Connacht Landed Estates Database

July 4th, 2008

At the recent Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Ireland at the University of Limerick,  Marie Boran and Brigid Clesham of NUI Galway gave a very interesting presentation on the Connacht Landed Estates Project.

The key output of the Connacht Landed Estates Project is an online database of the landed estates and gentry houses of Connacht, c. 1700-1914.  The research and publication of this database was funded by the Irish Council for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences and it is hosted by the Moore Institute for Research at NUI Galway.

Connacht Landed Estates Project

So, what information is included in the database?  All the major seats of the landed gentry in Connacht were identified and indexed, along with additional information on families that lived there and relevant publications. Below is an outline of some of the ways in which you can search the database.

To search for an estate: for example, the Wingfield Estate.
Click on Estates A-Z in the left hand navigation bar. Select the letter ‘W’ and from the search results, click on ‘Wingfield.’

Wingfield - Connaght Landed Estates
The search results firstly mention any associated families, in this case Wingfield/Wingfield King, Stratford and Atkinson. Click on any of these names to find out more about these families.Next there follows a description of the estate which includes information on the owner and how the land was passed down the generations, or to other families.

The next section lists the house(s) on that estate, providing an image of the house where this is available, plus a description of it. It also details the townland, civil parish, poor law union, district electoral division, barony and county within which the house falls, plus its ordnance survey / discovery map reference. In the case of the Wingfield estate a number of houses are listed: Moyview, Knockroe, Scurmore, Woodhill House, Ballygreighen and Carrownurlar. Click on the house name and you’ll be taken to a page showing the house’s exact position on Yahoo! Maps.

The researcher is then provided with three different source lists. Firstly there are references to archival sources, such as the Verner-Wingfield Collection (D/2538) in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

Secondly there is a list of contemporary printed sources (such as Griffith’s Valuation and Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary) and finally a list of modern printed sources (for instance Desmond Norton’s Landlords, tenants, famine: the business of an Irish land agency in the 1840s. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2006).

There are other ways of searching too. For instance, if you know the family’s surname but not the estate, you could search under Surnames A-Z. If we take the Wingfield family again, by searching on their surname we can see that there are four estates associated with this family: Warren, Wingfield, Atkinson and Stratford.

It is also possible to search on a house name. Let’s take Moyview as an example. If you select M, you then scroll down until you find Moyview, you will see a short description of the house. There is no photo for this entry, but many houses have been photographed. Click on the link and you are taken to the Yahoo! Map which pinpoints exactly where the house stands.

For those of us who are not descended from the landed gentry, it is still useful and interesting to understand who the landlord for the area in which your ancestor lived. Let’s suppose you know your ancestor came from Kilcolgan, Co. Galway.  It is possible to find out more about who owned land there by peforming a general search using the search box. Simply type ‘Kilcolgan’ into the search box on the left hand side of the home page. There are a number of results but the St. George, Taylor and Gregory families are shown to have owned land in Kilkogan.

This database is a fantastic source for the researcher of Connaught between 1700 and 1914. It is well structured and easy to navigate, and a huge amount of work has gone into its creation. The project principal was Prof Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, the researchers were Ms. Marie Boran and Ms. Brigid Clesham, and the technical adviser was Mr. Joe Desbonnet.

The good news for those of you who are researching Munster is that the team is currently working on creating a similar database for this province.  However it will take several years before the database is published – hardly surprising given the amount of information that has to be researched.

Go to the Connacht Landed Estates Project.

New CDs from Eneclann & Archive CD Books

July 3rd, 2008

Eneclann has announced the launch of a number of new publications in their Archive CD Books range.  These include:

Slater’s Royal National and Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1870 which includes 1,200 pages of text and more than 120,000 names. This directory covers all four provinces which are then subdivided into counties.  Information for towns and villages includes population data (based on the 1861 census), geographical and topographical information, names and addresses of principal private residents and the names of some people who are working in commercial and agricultural roles. There is also detailed information on the cities of Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Galway.  The CD retails at €49.50 (excluding VAT) but it is possible to purchase just a provincial section at a reduced cost.

The Registers of the French Church of Portarlington 1694-1816 record the births, marriages and deaths of the French Huguenot community in this Co. Laois town, while the Registers of St. Patrick, Dublin 1677-1800 contain 110 pages of mainly baptism and burial records for the Collegiate and Cathedral Church of St. Patrick. These CDs retail at €16.45 and €12.31 respectively (excluding VAT).

View more of Eneclann’s new releases.

Your Views: National Library’s Collection Development Policy

July 2nd, 2008

As the library of record for Ireland, The National Library of Ireland is given statutory responsibility for ‘collecting, conserving and making available library material relating to Ireland and also with contributing to the provision of access to library material relating to other countries.’

Colette O’Flaherty, Keeper of Printed & Visual Collections, has made a draft Collection Development Policy available on the National Library’s website. The policy should ‘act as a framework for the Library’s consultation with other Irish collecting institutions as collaborative approaches to all aspects of library activity in Ireland are further developed.’

Colette invites you to review the National Library of Ireland’s draft Collection Development Policy document and to pass on your views, comments or questions by Friday, 4 July 2008.

CIGO asks you to support the early release of the 1926 census for the Republic of Ireland

June 27th, 2008

Irish genealogical organisations are urging the government to make the 1926 census returns available to the public.

The 1926 census was compiled eighty-two years ago. Normally such records would not be made public until one hundred years after they were created, unlike the United States where the tariff is just seventy years.

However, the 1911 census for Ireland was made available in 1961, after only fifty years. The accepted reason for this is that so many of Ireland’s early census returns had been destroyed: those of 1821 – 1851 were destroyed in the 1922 Public Record office fire, while the 1861 – 1891 census returns had already been destroyed by government order. As a result, there was a huge gap in the census returns for Ireland, which was somewhat mitigated by the release of the 1911 census.

The Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) has recently set up a petition for the early release of the 1926 census returns.  CIGO suggests that if the 1926 census were made available, further information on individuals who were born prior to civil registration (which commenced in 1864) could be gleaned. They argue that few people mentioned in this census are still living, and that the information held in the census is already available elsewhere, so cannot be deemed ‘sensitive.’  CIGO also intimate that the Genealogical Society of Ireland will propose a bill for the early release of the 1921 census returns.

On CIGO’s website they ask ‘all those with an interest in Irish genealogy to support [us] and GSI in any way they can. Everyone who is interested in this issue can help the success of the campaign by signing CIGO’s petition which is to be presented to Brian Cowen TD, the Taoiseach [Prime Minister] of Ireland.’

Add your name to the petition for the early release of the 1926 census for the Republic of Ireland.

The Blennerhassett Challenge

June 18th, 2008

Dr Mark Humphrys has recently launched a competition to see whether any genealogist can help him investigate a mystery he’s been trying to solve for the last 23 years. Dr Humphrys is offering a €1,000 first prize (plus some smaller ones) to anyone who can help him find a link between two Irish families.

The Challenge: Can you help Mark Humphrys find a pertinent link between the Irish Cashel and Blennerhassett families?

Aunt Pat’s Blennerhassett Tree

Mark’s Grand-Aunt put together the tree above which implies there is a link between the two families, and Humphrys has been trying to establish a link (or prove that there isn’t one) since 1985, but without any luck to date.

Mark attributes his interest in genealogy to spending time at his Granny’s house in the 1980s as a teenager. ‘My family were all involved in the 1916-23 revolutions,’ he explains, ‘and the various family homes are full of memories of that period.’

So, why is he so eager to make a connection between the Cashels and the Blennerhassets? ‘The Blennerhassetts connect to the main “Western family tree” from which millions of people provably descend (including my wife and kids, but not me),’ says Mark. ‘If someone proves the link, I become a cousin of my wife, I inherit non-Irish ancestors for the first time, I can now visit standing houses in England where my ancestors came from, medieval history becomes full of events on which my existence probably depends, and I am related to all these people: Lots of fun. I suppose I’ve always thought every genealogist would be interested in getting onto the “Western family tree”. Sure there’s lots of fun in genealogy otherwise, but how could one not be interested in that?’

So, how is the challenge going so far? ‘Lots of interest,’ says Mark, ‘but no one has even cracked an interim result yet, let alone the big prize. They’re sending me stuff about random Cashels and Blennerhassetts but only one person has sent me stuff about my own Cashel line so far. It’s early days though.’

Let us know if you manage to find the missing link!

The Love Letters of Thomas and Muriel MacDonagh

June 16th, 2008

Thomas MacDonagh was an organiser of the 1916 rising and a signatory of the 1916 proclamation.  He was subsequently executed. 

The National Library of Ireland recently acquired a collection of correspondence including love letters between Thomas MacDonagh and his wife Muriel, as well as letters from other members of their families.  The letters provide insights into their private lives: their relationship with each other, their children and their families, who were from different religious traditions.  The letters help to provide a more complete picture of MacDonagh and demonstrate the personal sacrifice he made for his beliefs.  For more information, see the latest edition of the National Library of Ireland’s Newsletter (Issue 32).

Father’s Day Special: Are You Related to Niall of the Nine Hostages?

June 14th, 2008

To celebrate Father’s day, two Irish pubs will be offering fathers the chance to have their DNA tested on 15th May to see if they might be related to Niall of the Nine Hostages, the famous Irish king.

The pubs are Seán’s Bar in Atholone and McSorley’s in New York.  To take part you simply need to have a cheek swab taken.  The swab will  be sent to Oxford Ancestors, a DNA testing company at Oxford University, who will test it for the Y-chromosome associated with the Uí Néill sept, returning the results in a month’s time.

Irish Genealogy Cruise: 10-18 January 2008

June 11th, 2008

TIARA (The Irish Ancestral Research Association) is organizing an Irish genealogy cruise in January 2009.

The Royal Caribbean ship, Independence of the Seas, will depart from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on the afternoon of Saturday, January 10 and there will be a welcome cocktail party so you can get to know your fellow Irish family historians.

There are three full days of lectures and these cover a wide range of subjects – there should be something there for everyone from the complete novice to the more seasoned researcher. Topics covered include Griffith’s Valuation, Irish Civil Records, Canadian and US sources, estate records and the National Archives. There are also very practical sessions on writing your family history using Microsoft Word, a case study workshop and planning your research trip to Ireland.

The programme’s speakers are:

  • Valerie Adams, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast
  • Mary Ellen Grogan, TIARA, Boston
  • George Handran, Boston (expert on Griffith’s Valuation)
  • Michael J. Leclerc, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston
  • Gregory O’Connor, National Archives of Ireland, Dublin

As well as a packed programme of genealogy lectures while at sea, you’ll also want to do a bit of sightseeing and there is ample opportunity for this as the ship docks in San Juan -Puerto Rico, Charlotte Amalie - St. Thomas, Philipsburg - St. Maarten and Labadee – Haiti.

Because this cruise provides such a great background for Irish researchers, TIARA have decided that attendees will be given priority on their annual research trip to Ireland.  Certainly if you are from North America and planning to go to Ireland sometime soon, this series of lectures will mean that you are well-equipped to maximise your time on the Emerald Isle - with a bit of winter sun thrown in!

Find out more about TIARA’s Irish Genealogy Cruise.

Tracing your Irish Ancestors at The National Archives, Kew, United Kingdom

June 9th, 2008

Irish family historians will be aware that, until less than a century ago, Ireland was part of the United Kingdom; indeed today six counties in Ulster remain part of the UK. For this reason, many of the records in the British National Archives are of relevance to the Irish genealogist.

The National Archives in Kew, England have organised a series of podcasts on a broad range of topics. Of particular interest is a presentation by Audrey Collins (author of The Complete Guide to Creating Your Own Family Tree and Who Was Your Granny’s Granny?) identifying some of the records relating to Ireland that are held The National Archives.

Collins explains that there are really two kinds of record of interest to the Irish researcher: firstly there are those that are very obviously records that relate to Ireland, but secondly there are records that form part of a general series but include Irish entries. Examples of the former would include RIC records, the Irish Reproductive Loan fund records, Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust papers and Dublin Castle records. Some general records in which you might find Irish entries include the records of the armed forces, Merchant Navy, Customs and Excise, Home Office and Coastguards, probate records and information on outward migration from the UK which may include Irish people and ports.

Listen to Audrey Collins’ podcast on Tracing your Irish Ancestors at the National Archives, Kew.

Irish Surnames: O’Neill

June 6th, 2008

The O’Neills of Ulster were one of the most well-known septs in Ireland. They descend from Niall Glúndub, the King of Ireland. A reference to Domnall O’Neill, his grandson, is given in the Annals for the year 943, making it one of the earliest mentioned surnames.

The Tyrone O’Neills were one of the main families, descending from Niall of the Nine Hostages, while the Clannaboy O’Neills were found in Co. Antrim. According to MacLysaght, there were septs of the same name in Thomond, Co. Waterford and Co. Carlow. The surname is now common throughout Ireland, although it remains particularly common in Antrim and Tyrone.

The current Chief of the O’Neills of Clannaboy is Hugo O’Neill who was born in Portugal.


If you’re interested in Irish surnames, we recommend MacLysaght’s ‘The Surnames of Ireland’ as a useful guide. Click on your country to take a look at the book: Ireland and UK, Canada and USA. (Select Ireland & UK if your country is not shown).