First Tranche of Stories Published from IGRS 80th Anniversary Archive

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, we are launching the first tranche of stories from our 80th Anniversary Archive. 

Last year was the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Society in 1936. To mark this important milestone we launched a story writing project to collect stories about people’s favourite Irish born ancestors.

Royal Avenue, Belfast

Royal Avenue, Belfast, circa 1900.

Throughout the year, we heard tales from all over the world describing the colourful lives of Irish men and women lived out during the past 300 years. In this first batch of stories to be published, we hear of a soldier gassed in the Great War; an Irish Republican who served in both the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War; a Dublin middle class Protestant widow who brought a case in the Court of Common Pleas against a suitor’s broken marriage proposal; and of a working class Belfast girl who became entangled in the events of the Russian revolution of 1917.

These are just four of the stories among those published which touch on lives lived not just in Ireland, but as far flung as England, Scotland, Malta, America, Canada and Australia. What each shows is that despite the lack of so much primary source material for Ireland, the lives of our ancestors can still be researched and documented.

Click here to read the stories.

Another tranche of stories will be published shortly…so please check back again soon!

Not an IGRS member? Why not Become a Member today?

80th Anniversary Archive Project Now Closed to Submissions

Thank you to everyone who responded to our 80th Anniversary Archive project by sending us your stories of a favourite Irish born ancestor. Submissions to the project are now closed.

Smyrl#5We were delighted to receive stories from all over the world, reciting tales of ancestors lives. Some lives were lived, and told, briefly but brightly whilst the lives of others stretched into old age, often as the head of extended families growing up far from their Irish roots, their stories enriched with many side tales of family lore and even precious pictures.

We will be working on assembling the stories into themed chapters and publishing them in batches on a special section of our website in the coming months, available to all.

Not an IGRS member? Why not Become a Member today?

Terrence Punch and Zita Kelly Elected Honorary Life Members

In January 2017 the Society’s governing Council decided that one of the final events to mark the Society’s 80th anniversary would be to elect two Honorary Life Members from among the Society’s membership. The candidates would be two long-standing members, who have, individually, made a significant contribution not only to the Society over a very long period, but to Irish genealogy at large.

Accordingly, the Society is delighted to announce that the recipients of this honour are Dr Terrence Punch, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and Miss Zita Kelly, London, United Kingdom

Terry Punch Order of Canada

Terrence Punch with David Johnston, the 28th Governor General of Canada, on being made a Member of the Order of Canada in September 2011.

Dr Terrence Punch, CM, is a well-known long-standing Canadian speaker, teacher and writer on genealogy and history. Terry joined the IGRS in 1959 and since then has always been a very regular contributor to the Society’s journal, The Irish Genealogist. He holds masters and doctoral degrees from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada. His thesis at Dalhousie University discussed the Irish adaptation to Halifax from 1815 to 1871. He has held the chair of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia, the Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes, and the Charitable Irish Society, is a Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and a former trustee of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. He is resident genealogist for CBC Maritime Noon, a live radio phone-in.

Among Terry’s numerous publications are: Irish Halifax: The Immigrant Generation, 1815-1859, Sons of Erin in Nova Scotia, Genealogical Research in Nova Scotia (4 editions), and four volumes of Erin’s Sons: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada, 1761-1853. He edited The Genealogist’s Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research, and is a regular columnist in The Canadian History Magazine, Saltscapes and the Seniors’ Advocate, and has twice won awards for historical writing from the Canadian Authors Association. His latest book, Some Early Scots in Maritime Canada was launched in May 2011.

He was elected a Fellow of the IGRS in 2009. In the 2011 New Year’s Honours List, Terrence was appointed to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour. The citation accompanying the award particularly notes “his contributions to the development and popularization of genealogy in the Atlantic provinces” of Canada.

Zita Kelly joined the Society in 1979 and has achieved a lifetime of contribution to the promotion and study of Irish genealogy. She is widely known as a most methodical, conscientious and extremely knowledgeable Irish genealogist, one with an enormous depth of understanding of the available resources, particularly those held by the National Archives of Ireland, National Library of Ireland and the Registry of Deeds. Without doubt, the Society recognises her as a genealogist who not only wears her knowledge lightly, but one who has always been ready and willing to assist others.

She was the Honorary Secretary of the Society from 1986 until 1991. She very efficiently looked after library users and dealt with library visitor inquiries over a period of many years. In addition, she undertook voluntary work for members in the Registry of Deeds in Dublin, as well as in the National Library, Dublin, and in the British Library’s Newspaper Library, London. In 1991, Zita was elected a Fellow of the Society.

In announcing these two Honorary Life Memberships, the Society’s chairman, Steven Smyrl, said: “2016 was a terrific year for the IGRS, one in which it celebrated its 80th anniversary. This milestone was marked with a number of high profile events and launches held over the year. Given this, it seemed so fitting that we should complete these celebrations by recognising the work of two of our stalwart members; two people who have generously given so much of their time and expertise to Irish genealogy and genealogists over so many years. 

On behalf of the whole Society, may I offer hearty congratulations on this fitting recognition of the work of both Terrence and Zita; their lifetime of contribution to the promotion and study of Irish genealogy.”

Not an IGRS member? Why not Become a Member today?


Early Irish BMD Indexes Swell to Quarter of a Million Names

Great news for anyone seeking their elusive Irish ancestors! There’s been another huge update to the IGRS’ Early Irish Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes, bringing the total number of names noted to just over a quarter of a million!

The latest update of 9,000 new BMD events brings the total combined record count to just over 120,000 individual entries, comprising 22,000 births (noting 47,500 names), 82,500 marriages (182,700 names) and 15,500 deaths (22,000 names). The total number of names runs to 252,000.


Record relating to James Carey, born in 1844. (c) Society of Genealogists

A significant portion of these are culled from the British Civil Service Evidence of Age Index. While it isn’t surprising that evidence of as many as 1,420 births and 1,227 marriages have been gleaned from this resource, it has also proved to be a source for deaths – this update includes 17 references. In the absence of formal written records, friends and neighbours often provided a sworn statement as to their knowledge of the applicant’s age.  In the case of James Carey, born in Clonoulty, Co Tipperary, in 1844, his neighbour, Patrick Tierney, writing some 22 years later, confirmed James’ date of birth as 7th January 1844, commenting: “I can declare to same from the fact that my father died on said day.” If you find an entry pointing to the British Civil Service Evidence of Age Index then follow this up by checking the original record to obtain the full details. These can be found on the website of the Society of Genealogists.

Another source drawn upon for this latest update are Church of Ireland Marriage Licence Bonds. Roz McCutcheon, the Society’s coordinator for the Early Irish BMD Index project, said: “Although generally only the indexes remain to Marriage Licence Bonds, they are nevertheless a primary source, and include a surprising number of Catholic marriages.  I have recently come across some papers, while cataloguing at the Society of Genealogists in London, which include full abstracts of some early marriages in the Dioceses of Ferns & Derry. Thus, whereas my previous entry for the Ferns marriage of Henry Haughton showed him marrying Catherine Cavanagh in or after 1682, the new additional information from the abstracts notes the exact date of the bond was 10th June 1682, and that the couple were both from Co Wexford, that Catherine was a spinster, living at Polemounly, while Henry was from Ballyane.”

drogheda-argus-5-aug-1843Finally, the death index has been boosted too by 3,260 records noted from newspapers.“It is surprising that newspapers are still a much underutilised source for biographical information” said Steven Smyrl, Chairman of the IGRS. “In particular, notices of death become more common from the 1830s onwards as the middle classes begin to grow in strength and numbers“, he said. As the months roll on, it is hoped to add many more entries to the database culled from newspapers, proving that despite the great loss of 1922, there still remain many untapped sources for Irish genealogists to explore.

Access to the Early Irish Marriage Index is completely free. The Early Irish Birth and Death Indexes are members’ only resources, although everyone is able to access the corresponding free surnames indexes:

See here for: Marriage Index, Birth Index and Death Index.

Not an IGRS member? Why not Become a Member today?

Ireland Branch Autumn Lecture

20160521_151823The Ireland Branch annual Autumn Lecture takes place on Tuesday, 15th November at 18:45 (sharp!). The Speaker will be Alan Phelan, archivist of the Erasmus Smith Trust Archive and he will be speaking about the Trust’s records. Full details are given below:

Autumn Lecture:

Title:The Records of the Erasmus Smith Trust Archive
Speaker: Dr Alan Phelan
Date: Tuesday, 15th November at 18:45
Venue: Helen Roe Theatre, Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 63 Merrion Square South, Dublin 2

All are most welcome – no booking is required!

Death of IGRS Vice-President Walter J.P. Curley, former US Ambassador

It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the death in New York on 2nd June 2016 of Walter J. P Curley, former United States Ambassador to Ireland (1975-1977), former United States Ambassador to France (1989-1993), and a Vice President of the Irish Genealogical Research Society.

Walter Joseph Patrick Curley Vice-President (sometime US Ambassador to Franceand to Ireland)

Walter Joseph Patrick Curley

Walter Curley was born on 17th September 1922 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and had an extraordinary career. He studied at both Yale University and Harvard Business School as well as at the University of Oslo; and he held an Honorary Doctorate in Law from Trinity College, Dublin. During World War II, Ambassador Curley was a young Marine Corps infantry combat Captain and served in the Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Guam and North China campaigns. He held decorations from the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and The Republic of China. He wrote a memoir about this time entitled Letters from the Pacific 1943-1946.

After the war he worked in India and Italy before becoming a partner in J.H.Whitney & Co, the venture capital firm, from 1960-1974. He went on to become the Commissioner of Public Events and Chief of Protocol of New York City, prior to being appointed as Ambassador to Ireland.

He was a Trustee of The New York Public Library and other educational establishments and was a former Director of the New York Life Insurance Company, the Bank of Ireland and Guinness Peat Aviation (U.S), The New Yorker Magazine and Chairman Emetritus of Sotheby’s International Advisory Board. Ambassador Curley was also Honorary Chairman of the French-American Foundation, Trustee Emeritus of the American Hospital in Paris and of The Frick Collection.

A true man of letters he had several publications to his name. These include Vanishing Kingdoms: the Irish chiefs and their families (Lilliput Press. 2004) and Monarchs in Waiting: the descendants of Europe’s Royal Families (1975). This last publication examines the various pretenders to mostly European thrones and includes genealogies and biographies of the major pretenders. His wide interest in European, and particularly French history, led him, as departing American Ambassador of France, and to enormous applause of the watching crowds, to lay a wreath in the Place de la Concorde to commemorate the execution of King Louis XVI. This was on the 200th anniversary – January 21st 1993 – of Louis’s appointment with the guillotine. With Cherubini’s Requiem for Louis XVI blasting from loudspeakers and royalist supporters carrying white flowers and fleur de lys banners, Ambassador Curley’s sense of history led him to say that he was there because Louis had been instrumental in aiding American independence and that it was most appropriate that the US should recognise the French input into the establishment of America by the laying of this wreath. He was certainly a man with a great sense of occasion.

Ambassador and Mrs Curley, the former Mary Taylor Walton of Pittsburgh, lived mainly in New York but also had a home in county Mayo.  We extend our deepest sympathy to Mrs Curley and to their two surviving children and are grateful for the time that this remarkable man was able to give us. Rest in Peace.

We’re in the Papers!

Out of the ashes – An Irishman’s Diary piece on the founding of the Irish Genealogical Research Society

Our eightieth birthday was covered today by The Irish Times in a piece in the Irishman’s Diary column written by our chairman, Steven Smyrl. He says:

four-courts-explosion“When the dust had settled over the ruins of Sackville Street at the end of Easter Week 1916, down at the Four Courts, the deputy keeper of the records, MJ McEnery, found that despite the building being occupied and its contents disturbed, the Public Record Office of Ireland had escaped virtually unscathed.

“Remarkably, the only irreparable damage was the loss of one will, that of John Watson, a private in the Royal Irish Regiment, who died in 1884.

“However, the occupation six years later would not have the same happy outcome. On June 30th, 1922, the Civil War combatants destroyed a thousand years of documents, tracing the history of Ireland and its people, in one huge, cataclysmic explosion. In one great calamity, parish registers, wills, court records, letter books, deeds, census returns, marriage licences, land rentals, minute books and proclamations all rained down across Dublin city and county like so much confetti.”

Read the rest of the piece here

Significant Update to Society’s Early Irish Birth Index

Following the recent update of the Society’s Early Irish Death and Marriage Indexes, the Birth Index has been updated. With this latest tranche of data, the Birth Index doubles, now noting just over 20,000 entries drawn from lesser known and underused sources for confirmation of birth in Ireland.

Baby feet

This update includes several thousand records taken from Index of Nuns, a CD publication in 2015 by the Catholic Family History Society, which notes biographical information for about 14,000 nuns, many of them from Ireland. For many, their age and parents’ names are recorded at time of their profession of faith, allowing for an approximation of their year of birth.

Additionally, there are entries noted from a census-substitute dated 1887 recording the Roman Catholic residents of the parish of Kirkinriola, Co. Antrim, into which the town of Ballymena falls. Also, there are entries drawn from ‘Emigrants from Ireland, 1847-1852:
state-aided emigration schemes from crown estates in Ireland’, edited by the late Eilish Ellis and published in 1960 by the Irish Manuscripts Commission in its journal, Analecta Hibernica .

Roz McCutcheon, who coordinates for Birth, Death and Marriage Indexes said of the latest update: “Whereas so many sources concentrate almost solely on men, it is good to be able to redress the balance to some degree by adding biographical details of so many women. This latest update adds 10,000 additional entries to the database, representing many hours of work by those who contribute to the project. Thank you to all concerned.”

For non-members here is a link to each Index: BirthDeath and Marriage.

Not an IGRS member? Why not Become a Member today?

It’s Our 80th Birthday!

The IGRS was founded 80 years ago today, on the 15 September 1936 in response to the destruction 14 years earlier of the Public Record Office of Ireland in June 1922 during the Irish civil war.

img-thingCatholic priest, Fr Wallace Clare, was the prime mover behind the setting up of the society. He was its first Honorary Secretary and Librarian. He had a lifelong interest in family history and his enthusiasm and great knowledge helped to build up and promote the Society during its first 30 years.

Eighty years on, the Society’s aims remain the same as when first founded: identifying and securing transcripts and abstracts of records destroyed in 1922; publishing an annual learned journal (The Irish Genealogist), comprising family histories, pedigrees and abstracts of records; and generally promoting the pursuit of Irish genealogy.

The advent of the Internet Age has allowed us to begin to share our extensive and enviable collection of manuscripts more widely than ever before.

Why not check out our membership benefits and maybe join with the 1000 others who are already IGRS members?

Launch of Historic Civil Registers

Members of the Ireland Branch Committee (pictured below) joined with others at yesterday’s launch online of the General Register Office’s historic civil registers.

A large group of who’s who in Irish genealogy assembled in the foyer of the National Library in Dublin yesterday to celebrate the launch of General Register Office’s historic civil registers. The event was jointly hosted by Ministers Leo Varadkar and Heather Humphreys, who both spoke. While Varadkar’s Deparment of Social Protection has ultimate responsibility for the General Register Office, it is Heather Humphrey’s Depmartment of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs that runs the website:

L-R: Linda Clayton, Hilary Tulloch, Máire Mac Conghail, Aileen Wynne, Claire Bradley

L-R: Linda Clayton, Hilary Tulloch, Máire Mac Conghail, Aileen Wynne, Claire Bradley

The registers represent a huge gift to those interested in researching their family history, dispensing with the need to visit the reading room on Werburgh St for most 19th century ancestors or pay for research copies of the registers.  The index references remain on the site, so full legal copies may be ordered when necessary, but an image link has now been added, which opens as a pdf.  Of note to historical researchers, we can now see the whole page and because of this, several people have already discovered a family member was a twin, by seeing an extra child before or after the relevant entry born to the same parents.

The site is not without flaws, and some early marriages and deaths have not yet been imaged, but we are assured they will be put up in due course.  It currently shows register pages for the following periods:

Births: 1864 – 1915
Marriages: 1882 – 1940
Deaths: 1891 - 1965

Happy searching!