of memorials and stained glass windows.

If visiting the RCBL it is advisable to allow yourself plenty of time, like with any archive visit. Churchtown is accessible by the no. 14 bus from D’olier St and the Luas Green Line from St Stephens Green. When you enter you will be advised to leave your belongings in one of the lockers provided. This includes anything electronic such as laptops, phones and cameras. The archivists are very strict about the photography of records. The only things you are allowed bring with you is pencil and paper. When you go upstairs to the office you are provided with a handy list of available records, which is especially helpful on a first visit. Once you fill out the request form you are directed to the reading room where the materials are brought to you. If visiting for the whole day be aware the library closes for lunch from 1-2pm. Being out in the suburbs there isn’t a huge amount of places to eat nearby, aside from a local Spar. Bringing a packed lunch is advisable.

More details on the RCBL and it’s collections can be found here:

A Genealogical Embarrassment Of Riches – Part 1

Often when Irish genealogy is being discussed the topic of the Public Record Office fire of June 1922 will come up. At the beginning of the Irish Civil War in 1922, members of the Anti-Treaty IRA took control of the Four Courts and adjacent Public Records Office. In the course of trying to remove them from the building, the newly established Irish Free State army opened fire with mortars. There is some disagreement on what caused the Public Record Office fire, and whether the Anti-Treaty forces intended all along to destroy the records, but it inevitably led to the loss of nearly 1000 years of records concerning Irish history. For those unfamiliar with the events of this period Claire Santry provides an excellent overview of what exactly was lost. The losses include the majority of pre-1901 census records, with only fragments from these 19th century census surviving.

Public Record Office Fire, Dublin 1922

This is of course a tragic event in Irish history and often of great frustration to anyone looking to trace their ancestors back further than the mid-1800s. It could be be argued though that this has led Irish genealogists to be more determined in tracking down other surviving records. In recent years the process of scanning records and turning them into digital images has allowed for much greater access. This led the Irish government to set up the website

Visitors to the website can explore a number of very useful rescources, including transcriptions of some church records and also the Index to Historic Civil Records. Civil registration was relatively late in being introduced to Ireland. Although officially beginning in 1845, the Catholic Church refused to participate until 1864. This means a large portion of the Irish population was not registered for the two decades prior to 1864. Regardless of this the Civil Records are hugely important but the addition of the Indexes came with a slight hiccup. Originally added in July 2014, they were soon taken down because of concerns raised by the Data Protection Commissioner. Fortunately a compormise was reached and they were uploaded again recently. Under the new agreement the Indexes to Birth Records over 100 years, Marriage Records over 75 years and Death Records over 50 years are searchable.

Before diving into the Indexes it is important to remember that they are only indexes. As such the information they contain is meant to act as a guide to the more detailed records. For example when searching a birth record, the index will tell you the name of the individual, their date of birth, registration district and the group registration ID. Once you have this information an application must be made to the General Register Office in Dublin for the full certificate. The research office, which handles genealogical enquiries, is currently located at Werburgh Street. The cost of printing a certificate is €4 provided you have the information from the indexes. If you need to conduct a specific search covering a maximum of 5 years the fee is €2. A general search covering any number of years is €20 per day. It is also possible to apply for a certificate online.

An example of a birth certificate from the GRO can be seen below

Irish Birth Certificate

Irish Birth Certificate

Of course there are also other websites such as (free website run by the Church of the Latter Day Saints) and (paid subscription website) which also contain copies of the indexes. These can be useful for crossreferencing Index entries. Just because information has been digitised doesn’t always mean it’s correct. Unintentional errors can still creep in so it is advisable to double check any records you come across before purchasing a certificate.

This is far from being the only good news regarding Irish genealogy and but the other recent advances deserve a fuller blog post to discuss them in more detail

Tracing Your Cork Ancestry

Cork City Hall

A number of weeks ago I gave two talks in City Hall, Cork as part of the Active Over 50’s Show. The talks were titled Tracing Your Cork Ancestors and I thought it would be helpful to include a copy of my presentation below

Tracing Your Cork Ancestors

Not long afterwards I was invited onto The Genealogy Radio show by host Lorna Moloney to discuss this topic

You can listen in to the full show here

For anyone with an interest in Irish genealogy I would strongly recommend listening to the other podcasts from the radio show

Lorna is also the course coordinator for the Ancestral Connections: Names, Places and Spaces Irish Genealogy Summer School, University College Cork which runs from June 28 – July 5, 2015

Both the presentation and the interview were a basic introduction to this topic and I would hope to cover the available sources in more detail in future blog posts


Welcome to my new blog!

My name is David Ryan and I am genealogist based in Cork city, Ireland. It is my goal to use this blog to showcase some of my research and to highlight some of the rescources available for tracing your ancestors in Cork and elsewhere in Ireland.

I was born and raised here in Cork but have family connections throughout Tipperary, Waterford and Limerick. I also have a keen interest in Irish history from the earliest settlements of this Island, right up to the present day. It is this interest in history that has prompted me to embark on my career as a genealogist.

Do you have a query about researching your Cork ancestors? Then please feel free to get in touch with me via the contact form on this site