Historian, genealogist, lecturer and author based in Windgates, Co Wicklow, Ireland
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27 September 2015: Latest edition of A Primer in Irish Genealogy launched online
This Primer is based on introductory lectures for the author’s University College Dublin Adult Education courses in genealogy/family history, which have been running since 1989. An online booklet is offered both as a text for students and as a guide for those in this country and abroad who wish to trace their Irish ancestors. Click here or at Academia.edu for a free downloadable copy of the 2015 edition of the Primer. There are lessons in research methods, computers and the Internet, placenames, personal names and surnames. Guidance is given on the use of core sources including census, vital, valuation and church records, with some account of more specialised sources such as wills, deeds, memorial inscriptions and so on. The work concludes with a case study based on the writer’s Murphy ancestors of Ballylusky, County Kerry.
My UCD Adult Education Introduction to Genealogy/Family History course, due to start on 1 October, is unfortunately now full. However, there are still places available on the Topics in Genealogy/Family History course, due to start at 7pm on Wednesday 30 September on Belfield Campus, Donnbrook, Dublin, and running for ten weeks. This course, designed to cater for those with experience of genealogical research, will focus on surnames of the Four Provinces, surnames of the ''New Irish', publishing genealogical information online, Irish and international genealogical sources accessible online and so on - plus of course issues and research problems raised by students.
28 July 2015: UCD Adult Education Genealogy Courses
As noted in a previous post, the UCD Adult Education Certificate in Genealogy/Family History course has been discontinued for reasons of academic reorganisation. While all currently registered students, and those who have partially completed it in the past, will be able to complete the Certificate course, no new students will be enrolled. I will be giving a number of replacement genealogy courses at night in UCD Belfield during the academic year 2015-16, which are styled 'Lifelong Learning' and do not involve the submission of assignments for grading or award of credits. The first of these courses is Introduction to Genealogy/Family History, which starts on 1 October 2015 and as the title suggests is designed for beginners, dealing with sources such as census, birth, marriage and death and valuation records, church registers, wills, memorial inscriptions, newspapers and directories. The second course, Topics in Genealogy/Family History, should suit more experienced genealogists, will commence 30 September 2015 and covers topics such as surnames of the Four Provinces, Irish and international genealogical research sources online, the history of the family, genealogical invention and the status of heraldry. The third course, which should be of interest in the light of commemoration of the centenary of the Rising next year, is Genealogies/Family Histories of 1916 Leaders, which will start on 13 January 2016 and examines prominent participants such as Pearse, Connolly, Clarke, De Valera, Collins and Markievicz in terms of their family backgrounds. The UCD Adult Education Programme 2015-16, which features a range of courses in various disciplines, can be downloaded in PDF format here. Online booking for UCD Adult Education courses commences on 10 August 2015 and as usual those with queries concerning the content of my genealogy courses can contact me personally via the e-mail link at the head of this page. Hope to be active in genealogical education for a while yet!
8 July 2015: Launch of Catholic Parish Registers Online at the National Library of Ireland
Today the Taoiseach (Irish Premier) Enda Kenny launched online digitised copies of Roman Catholic parish registers in the National Library of Ireland, website http://registers.nli.ie, which contains mostly baptism, marriages and some burials covering the whole island of Ireland. While a minority of registers in Dublin and elsewhere date from the mid- or late-eighteenth century, most postdate 1800 and the online versions generally do not continue beyond 1880. The good news is that the new National Library site is free to view and is available internationally, freeing genealogists and others interested in examining these registers from the necessity of visiting the National Library and searching through microfilms. While welcoming this forward step and congratulating National Library staff on their achievement, the writer has to point out that the online registers are not indexed or databased, so that one needs to be able to identify specific parishes and then search entry by entry. However, if the new site is used in conjunction with the pay-to-view Irish Family History Foundation site http://www.rootsireland.ie, which features indexed transcripts from parish registers but no images, specific entries can be targeted for checking (remember that a transcription is a derivative or secondary source, while a digitised original is a primary source). In addition, the Irish Genealogy site https://www.irishgenealogy.ie enables further cross-checking of the registers of a range of parishes in Kerry and Dublin and parts of some other counties. The images on the National Library site are generally much clearer than the microfilms from which they derive and in addition there are photographic enhancement tools and the ability to download and print images. While the Taoiseach properly credited the Catholic Church with compiling and preserving the registers, there was no church representative on the podium nor were dog collars much in evidence. This was a reflection perhaps of past conflicts over access to these valuable records and certainly does not bode well for the prospect of securing Church consent for the next step of digitising registers after 1880 and creating an integrated images plus searchable database facility online.
27 June 2015: Rules and standards
In my first blog entry a year ago I promised to deal with with 'rules and standards' and perhaps the time has come to make good on that undertaking. In the last few days Claire Santry has posted a series of articles critical of certain developments in Irish genealogy at Irish Genealogy News. As a concern of mine is mentioned therein a response is merited, which given the controversy raised, should be as calm and measured as possible. We Irish genealogists can be a quarrelsome bunch, but in recent times I thought I had detected a more live and let live atmosphere in which people tried to avoid treading on each other's toes. However, in February 2013 I was shocked to be described as 'an eccentric man' by a leading genealogist addressing a gathering in the National Library of Ireland sponsored by History Ireland magazine, which comments were posted in audio form to two websites. In May of the same year I discovered that a former student of mine, now also prominent in Irish genealogy, was using materials entrusted to him in class to present his own lectures, in effect plagiarising his former teacher's work. I tackled both cases robustly, but they were never satisfactorily resolved. In the first case a relationship with a magazine to which I had contributed for decades was shattered, and in the second case I was subject to legal threats and a complaint to an employer. I was struck by the number of genealogists who contacted me at the time with messages of support and in some cases, with stories of similar bad experiences, leading me to conclude that leaving my own issues aside, there is a serious problem with rules and standards in Irish genealogy which needs to be addressed. Claire Santry has bravely decided to attempt to lance the boil and our response should be to consider carefully what she has written and to reflect before posting online, which I have done. Claire has posted a link to my 'Plagiarism: An Open Letter to the Genealogical Society of Ireland' and stated an opinion that 'the GSI should respond to the claim'. Finally, writing in a strictly personal capacity, I have to record that while it is true that I taught many of the personnel working with Ancestor Network, I have no link with that firm and do not endorse it in any way.
Clarification: In a recent blog entry entitled 'Polemical Corner', Messrs Eneclann state, 'The National University of Ireland, Dublin offers a Certificate course in Genealogy and Family History, taught by Sean Murphy'. I have to reiterate that this course has unfortunately been discontinued so that no new entrants can be accepted.
25 June 2015: UCD Adult Education Certificate in Genealogy/Family History discontinued
Back to the O'Brien Centre in University College Dublin for the annual Adult Education awards ceremony, where the College Registrar presented certificates to students who had completed courses. These ceremonies are a fitting tribute to the dedication and hard work of the students and a time for their teachers to take pride in their achievements. Special attention was drawn to the almost 100 students who received Access to Arts and Human Sciences and Access to Science and Engineering certificates. In addition, 25 of the writer's students received Certificates in Genealogy/Family History, a level 7 award on the National Framework of Qualifications scale and recognition of six modules' work spread over three years.
Unfortunately, due to academic reorganisation and in advance of my formal retirement in April 2016, UCD has decided to discontinue this accredited, still very successful and, with its emphasis on genealogy proper, probably unique Certificate course. The course has been taught on the basis that the discipline of genealogy/family history is a branch of historical scholarship governed by certain principles and standards. All currently registered students will be able to complete the course to Certificate level, but there will be no new student intake from 2015 onwards. I should take the opportunity to express my appreciation to the College for allowing me to teach genealogy in an academic environment for 25 years and in particular to thank all my hundreds of students over the years for their support. Finally, I should stress that like a growing number of individuals, I am not 'retiring' in the standard sense, in that I neither can nor wish to cease working and intend to remain active on the Irish genealogy scence in the areas of teaching and training, research and publication. In August I will post details of some non-accredited Adult Education courses I will be teaching in UCD in the academic year 2015/16 starting next September.
24 June 2015: New Facebook Page
I have decided to start a Facebook page and my effort can be seen here. The primary purpose of the open-content page is 'Providing information relating to my work as an Irish genealogist, historian, lecturer and author'. I will also feature and link to other Facebook pages with interesting information (Facebook pages differ from accounts or 'personal profiles', which tend to be personal in content and restricted to smaller circles). My first two posts relate to the historic Killruddery estate in County Wicklow and republication on Academia.edu of my 1987 booklet on the memorial inscriptions of St Catherine's Church and Graveyard, Dublin.
1 June 2015: My 'Survey of Irish Surnames' article gets a boost
One of my articles on Academia.edu, 'A Survey of Irish Surnames 1992-97', is the subject of a sudden surge of interest courtesy of Twitter and Facebook users, with total views to date pushed over 300. Thanks to Joe Buggy for a tweet at https://twitter.com/TownlandOrigin and to Irish Roots magazine for a Facebook post at https://www.facebook.com/IrishRootsMag. As the 1990s are now themselves history, I should explain that my article was an attempt to to update Matheson's famous survey of surnames based on the Irish births index for 1890. Whereas Matheson surveyed over 2,000 surnames, no small feat in a pre-computer age, I only managed 100. See the above table comparing the top ten surnames in the 1990s and 1890, showing not a great deal of change over a century. There were hopes of securing access to an Ireland-wide database of surnames derived from telephone directories, but when this did not materialise a more modest survey was completed. My article concludes with a tabular analyis of the top 100 surnames 1992-97, showing estimated numbers of bearers and distribution by telephone districts. Incidentally, don't be too disappointed if your surname is not in the top 100, as possessing a rarer name confers a significant advantage in genealogical research, in that there are generally fewer entries to be checked in records. A series of articles on surnames of the Four Provinces of Ireland in Irish Roots magazine has recently been completed (see blog entry 19 February 2015 below), while my next lecture/workshop outing on the subject of Irish surnames will be at the Ancestral Connections Genealogy Summer School in University College Cork 28 June-5 July 2015.
18 May 2015: Drone's Eye View of Bray Head
I've lived on Bray Head, County Wicklow, for 28 years, but the above YouTube video by Skycam Ireland gives spectacular views of the place I have never seen. These include the Bray Head cross from above, the cliffs with the Sugar Loaves and Wicklow Mountains in the background, DART trains exiting and entering tunnels, the Cliff Walk viewed from the sea and much more. As the video clearly shows, Bray Head is a remarkably beautiful and unspoiled environment, having been made the subject of a Special Amenity Area Order in 2007. Other County Wicklow YouTube videos by Skycam Ireland, all taken with a drone camera, include Powerscourt Waterfall and Gardens, Glendalough, Lough Tay , the Sugarloaf Mountain and Lugnaquilla under snow.
4 May 2015 (revised from 8 December
2014): Location of Patrick Pearse's 1916 Surrender
The above is a famous and much reproduced photograph of the surrender to British forces of rebel commander Patrick Pearse at the conclusion of the Easter Rising on 29 April 1916 (restored and enhanced by Photografix). It has been claimed that the surrender point was at the now closed Conway's Bar on the south side of Parnell Street, where there is a sign to this effect, with another suggested location further down the same side of the street beside the junction with Moore Street. However, the photograph appears to show a location on the north side of Parnell Street looking up towards the Rotunda Hospital and the corner of Parnell Square, not too far up from the Moore Street junction on the other side of the road. It should be remembered that in 1916 Parnell Street was called Great Britain Street and that subsequent road widening has removed buildings on the south side of the street on either side of the Moore Street junction, but the facing north side of Parnell Street is intact.
As is well known, Pearse's figure is somewhat distorted by the presence at his side of Nurse Elizabeth O'Farrell, whose feet can be clearly seen and who had stepped back rather than being 'airbrushed from history'. The British Army officers pictured above are respectively, from right to left, Brigadier-General William Lowe, commander of the British forces in Ireland, and his son and ADC Lieutenant John Lowe, who later changed his name to John Loder and became a Hollywood actor. As it is understood that there are plans to erect a commemorative plaque on the site of Pearse's surrender in advance of the centenary of the Rising in 2016, it is obviously important to get the location exactly right by consulting with the broadest range of informed individuals. I have completed an article on the 1916 surrender photograph, which is published exclusively on Academia.edu, and would welcome feedback.
5 March 2015: Boston Massacre Irish
The History Channel's recent US miniseries, 'The Sons of Liberty', dramatises events leading to the American Revolution and features the infamous 'Boston Massacre', when British soldiers shot dead five civilians on the night of 5 March 1770. The citizens of Boston appointed a committee composed of James Bowdoin, Dr Joseph Warren and Samuel Pemberton, whose task was to promulgate the town's view of the killings and to counter pro-military accounts being sent back to Britain. It is interesting to see that the Irish patriot Charles Lucas (see blog entry 24 January 2015 below) was also among those to whom the committee sent their account of the Massacre, which Lucas arranged to have reprinted in Dublin in 1770. In the same year Lucas sent a sympathetic letter in reply to the Bostonians in which he declared that if the Government of Britain should oppress and plunder its dependencies, 'the bond of filial affection and duty as well as of allegiance must be cancelled'. Lucas's significant but little-known 1770 letter to the Boston Massacre Committee, one of his last compositions, has been republished in full by the present writer for the first time since the eighteenth century and can be read here.
19 February 2015: Radio Corca Baiscinn
I was interviewed today by notable genealogist Lorna Moloney on her 'Genealogy Radio Show' on the County Clare-based Radio Corca Baiscinn (audio can be played here). The subject of the interview was Irish surnames, with special reference to names of the Province of Munster (Counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, Kerry, Cork and Waterford). We spoke about the importance to genealogists of understanding surnames, their origins and variant forms. Crucial entries in records may be missed if there is not an awareness of the need to search for variants, eg, O'Callaghan/Callaghan, McMahon/Mahon, Magee/McGee, Whelan/Phelan, Kavanagh/Cavanagh, Carr/Kerr and so forth. It was agreed that rare surnames are an advantage in research, in that there are less of them to be checked in the records, while in the case of more common surnames such as Murphy and O'Sullivan a lot more checking is involved and there is a greater necessity to know at least approximate place of residence within a county. We also took a look at the most common surnames in the province of Munster, with the familiar names O'Sullivan, Murphy, Ryan, McCarthy, O'Connor and O'Brien topping the list. Reminding us that Irish surnames include those of other ethnic origins, the surname Walsh, meaning Welsh or British, is very common in Munster, while the Norman names Fitzgerald, Power and Burke are also prominent. The above table is from my article 'Surnames of Munster' in Irish Roots magazine, second quarter, 2014, part of a series on the surnames of the four provinces (digital back issues may be ordered here).
14 February 2015: St Valentine in Dublin
Distinguishing fact from fiction in the case of St Valentine is not easy, as there were at least three saints of the name, all of whom died as martyrs. St Valentine’s Feast Day falls on 14 February, on which day lovers have customarily exchanged cards and other tokens of affection, a practice which has now spread to many parts of the world. The Carmelite Church in Whitefriar Street in Dublin City asserts that it holds the remains of St Valentine, but of course other churches in Italy and elsewhere also claim this honour. Relics of St Valentine were apparently gifted in 1836 by the then Pope to the Carmelite preacher Fr John Spratt. These relics were placed under the high altar in Whitefriar Street Church but after Fr Spratt's death interest in them waned. Following the rediscovery of St Valentine's relics during renovation work, they were relocated in 1956 to a new shrine surmounted by a statue, and it is only since this time that there has been active and continuous veneration of the saint in Dublin. For further details, see my article posted on Academia.edu.
9 February 2015: Ancestral Connections
The Leeside campus of University College Cork will be the location for the next Ancestral Connections, an Irish Genealogy Summer School scheduled to take place between 28 June and 5 July 2015. A selection of Ireland's leading genealogists will give presentations and workshops on a range of topics and there will also be field trips. The topics to be covered include civil registration, census records, placenames, studies of individual repositories, online sources, valuation records, church records and much more. The writer is due to give a talk on Irish surnames, concentrating on the characteristics of names at the provincial level, followed by a workshop in which individual surnames suggested by participants will be examined (see my ongoing series of articles on 'Surnames of the Four Provinces' in Irish Roots magazine). The Summer School timetable and procedures for booking are here and for further information please contact Summer School Co-Ordinator Lorna Moloney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
24 January 2015: Charles Lucas
I have uploaded to Academia.edu a new edition of my compact biography of Charles Lucas, the eighteenth-century Irish patriot, author and medical doctor. In contrast to figures such as Swift and Grattan, Charles Lucas is little remembered today and has not infrequently been dismissed as a minor politician and anti-Catholic bigot. Born in County Clare in 1713, probably near Ennistimon, Lucas’s earliest surviving published work described Kilcorney Cave and the Burren. After moving to Dublin city he trained as an apothecary and agitated against abuses in that trade. Following his election to Dublin Corporation in 1741 Lucas led an unsuccessful campaign for municipal reform. Lucas’s candidacy during the Dublin by-election of 1748-49 was accompanied by copious pamphleteering on national as well as local issues, leading to his condemnation by parliament for alleged seditious writings and exile in Britain and Europe. Having qualified as a medical doctor, Lucas promoted hydrotherapy in particular as a cure for many illnesses. Following his return from exile in 1761 Lucas succeeded in being elected as one of Dublin's MPs, and in parliament he continued to assert Irish autonomy and to oppose perceived English misgovernment until his death in 1771. A case is made that despite Lucas’s undoubted Protestant prejudices, he was more than a mere anti-Catholic bigot, and furthermore that his ideology was nationalist and marked a pivotal transition to the republican separatism of the United Irishmen. Some account is also given of the origins of Lucas's family, who were of Cromwellian stock and hailed from Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk. The text of A Forgotten Patriot Doctor: Charles Lucas 1771 can be read here, with free downloading of a PDF copy optional.
8 January 2015: Theft of Irish Crown
As noted in a previous blog entry, I have uploaded quite a few scholarly articles to my pages on Academia.edu, where visitors can preview without restriction, but downloading of material requires registration. The advantage for authors is that they are given details of the numbers and countries of residence of people visiting their sites and reading their articles. Since beginning to upload papers in November 2014, my daily document views have ranged from 0 to a respectable 16, but to my considerable surprise, today the number has exceeded 100, with visitors from countries all around the world. The great majority of visitors are interested in one article only, 'A Centenary Report on the Theft of the Irish Crown Jewels in 1907'. The referring site in most cases is given just as Facebook, but a Google search indicates that Turtle Bunbury's Wistorical Facebook page has today featured my work on the Irish Crown Jewels, so thank you very much for the mention (perhaps I should reconsider my decision not to join this particular social network!). The theft of the Irish Crown Jewels by a person or persons unknown in 1907 is one of the most famous and puzzling mysteries of Irish history, and has been the subject of numerous books and articles, as well as several television programmes. The Jewels were worn during functions of the Order of St Patrick and were entrusted to the care of Ulster King of Arms, Ireland’s chief herald and genealogist. Many and various are the theories which have been advanced over the years to explain what happened to the Jewels, with allegations that they were stolen by insiders, or by Unionist conspirators eager to derail Home Rule, or by Republican plotters seeking to embarrass the British government. My report re-examines the affair and comes to some tentative conclusions as to what may have happened, naming two insiders as the prime suspect and suspect number two respectively.
15 November 2014: Publications Posted on
Writing is one thing, but being read is another. The website Academia.edu provides an opportunity for scholars, whether fully tenured, part-time lecturers or independents, to upload copies of their papers and hopefully thereby gain a wider readership. Anyone can then preview these publications, while those who are signed up can download full copies for their own use. Academia.edu does not carry out peer review of submissions and like operations such as Google, it is primarily interested in monetising information online rather than upholding scholarly standards, even if the latter is not a matter of complete unconcern. It therefore behoves users of Academia.edu to adopt an extra-critical approach to what they read there. Some of the papers on Academia.edu under the research interest 'Reincarnation', for example, may provoke scepticism, but their very presence is evidence of freedom of expression, a key requirement for the advancement of knowledge. Of course, there is currently perceived to be a crisis in the standard of peer review and quality control in the case of some established journals, particularly in the sciences (see Curt Rice's Guardian article of 4 October 2013), so the message must be to take absolutely nothing on trust.
As an experiment, the writer has decided to post a selection of his publications from his own website on Academia.edu, on the subjects of Irish surnames, the Gardiner Family, the Moravian Cemetery, Whitechurch, and the eighteenth-century patriot doctor Charles Lucas, with more to follow. Click here for details and remember you need to register with Academia.edu to download papers, but signing up is not required merely to view same. As well as making my publications more accessible, I have a second reason for so posting, namely, to combat plagiarism of my work by asserting authorship in a forum more prominent than my own webpages. One individual reproduced without permission or adequate credit copies of a number of my statistical tables on Irish surnames (full details here), while the website Gardiner Street Dublin includes a near-verbatim and again uncredited copy of my article on the Gardiner Family (section beginning 'The north-side of Dublin, with its elegant streets and squares, is perhaps the best surviving monument to the Gardiner Family, which was primarily responsible for the creation of this sector of the Georgian city'). I opened this blog with a promise to touch on the subject of standards, and plagiarism is certainly a growing problem in Irish genealogy as elsewhere. Again, plagiarism is 'the copying or paraphrasing of other people’s work or ideas without full acknowledgement' (University of Oxford), while publishing substantial portions of the work of others online or offline without permission is also in breach of the principle of 'fair use'. Beware of those who try to persuade you otherwise.
18 October 2014: What Was Destroyed in
the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922?
Speaking this weekend at Back to Our Past, the genealogical segment of the Over 50's Show running in the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. There were multiple stands run by the major commercial players, educational institutions, societies and record repositories involved in Irish genealogy, including Ancestry.com, Findmypast.ie, UCC Adult Continuing Education, Irish Roots Magazine, Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland, Irish Genealogical Research Society, National Archives of Ireland and so forth. There was also an APGI-organised series of talks by leading experts in the world of Irish genealogy dealing with subjects such as surnames, gravestones, military ancestors, oral tradition and much more. Nice as well to see so many of my former and present students in attendance. I gave a talk on Saturday afternoon dealing with what was destroyed in the Public Record Office of Ireland in June 1922 during the Civil War. Having observed that blame for the destruction could be spread between government and anti-government forces, it was noted that our best source of information for what was lost is Herbert Wood's Guide to the Public Record Office of Ireland, published in 1919. It can be imagined how Wood in particular must have felt when he viewed the smouldering ruins of the PROI just three years later.
Wood's Guide shows that the contents of the PROI fall under the headings of court, parliamentary, ecclesiastical, testamentary, commission, census and miscellaneous records. The census records, strangely listed by Wood under 'miscellaneous', are of particular importance to genealogists and as is well known we lost all but fragments of our pre-1901 censuses in 1922. Yet it should be noted that these fragments and the full surviving censuses of 1901 and 1911 can now be searched freely on the website of the National Archives, with the pre-1901 fragments only on FamilySearch. Having gone through the census, testamentary and other partial survivals of 1922, I was able to conclude my talk on a more positive note by indicating that certain classes of records had not been deposited in the PROI by 1922 and so survived intact, including General Register Office, Valuation Office, Ordnance Survey, Registry of Deeds, Irish Land Commission and other records. Watch this blog for the announcement hopefully later this year of my online republication of Wood's Guide, with commentary and a new biographical account of its author, and in the meantime a large PDF file of Wood's Guide can be downloaded from the National Archives website.
8 October 2014: Retaining Old Royal
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has placed online, with a request for public comments, schedules of legal instruments and orders up to and including the year 1820 which it is proposed either to retain or revoke via the Statute Law Revision Bill 2014 (http://www.per.gov.ie/slrp/). The revocation list is the largest, containing 4,474 items, and few would be surprised at the scrapping of archaic proclamations such as those 'declaring Charles II King' or 'suppressing tories and woodkerns'. The list of instruments to be retained is much smaller, with only 38 items, and these require close examination in order to establish why they too are not to be revoked. The retention list is composed mainly of licences to use names and arms, eg, to William Burton in 1781 'to use the surname and arms of Conyngham'. Yet these are but a fraction of such licences as were issued under the British regime, and what relevance do they have now when bearing names and arms is not subject to government order? The review of old legal instruments is informed by the Irish Manuscripts Commission's recent 5-volume publication, The Proclamations of Ireland, 1660-1820, which costs a pricey €250 per set or €60 per volume, and given declining library space and budgets, might have been better issued as an online publication.
The most remarkable item which is proposed for retention is a proclamation of 6 February 1685 'authorising Ulster King of Arms to prevent improper use of arms, style of esquire or gentleman, etc.' to be known as the 'Genealogical Office Order 1685'. The Genealogical Office within the National Library of Ireland, also known as the Office of the Chief Herald, was mired in controversy in the 1990s in relation to its involvement in the MacCarthy Mór bogus Gaelic chief scandal, as a result of which its legal authority to grant coats of arms was questioned by an Attorney General. The implementation of Section 13 of the National Cultural Institutions Act in 2005 is claimed to have resolved the issue of legal authority to grant arms, but this has been challenged, and all arms grants by the Chief Herald before that date, including those to Presidents Kennedy, Clinton, Robinson and McAleese, were issued without proper legal authority (see the writer's 'An Irish Arms Crisis'). It is difficult to comprehend why in an egalitarian modern republic it should be considered necessary to retain, or more accurately, reanimate archaic powers relating to coats of arms and titles such as 'esquire' and 'gentleman'. Furthermore, because they derive from the old British royal prerogative, it can be argued that all such pre-independence legal instruments are null and void in any case, and they would hardly be accepted as fit subjects for modern legislation. As to the matter of preventing misuse of the State's quasi-heraldic emblems, the harp and shamrock, these are currently well protected by trade marks legislation (see Irish Patents Office webpage). It is recommended therefore that the 38 ancient legal instruments due for retention should be revoked along with the other 4,474 items.
Note: A number of the above points were made in a letter to the Irish Edition of the Sunday Times published on 28 September 2014.
15 September 2014: Relationships
Genealogists are naturally expected to be able to define relationships, but beyond the range of first cousins, for example, most of us will need to refer to a chart such as the one featured above. The highlighted 'subject', which can be yourself or another person, anchors the process and closer relationships such as parents, children, grandparents, brothers/sisters, etc, are quite easy to comprehend. First cousins, as can be seen, are the children of one's uncles/aunts and can also be defined as sharing grandparents with the subject but having different parents.While many prefer to use the terms 'great uncle' and 'great aunt' for the siblings of one's grandparents, others use the more consistent 'granduncle' and 'grandaunt' to match 'grandfather' and 'grandmother', as is done in the above chart. When we come to first cousins once removed, things become more complicated, in that there are two sets of these in different generations, namely, the children of one's granduncles/aunts and the children of one's first cousins. We end our chart with third cousins thrice removed, but the scheme can be continued to include fourth and fifth cousins, and so on.
Once the pattern is understood, degrees of consanguinity or blood relationship are not difficult to estimate, in that we count from the subject to the common ancestor and then down to the specified individual. Hence as shown above, there is one degree of consanguinity between a subject and their parents and their own children, two degrees between a subject and their grandparents and their own grandchildren, three degrees between a subject and their great-grandparents and their own nephews/nieces, and so it continues. Finally, the distinction between direct and collateral relationships should be noted, the first referrring to descent through a single line, the second to descent from a common ancestor but through different lines. Thus we are directly descended from grandparents but have a collateral relationship to cousins.
July 2014: GRO Online Indexes Withdrawn _______________________________________________
July 2014: Molly Malone Statue _________________________________________________
July 2014: UCC Summer School and GRO Indexes Online _________________________________________________
June 2014: Awarding of Certificates in Genealogy _________________________________________________
June 2014: Irish Roots
Of course it was too good to be true. The free-access indexes to the birth, marriage and death registers of the General Register Office (GRO) on the IrishGenealogy.ie website, launched to great fanfare on 3 July as described below, have been removed on the direction of the Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes. This was done on the basis that the site exposed sensitive personal information such as dates of birth and mothers' maiden names for all to see, including possible identity thieves. I must admit that I was surprised to find that the site included births, marriages and deaths up to as recently as last year, but assumed that this had been approved with relevant authorities such as Hawkes, which it clearly had not. Coming hard on the heels of the Garth Brooks cancelled concerts fiasco, this episode is another of the periodic avoidable cock-ups which characterise this country, in both of these cases essentially good rules being applied retrospectively and destructively following failure of forethought. However, Hawkes's reported comments in today's Irish Times indicate that he thinks online genealogical research should be confined to 'dead people', a doctrinaire view which if carried through absolutely would greatly limit family historians. One does not want to be too hard on the Department of Arts, which after all had been trying to do something to improve access to GRO records in the face of that office's lack of movement, but really, all the angles should have been checked first. The General Register Office of Northern Ireland makes its records available online according to the following scheme: births over 100 years old, marriages over 75 years old and deaths over 50 years old. One hopes that a revised online service along these lines will be provided for the vital records of this state without too much further delay, but don't hold your breath.
Having been moved from her place at the end of Dublin's Grafton Street as a result of Luas tram extension works and undergone a bit of a sprucing up as well, the famous Molly Malone statue is being relocated today to nearby Suffolk Street. Pending planned restoration to her old perch when the Luas works are complete, Molly will now stand outside the Dublin Tourism Office in the old Church of Ireland St Andrew's Church, where believe it or not, it has been preposterously claimed she was baptised in 1663. The statue commemorating the heroine of the ballad 'Cockles and Mussels' was erected in 1988 and has become one of the most iconic images of Dublin, being known affectionately to citizens as the 'Tart with the Cart' as a result of a bizarre claim that Molly was a part-time prostitute as well as a fishmonger. Her impact outside Ireland is shown by the fact that there is an international empire of Molly Malone pubs and restaurants in places as far apart as Paris, Stockholm, Los Angeles and Singapore.
But can we get past the still developing Molly legend and establish something of the truth about her origins? Firstly, it must be said that the girl in (very low-cut) seventeenth-century dress represented by the statue is the product not of careful historical, genealogical and musicological research but of a great deal of imagination and supposition. Our principal historical document has to be the song 'Cockles and Mussels' itself, which first appeared in print in the later nineteenth century and whose lyrics give no indication of a seventeenth-century ambience. Indeed in Walton's Music mid-twentieth century sheet-music edition of 'Cockles and Mussels' their artist portrayed Molly in nineteenth-century dress, obviously not as a real person but as a representative type, also correctly pushing a wheel barrow as specified by the lyrics of the song in contrast to the cart strangely featured in the statue. Note also the silhouette of the now destroyed Nelson's Pillar in the background of the old Walton's image above, which places Molly north of the Liffey, where her modern counterparts still sell fish in Moore Street, and this portrayal would have been a much more suitable inspiration for a statue. At this stage, however, historical accuracy has been well and truly sidelined and poor Molly, kitschy, fanciful and fishy in every sense of the word, will continue to stand wherever they put her as a symbol of Dublin city and how it wishes to be seen by the world. For more on the subject, see my longer article on Molly Malone.
PS Totally misreading the above, the Herald newspaper of 19 July 2014 reported as follows: 'The real-life Molly was baptised in the church in 1663, according to genealogist Sean Murphy'.To aid the irony deficient, I have now added the word 'preposterously' to the entry above.
A busy Thursday which started in Cork and ended back in Dublin. I was honoured to be included on the speakers' list for the Ancestral Connections Genealogy Summer School in University College Cork (the only such genealogical speaking invitation to be received this year). Organiser Lorna Moloney demonstrated that genealogy is now being taken more seriously as an academic subject by assembling on the campus of one of Ireland's leading universities a team of expert speakers who addressed a serious and involved group of students on a broad range of topics, including civil, mapping, online, property, graveyard, newspaper, church and other records, with some field trips thrown in. More advanced topics dealt with by speakers included DNA analysis and medieval genealogy, while I gave a Munster-oriented talk on Irish surnames. UCC's is a very attractive campus beside the River Lee and on the way back to Kent Railway Station I stopped into the restaurant of Hotel Isaacs on MacCurtain Street, which has a natural waterfall in a garden to the rear.
Returning to Dublin that afternoon I made my way to the elite Royal Irish Academy in Dawson Street for what was flagged as a very important enhancement of state services for genealogists. Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton jointly launched free-access indexes to the birth, marriage and death registers of the General Register Office (GRO) on the IrishGenealogy.ie website, which appear to be relatively up to date. The GRO is an agency of Social Protection which despite expenditure of millions has hitherto failed to roll out an online research service, so praise is due to Arts for having helped to break the logjam somewhat. The event was treated as an entirely new development, with no-one mentioning that the Mormon FamilySearch site has for a number of years provided free access to their database version of Irish vital records indexes up to the year 1958 (now copied on FindMyPast.ie and Ancestry.co.uk).
Back at base I naturally gave the new IrishGenealogy.ie site a try, but was somewhat put out to have to sign in first, then fill in a 'Captcha' and after what seemed quite a wait was informed that there was no record of the birth of my late mother Eileen Mary Keating in 1918. (The following day I managed to locate the entry by dropping the registered second name 'Mary' and the registration district indicator 'North' after 'Dublin'. In the process of undertaking this and other sample checks I made the additional discovery that yearly quarters have unfortunately been dropped from the online indexes, but on the plus side mother's maiden name is generally included in the case of birth entries from about 1900.) Without any kind of bureacratic barriers, FamilySearch quickly provided index details for the birth record of my mother in 1918, the respective search results being shown in the screenshots above. Another point not mentioned in the overly-congratulatory ceremony at the RIA was the fact that a full online service for genealogists has yet to be provided, in that once the index details of a birth, marriage or death have been found, a copy of the full registration still has be purchased offline at a cost of €4 each, either in person at the GRO facility in Werburgh Street or by postal application (there is an expensive online full certificate ordering service at Certificates.ie, costing €20 each). Unless the new service improves, it may be advisable to use FamilySearch first for index searches before 1958, then use the IrishGenealogy.ie site for double-check searches and searches post-1958, also where relevant do not forget Northern Ireland's online GRO service.
To the new O'Brien Centre for Science in University College Dublin, Belfield, for the awarding by the Registrar of Certificates in Genealogy/Family History to 34 of my students (I am at the back right in the above photo, for which thanks to Orla). This was part of the annual UCD Adult Education Awards Ceremony and my genealogy students joined others who had completed Access courses in Arts, Human Sciences and Science and Engineering. This happens to be the largest final genealogy class I have ever taught in my 25 years in UCD, indicating the continuing popularity of the subject. The students undertook six 25-hour modules spread over three years of night classes, completing assignments on their own ancestors, other families and related subjects. That's a substantial amount of work and just cause for pride and a sense of achievement. The Certificates in Genealogy/Family History are graded at Level 7 of the National Framework of Qualifications and carry 30 ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits. The next three-year cycle of the Certificate course in Genealogy/Family History will commence in late September 2014, while the UCD Adult Education programme with details of a wide range of courses and guidance on enrolment procedures should be available online in August (see my webpage for further particulars and contact details).
Okay, okay, the're all at it in genealogy as in other spheres, Facebooking, tweeting and blogging I mean. I continue to resist the time-consuming temptations of the first two social media, but will belatedly get on board the bloggers' bandwagon, if only to help keep my views and ideas in circulation, which to some I know can appear 'eccentric'. I'm a trained historian working in genealogical research, writing and education, not as second best but frequently frustrated by the tendency of some practitioners both amateur and professional to overlook the fact that genealogy is a branch of history subject to its rules and standards (of which probably more anon). Don't expect me to be as regular and informed a blogger as John Grenham or Claire Santry, for example, but hopefully my tuppence worth will add something to the babel of voices in the currently hyperactive world of Irish ancestor hunting.
What will I blog about first? How about a venerable institution in Irish genealogy, on the go since 1992, that is, Irish Roots magazine. It's the publication we go to for information on the latest developments online and offline and for a range of interesting articles on various aspects of Irish genealogy. The Summer issue is out and features pieces on the Military Service Pensions Collection and Cumann na mBan records, tracing Your County Galway ancestors and undertaking your own digitisation project. Oh, I almost forgot, there's an article by myself on the surnames of Munster, the first in a four-part series which will deal with each of the provinces in turn. Next up Connacht, followed by Leinster and Ulster, and a principal theme will be reminding people that many Gaelic surnames have multiple rather than single 'clan' origins, for example, the Murphy sept of Munster which is unrelated to the Murphy septs of Leinster and other areas, or the O'Connor sept of Connacht which is unrelated to O'Connor septs in Munster and elsewhere.
PS Thanks to Susan for the mugshot of me at the top of the page.
July 2014: Molly Malone Statue
July 2014: UCC Summer School and GRO Indexes Online
June 2014: Awarding of Certificates in Genealogy
June 2014: Irish Roots