In June\July 2021, Ancestor Network, Ireland’s preeminent and most trusted Irish genealogy research, advisory and publishing business, ran a series of workshops on topics that you have told us you would like to know more about.

In the four sessions we covered, Irish Catholic Church Records, Irish Rentals as a Family History Source, Understanding Irish Placenames by and Planning a Genealogy Research Visit to Ireland.

We have now edited these sessions and they are now available to buy in our Shop and keep, for just €19.99.

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Below we recap on the specifics of each, what was covered and who conducted the session.

Session 1: Irish Catholic Church Records by Dr James Ryan

This fully illustrated talk outlined Irish Catholic records and the history of their creation and survival. It detailed the format and content of surviving records and where they be accessed. Ireland has historically been a predominantly Catholic country. However, for historical reasons, the earliest Catholic church record is for 1670, and records are sparse until the early 19th century. Nevertheless they are the only evidence of most 18th and 19th century Irish people. It is therefore useful to understand the history of Irish Catholics, and the political and social factors which affected record‐keeping.

In the 18th century the Catholic Church was severely repressed by the Penal Laws. Church administration and records developed during the later 18th century and early 19th century. However, there is very clear regional variation in the extent and form of record‐keeping. Major factors which determine whether and when individual parishes kept records include: (1) Parish income (2) The level of education of priests (3) General disorganization of the church. The social and church customs associated with the specific events of baptism, marriage and death, are also important, including the location of these events (e.g. in the home or church). The talk provided a comprehensive account of Irish Catholic records and the historical events which affected their creation and survival.

It covered which records survive and what they contain; why the availability of records varies between regions and parishes, and other factors. It also covers where the records may now be accessed; which have been indexed, and other useful background.

Session 2: Irish Rentals as a Family History Source – Delivered by James Ryan

Rentals are the records of landlords. The talk explored Irish rentals; information contained, and where and how they can be found. It is fully illustrated with examples. Rentals are the private records of landlords or their agents. They are particularly important in Ireland where land ownership was only for the very rich, and tenancy was the norm. Although hugely variable in format, almost all contain at least names, places and dates of tenancies.

Their format usually varies according to (a) size of estate, (b) who is making the record, and (c) nature of tenancy. In short, large estates kept detailed records, whereas smaller landlords knew their tenants and details were not needed. Many large estates were owned by ‘absentee landlords’ who lived in England, and rarely visited Ireland. These estates were managed by Estate Agents who sent regular rental reports to the landlord. These contain what an estate owner would wish to know; i.e. tenants, rental income, reasons for non‐payment, actions taken, issues affecting future income etc.

Finally, there were different forms of tenancy ranging from the ‘tenant at will’ status, to rental for a period of years, to tenant for ‘lives’, i.e. held for as long as defined persons survived. The latter status is sometimes defined within a rental. They are valuable as the lives are often of family members, particularly children. This talk will explore the nature and range of rentals, their historical background and evolution during the 1600s to 1900; type of information contained, and how they can be found. It will be fully illustrated with examples of records and their content.

Session 3: Understanding Irish Placenames – Aiden Feerick and Dr James Ryan

Finding the home of your ancestors is central to understanding whatever records they left behind. However, the nature of the land divisions they referred to and their names are sometimes very confusing. Places identified in older records like, for example, in Church baptism and marriage records, can puzzle even experienced researchers. This talk reviewed the background to the land divisions mentioned, name the provinces of Ireland, the Baronies, the Civil Parishes, the counties, and the Poor Law Unions and discuss the reasons behind them. Mention was also be made of the ecclesiastical divisions into parishes and dioceses. The talk also examined townland names and how they came into being by examining the physical features of the area and by considering the built landscape.

Originally, place names and land divisions were essentially Gaelic but the coming of the Vikings, Normans and English brough about some changes. When Ireland was ruled from Westminster from 1801 to 1922, the process of the Anglicization of place names began to gather pace with the mapping of the country by the Ordnance survey.

This talk will help you to understand the different name forms and the sources to help you find currently accepted placename spellings. You will also be shown how to locate these place names on current maps in addition to advice on some of the most useful websites and how they work.

Session 4: Planning a Genealogical Research Visit to Ireland – John Hamrock and Michael Rooney

This workshop is a virtual tour the main archives, libraries, repositories, and heritage centres in Dublin, Belfast and around Ireland for conducting Irish Genealogical Research. Before going on any genealogical research trip, compile as much information about your ancestor including names, places, trades, religion, and dates if at all possible. Prepare a detailed family tree you can bring with you. Use records from your home country first and work back in time. Imaginative planning is required to get the most out of one’s limited time and financial resources.

Utilising Ancestor Network’s website, Irish Genealogy Map – Ancestor Network including an interactive map, street addresses and opening hour times, website and contact details, participants will learn about over thirty places to research in Ireland. This can be complemented by other hotel and travel sites with information on convenient places to stay, transportation means, restaurant and café and shopping information.

Used in conjunction with Ancestor Network’s two page website listing of ‘Irish Genealogical Sources’, one can put together a detailed plan of what institutions to visit and develop an itinerary of the hours and dates to visit each.

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About our Experts:

James Ryan Ph.D. is an author, speaker, writer and publisher who has been active in Irish genealogy for the past thirty-five years.

Aiden Feerick has a B.A. and a Certificate in Genealogy from University College, Dublin. He is a member of Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI), a member of the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS) and a member of the Genealogical Society of Ireland (GSI). He is also joint founder and a Director of Ancestor Network Ltd.

John Hamrock is one of the co-founders and Managing Director of Ancestor Network. He holds a BSc in Business Administration from Suffolk University and an MBA in International Business and Industrial Development from Ulster University. He holds a Diploma in Genealogy from the National University of Ireland UCD. He is formerly Chairman of the Genealogy Society of Ireland. John is the author of Tracing your Roscommon Ancestors, Flyleaf Press, Dublin, 2007.

Michael Rooney is a Director of Ancestor Network and leads the company’s Northern Ireland branch operation. Michael holds a B.A. from Queens University in Ancient History and Byzantine Studies, and from the University of Durham, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education and a Postgraduate.

 

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