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

Saturday, March 19th

After a shave and a shower I sat at the window and had a cup of tea and some biscuits. The printed program is a little hard to follow. They could have had a grid or table showing the times and titles of the two competing tracks of lectures. They had asked speakers to volunteer for blocks of time for consultations where attendees could come in for advice. I volunteered for three blocks on Saturday from 10:00-10:45, 2:00-2:45 and 3:45-4:30 as there were no lectures of strong interest to me in those blocks. I was set up in a conference room upstairs with a table and chairs, but nobody came. I'm not sure as people were really aware of this part of the conference.

At 10:45 I was third in line at the coffee break as both speakers for the first session ran over their allotted time. I had my first cup of tea and some biscuits (cookies) polished off before the crowd arrived.

The first lecture I attended was by Gregory O'Connor from the National Archives and his focus was on some of the lesser known resources at that facility. Some I took special note of were: old age pension applications, the presentment books where people bid on contracts to repair roads and bridges and the like, passenger lists in the State Papers of the Chief Secretary, wills of WWI soldiers, of which they have some 10,000 currently being indexed giving the next of kin details, clemency petitions from families of prisoners in the 1930s and 40s, priest's records of children taken from unfit parents and put into care, records of various charitable funds listing contributors, enlistments of Irish seamen in the Portuguese navy in 1826-7, and of particular interest to me - an 1889 list of people entitled to be buried in Mallow.

The next lecture I went to was by Collette O'Flaherty of the National Library. She talked of, among other things, the photographic collection, the mainstay of which had been the Lawrence Collection. Unfortunately, the Lawrence Studios were right across the street from the GPO in the 1916 Rising and was one of the first places looted and burned, thus destroying all of the records that could have been used to date and identify the subjects and locations of the photos. The Library's photo collection has recently been doubled in size by the donation of 300,000 images from the files of the Irish Independent newspaper dating from 1920 through the 20th century. She talked about the microfilm collection of Catholic parish records, which at present only goes up to 1880, and told us that they will soon be updated to 1905. Other pending changes include a cleaning of the outside of the building exterior, which means more years of scaffolding and noise and closure of selected parts of the building. I asked how mnder longer we would have to wait before there was a separate microfilm room for newspapers with reader/printers so we don't have to spend hours transcribing stories that we want to save. (You can order photocopies to be made, but it can take several days and is expensive.) She could not commit to a definite date, but such a solution is in the plans. The current limitation was imposed to prevent printing out of pages from parish registers which was a stipulation of the original deposit of the collection. She also announced, as I have already related, the withdrawal of the Cloyne parish registers from public access. This means that the Cloyne, Cashel & Emly, and Diocese of Kerry records are all closed to the public. I believe you can still get a letter of permission from the Bishop for Cloyne, but I don't think you can for Cashel & Emly. Collette was very interested to hear that we have over 50,000 Irish death notices indexed on the TIARA website.

At a lunch break of soup and sandwiches I sat opposite a Higgins (which was my mother's maiden name) and we discussed their localities in Ireland and also talked about Bernardo O'Higgins, the liberator of Chile who was born to an Irish father and a Creole mother.

Brian Donovan Speaking on the Digitization of Irish Records
Brian Donovan Speaking on the Digitization of Irish Records

In the afternoon I went to Brian Donovan's talk on the current state of digitization of Irish records. This was very similar to the talk he gave earlier in the month to the combined IFHS/CIGO/TIARA meeting at the National Library, except that here he was blessed with a computer and power point presentation, which was a great improvement over the unfocussable overhead projector at the Library. He described the on-again, off-again attempts by the GRO to digitize their records of Civil Registrations. An early attempt using optical character recognition (OCR) failed because of the small type size used in the printed index books. That process also omitted the handwritten additions and notes that were often added after the books had been printed and bound. The results of this initial attempt had a 10% error rate which was unacceptable. In 2001 they gave up this attempt and proceeded to type in all the entries into a database. Brian talked about the access to which is provided for free at the Genealogy Advice Service at the National Library. I used that service and found it helpful, but frustrating because the computers were not hooked up to a printer and you had to transcribe what you found. One of the new CDROMs that Eneclann has released is passenger lists of ships arriving in Ireland from North America and elsewhere in the years 1858-1870. These were collected as part of a government effort to search out suspected Fenians who might be returning to Ireland to foment rebellion. This was an especial concern as large numbers of Irish men had served on one or another side of the American Civil War, gaining experience in military tactics and weaponry. The CD has over 60,000 names. The big news from Eneclann is their launch next week of a non-profit group, in cooperation with Trinity College Dublin called Archive CD Books Ireland, which has begun scanning and indexing the holdings of Trinity's Library. Some of the initial offerings to go on sale Wednesday include Lews' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1847 and many street directories, including Slater's Directory 1846 and Henry & Coughlan's 1867 Directory of Cork. See for info.

George Handran Speaking on The Wealth of the Irish Poor Law
George Handran Speaking on "The Wealth of the Irish Poor Law"

As George Handran was being introduced for his lecture on the Wealth of the Irish Poor Law, we were informed that it was his birthday and we all sang "Happy Birthday". In one of George's examples he showed the reports and affidavits attesting to the ancestry of a woman who had lived in England most, if not all of her life, but when she and her children had to go into the workhouse, the Guardians there had the whole family deported to Ireland as was often done, the justification being they were Irish beggars, let the Irish rate payers support them. The question in George's presentation was which evidence to believe, but in my mind the greater question is how could they uproot people like that, especially her children, all of whom had been born in England.

Gregory O'Connor of the National Archives and TIARA Member Pat Concannon
Gregory O'Connor of the National Archives
and TIARA Member Pat Concannon

The day was capped with a mulled wine reception and banquet. The choices on the banquet were salmon or prime rib. Again I made the mistake of opting for the beef and was disappointed by a rather overdone, grisly slice of something you wouldn't put in a cheese steak sub back home. Someone at the end of our table ordered a bottle of wine, which they paid for, but soon afterwards several bottles were uncorked and placed on out table and when it was learned that the wine was included they asked for and received a refund. My opposite across the table at dinner was one John Conklin who was just publishing an encyclopedia of Leixlip history.

We were then entertained by members of the local Kilnadeema chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann but when the offerings switched from lively reels to a sonorous ballad, I felt sleepy and headed off to bed.


I forgot to mention yesterday that the tea and biscuits in my room was just to keep me going until the dining room opened for breakfast. It's my practice at home to get up about six and work on the computer for a while before breakfast. As I am on the road without scribing tools other than a pad of ruled paper and a biro (ballpoint pen), I spend my early morning hours composing my trip diary from notes.

Breakfast both Saturday and Sunday was quite nice. I had a full, cooked Irish breakfast of eggs, sausages, streaky bacon (American style), black pudding (blood sausage), white pudding (God only knows), rack of toast, pot of tea, and of course - orange juice.

Reading the newspaper the other day I noticed some of the real estate ads. You can buy an 8-bedroom Georgian house on 31 acres in Sligo for 2 million euros, a Malahide mansion for 4.6mil euro, a Phoenix park semi-detached for 440k euro, a 2 bedroom in Tallow, county Waterford for 100k euro, 4 bedroom in Ratoath, county Westmeath for 545k euro and a decrepit looking car garage in Ranelagh, Dublin sold for 340k euros. This was not a garage as in automobile repair place or gas station. It was simply a stucco-clad flat-roofed structure with a single door and no windows fronting on a back alley.

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