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.

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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?


Dublin Dates For Your Diary

The Ireland Branch has two scheduled events in April and May.

Full details will be available closer to the time, but please note the following dates for your diary:

Saturday 22nd April 2017 – Annual General Meeting & Spring Lecture;20160521_151823

Saturday 20th May 2017 – Genealogy Open Day.

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?

IGRS Library: Holiday Closure

shutterstock_baubles-goldPlease note that the Society’s Library, currently operating from the Society of Genealogists (SOG), Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London, EC1M 7BA, will be closed for the Christmas holiday on Saturday, 24th December.

Additionally, because of stocktaking at SOG, the Library will also not open on Saturday, 31st December and 7th January 2017. Our volunteers will return to the Library’s normal opening schedule from 1:30pm on Saturday, 14th January.

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

Evensong at St Patrick’s Cathedral

resized_img_20161204_162851Members and friends of the IGRS attended evensong at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, yesterday afternoon, Sunday 4th December. This event was one of a number arranged this year to celebrate the 80th anniversary of its founding in 1936. In the photo are included IGRS President, Fergus Gillespie, Vice-President, Roz McCutcheon, and former Hon. Treasurer, Dr Christopher Richards, following the well-attended servive.

Don’t forget we’re having some Christmas drinks tonight, Monday, 5th, at Café en Seine on Dawson Street in Dublin from 6pm onwards. Join us for some festive genealogy chat.

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

Evensong at St Patrick’s Cathedral To Mark IGRS’ 80th Anniversary

All are invited to join with members of the Irish Genealogical Research Society for evensong at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, on Sunday, 4th December, at 3.15pm (sharp!).

st-patricks-cathedralAs part of the celebrations marking the Society’s 80th anniversary, that Sunday’s evensong service will be dedicated as a thanksgiving for the lives of former officers and members who have served the Society since its foundation in 1936. The preacher will be the Rev Dr Christopher Richards, a former officer of the Society.

After the service, there will be an opportunity to meet with other members of the Society at the Long Hall bar, 51 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2.long-hall-bar

Details about getting to, and parking at, St Patrick’s can be found on the Cathedral’s website:

We look forward to seeing you!

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

Why Not Give IGRS Membership As A Christmas Gift?

Membership of the Irish Genealogical Research Society is a terrific Christmas gift idea for anyone with Irish ancestry…

Purchase a subscription as a Christmas gift for a friend or relative  – or even for yourself! – it’s only £21, €26 or US$26. It entitles you to full membership until 31st December 2017 and brings with it:


  • A subscription to the Members Only section of the IGRS website;
  • A copy of the Society’s monthly full colour eBulletin (see example here);
  • A copy of the Society’s annual Journal, The Irish Genealogist, (see here for example);
  • Discounts at Ancestry.com, Irish Newspaper Archive, Flyleaf Press etc…see here for more details;
  • See here for a full list of the terrific membership benefits;
  • Click here to purchase…

There’s never been a better time to join the IGRS!

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.