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This is an online diary of my latest trip to Ireland.
Dennis J. Ahern

Thursday, March 10th

The light dawns over Marblehead! When I was talking to Tom Harding in Cork, he told me a joke. For some reason I failed to get it but didn't let on out of courtesy. It came to me as I lay awake in my bunk at the hostel at 5:30 a.m. trying to decide whether to get up and head downstairs to the men's toilets or try and go back to sleep. Perhaps some compartment of my brain had been working this out the past couple of days and was now competing with signals from my bladder for attention. Not wanting to return to the days of my youth, when there was a mammy to change the sheets, I pulled on my shorts with the keycard in the pocket and went to do my business. The joke went like this: A Viking whose wife was blind was setting off on a trip to Ireland to do a bit of raping and pillaging and he asked his wife if there was anything she wanted him to bring back and she said oh yes, I've heard about these new things for the kitchen, called sinks and I'd love to have one. So he says right you are then and sails off. A couple of months later, having done his bit to enrich the genetic dna of the natives, he's getting ready to set sail and he remembers he was supposed to pick up a kitchen sink. He goes ashore and the first guy he sees is building a brick house and he asks him what that thing is on his shoulder. A hod says the Irishman and the Viking says, right that will have to do, so he brings the hod home to his wife and tells her it's one of those new sinks she heard about in the sagas and she is delighted, which just goes to show you, "A hod's as good as a sink to a blind Norse." :-)

Walking down O'Connell Street you still see a lot of construction barriers. God only knows what their tearing up now, but I hope they re-instate the public toilets that used to be in the middle. Perhaps they will with fancy self-cleaning ones like to one out on Bull Island. If they did, I think it would be fun to just hang around one day and see how many visitors unfamiliar with the technology try for a freebie follow-on and get a soaking. On the other hand, it may be cheaper than a hotel if you've been out on the town all night and need a quick shower to freshen up.

A clever thing on O'Connell Street, where there is a building torn out, they've put up a fake facade on scaffolding that looks like a building is there, sort of a Potemkin Village. It certainly is preferable to having a huge empty space in the block.

On my early morning route from the cybercafe across from the GPO where I check my morning email, to the GRO to hand in another batch of five, I choose my path according to the temperature. If the sun is out and it is warmish for a sweater and jacket, I will cross to the south side of the Liffy and walk along the quays shaded by the tall buildings, but if the sun is only a little warm, I stick to the North side where you get the sun.

On the South side of the Liffey there is a building on a corner of a street covered in graffiti and posters for different causes. I'm told that it is U2's recording studio but it is slated for demolition. The way it looks, they could probably bring the building down by the volume of their music alone. One graphic on the side wall is of a seated mendicant with the caption "Keep your coins. I want change." Another scrawl said succinctly "No more blood for oil!"

At the GRO I had only three more birth records to look at for my primary client's grandfather. As it was a common name with variable spellings of the surname, I tried to narrow the field by filtering on two things. In the 1900 census he was unmarried and living with his sister and her husband in New York City. At the time, his country of origin was given as "Ireland" but by the 1930 census it was given as "Northern Ireland" which narrowed it down to six counties. Then I looked at the sister's name in the index for the year she was born and looked only in registrar's districts where her name also appeared. Now, the grandmother, who was also alleged to have been from Northern Ireland, had an unusual name, Winifred to be exact, and a not very common surname. I had only found a half dozen hits in the calculated span of possible years, which was a great disappointment. Irish women, however, appear to have a very selective memory when asked their age. Senan Molony, in his book "The Irish on the Titanic" researched passenger records as well as the 1901 and 1911 census and found that by the time some women had boarded the vessel they had encountered some fountain of youth that washed away the years.

Deciding that such a flexibility may also apply to Winifred, I went 'round the corner to the Dublin City Archives, also known as the Gilbert Library, where they have the index registers on microfilm and you don't have to pay to search them as you do at the GRO for 1.90 euro per five volumes. I found two additional records for likely Winifred's and handed them in with my money. These would be my last two for the day and I was beginning to run out of days in Dublin before heading to Cork and Galway. As the GRO was busy, I didn't want to wait and made a quick trip across the river to the Valuation Office. On my way back I began to ponder how I was going to explain to my client, the one who paid the air fare up front, how I had put his needs on the shelf and went off galavanting around Ireland. Maybe I could fill out a bundle of slips and get some friend who works in the city to stop by the GRO once a day to hand in another batch. It wouldn't matter if the right one turned up early or late, so long as we got five a day into the queue. I would pay to have someone collect them until I got back from Galway Monday after next, or, as they say in Ireland, "Monday week".

I got back to the GRO, picked up the brown envelope with my name on it at the counter and sat down to open it. It was there. I found her! She was older than she said and from county Roscommon, which is not in Northern Ireland, but her parents names agreed with her marriage and death records. My client could now apply for his Irish citizenship and I could continue on my travels with a clear conscience. I ordered two full cert's, one to send to his solicitor in Amsterdam and the other to carry home with me in case the first one went missing. Straight to the GPO I went that very hour and posted it registered mail.

From the GPO I headed back across the river and on to the National Archives in Bishop Street. [Note that I said "in" rather than "on" as that is the way it is said here.] The first thing I noticed is that they moved the lockers from the foyer where they used to be. My readers ticket from last trip had expired so the guard at the desk gave me a form to fill out and sent me up to the 5th floor where I got a new one. It's still a digitized plastic card, but they no longer use a photo, which was a disappointment.

The first thing I did was consult the advisory service, which is similar to that set up at the NLI. And who should be on duty, but Paul Gorry, who had helped me last week at the Library. There have been some changes since my last visit. A lot of the microfilm is now self service. You find it in the drawers in the microfilm room and the attendant scans your readers ticket to check it out to you. Another thing that is different is all the nice comfy pillows they have on the big tables in case you get drowsy reading all these old records and need to take a nap.

The first thing I had a look at were the index books to the Landed Estate Court Sales and found the townland where another client's ancestor had lived on the Inishowen Peninsular in county Donegal. I ran out of time before copying all the relevant pages so made plans to return the next day and continue.

From Bishop Street I went, by way of Aungier and South Great George Street to the cybercafe on Parliament St. to work on my email and blog for a bit before keeping an appointment to meet Mike Ahern from Dublin at the gates of Trinity College. Our plan was to go out to eat and we wandered off up William Street South looking at menus in windows and trying to decide on what sort of cuisine to try. There was an Indian place Mike and his wife had eaten at before and liked so we went there. Upon our approach a doorman in Indian costume with a white headgear topped with a fan shaped, pleated flare, like a cockatoos feathers reached behind him and pressed a doorbell which brought two people to the door to greet us and usher us in. It was all very resplendent. We indulged ourselves with a varied repast of both spicy and bland meats and vegetables. By the time things had been delivered we could no longer associate what was on our plates with the ingredients listed in the menu, but we plunged in anyway.

We were too full to have any dessert, but lingered anyway after paying the check as we had much to talk about. At one point the maitre' d came around and asked if we would like a complimentary drink. We thought that was very gracious of them. As Mike was driving he had a coke but I had a Bailey's on ice, that's nice. Mike offered to give me a lift to the hostel, but we were across the dreaded millrace in front of Trinity before he remembered where he parked and we had to backtrack. As we drove past the Rotunda Hospital in Parnell Square West, Mike, who is a Corkman born and bred, told me how 22 months ago he held his first-born son up to the window so he could see out and told him "Cahal, you're a Dub!"

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