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

Sunday, March 20th

The first lecture I went to today was given by Eamon Rossi of Irish Genealogy, Ltd. They act as a marketing support for the Irish genealogy Project heritage centres, but not all of them have opted to participate in what is meant to be a national signposting index. Thus far, nine centres have joined the central signposting index. Trying to coordinate and bring some common purpose to such a diverse group of organizations must be akin to herding cats. The IGP centres overall have indexed 76% of the available parish records, amounting to 10.5 million records. I wanted to ask how the release of parish records up to 1905, as mentioned by Collette Flaherty, will affect this. The IGP centres also have 3.1 million civil records for their areas and 4.1 million records from Griffiths Valuation, the Tithe Applotments and 1901 census for a total of 18 million records on IGP centres. When this project was begun in the 1980s the databases were built on VAX computers from Digital Equipment Corporation. As the software and hardware became obsolete, centres have had to transfer all of their records to new databases on PCs. The original data input was done by unemployed people who signed onto government funded training schemes to gain computer skills. The economy in Ireland is such now that there aren't a lot of people who need job training, or jobs. This the centres are left with some 3.2 million records to be completed and nobody to do the work. Volunteers are hard to find with the ability to do this work and there is no government funding to hire anyone. Asked about when the Kerry centre would reopen, Eamon said they do not plan to open until all of the available records have been indexed. The suggestion that all such records should be turned over to the county Libraries drew applause but no comment from the speaker.

Mr. Rossi also described some of the efforts being done by different agencies. The National Archives is putting the complete 1901 and 1911 census records online and it will be searchable for free over the Internet. The GRO has completed its index of civil registrations for births, deaths, and marriages but there is not yet a date for launching an online service.

Eamon Rossi and John Grenham
Eamon Rossi and John Grenham

John Grenham gave a talk on Emigration records. Beginning in 1890 the Board of Trade keeps lists of passengers departing from Irish ports, including Queenstown. I think he said these records were at the PRO in Kew, England, but I'm not sure. He spoke of various factors that affected Irish emigration over the years. During the Napoleonic wars, for example, there was a decline in emigration as farmers were getting good prices for their crops and shipping was reduced due to closed ports and threats of attack by naval forces or privateers. After the wars ended, crop prices fell, reducing the standard of living. With foreign ports reopened, and with returned soldiers flooding the labor pool, many Irish decided to seek their fortunes in a new land. Many shipping lines that had reduced operations during the war were eager to build up the passenger trade again and offered low fares to emigrants.

The United States didn't begin to regulate immigration until 1820, but the port of Philadelphia required baggage lists of arriving ships from 1800-1819. These lists give information on passengers. There is also a database of famine immigrants to New Brunswick at archives.gnb.ca. He mentioned the copper miners from around Eyries in the Beara Peninsula of West Cork who went to Butte, Montana to work in the mines. The Ulster-American Folk Park in Omagh, County Tyrone, has a database of emigration records that you can access at their Library but if you email them and ask them politely they might give you a username and password to access it over the Internet. Someone mentioned that a new database of the Search for Missing Friends series was recently put online by Boston University, and I corrected them that it was, in fact, Boston College that had put it online. I had been invited to attend the launch at BC on March 17th, but had to beg off as I was in a dog in Galway that day.

Anne Rodda's talk was about resources available for people overseas tracing cousins who went to America. She pointed out that the index of New York passenger lists only goes up to 1847, neglecting to mention the multi-volume set of books called "The Famine Immigrants" that lists passengers arriving from Ireland during the great famine of the last 1840s. She also described how many Irish went home for a visit, for a funeral, or to care for an aging parent. If they had become naturalized and stayed out of the country for five years, they lost their U. S. citizenship.

John Grenham gave an additional talk on valuation records. As part of the effort to decentralize government departments, he informed us, the Valuation Office would be moving to Youghal in county Cork, but that the research archives would stay in Dublin. The GRO is planning to move to Roscommon, but will maintain a research room in Dublin. The house books for Griffith's Valuation are at the National Archives in Bishop St. (call no. NAI3761.) The valuation maps and cancelled books for the six counties of Northern Ireland are all at the PRONI in Belfast. In the original valuation only houses worth more than five pounds were included. That's five pounds for the house, not including value of the land. There are microfilmed copies of the cancelled books, but because they are in black and white and the information in the cancelled books are in different color codes to identify which year is which, you lose the information value. Not all of the valuation maps have the key numbers on the map that correspond with the property cited in the books.
Jim Herlihy gave a talk on a Legal case he was involved in where someone was trying to prove they were related to an Irish woman named Sheehan who died in the U.S. with nobody to inherit her estate. At one point he referred to someone as a bunch of "liars" but I realized eventually he was referring to "lawyers". he had a very interesting PowerPoint presentation about how he tracked down all the records, but something went awry halfway through and he had to restart. Unfortunately, he had to rush a bit and the person monitoring the lecture kept ringing a bell, which Jim kept ignoring. Jim Herlihy and Collette O'Flaherty
Jim Herlihy and Collette O'Flaherty

When it came time for me to give my talk on "Using the Internet for Irish Genealogy I had to make haste as it was the end of the day and people were wanting to get home. I've given this talk a dozen times or more, but never so fast as I did that day. At the end of the day the lecture monitor said he was sorry they hadn't had me on earlier in the day so more people could have heard me. In any event, for those that were there it was well received. Not seeing Jim Aherne in the audience, I asked if anyone was heading into Galway and I was luck to get a ride right to the door of the hostel.
I dropped my stuff in the room—no lockers—there were two Japanese men who didn't look like thugs so I wasn't too concerned about the lack of lockers and headed off to get some supper. I had been thinking about Conlon's Seafood on Eglinton Street which was only a couple of blocks away. I had a nice haddock and chips for €9.90 including a pot of tea. And then to bed. Sleepzone Hostel in Galway
Sleepzone Hostel in Galway

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