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  • Irish Holdings at NEHGS

    Sheila Westgate

    Published Date : April 1987
    The New England Historic Genealogical Society has been given a gift of $25,000, the interest of which is to be used for the purchase of Irish studies materials.  This is a delightful challenge and the first step has been to determine exactly what we have already.  The collection was found on three floors and in four catalogs so it seems that a brief resume of our findings might be useful to others.

    On beginning to trace one’s ancestors in Ireland one is frequently told “most records have been burned.”  Although most of the contents of the Public Record Office in Dublin were destroyed in 1922, including valuable records dating from medieval times, all was not lost.  Many records up to this century were kept in England and many records in Ireland had been copied by 19th century genealogists such as Lodge and Betham and by the Record Commission of Great Britain.

    The Public Record Office of Ireland (P.R.O.I.) published annual Reports by the Deputy Keeper beginning in 1869, and we are fortunate to have here most of them from the third through the 30th (1871-1901), including the important Appendices to the 22nd, 26th, 27th, and 30th volumes, which contain the Indexes to the Act or Grant Books and to the Original Wills of the Diocese of Dublin to 1800 A.D., and also the Indexes to the Calendar of Christ Church Deeds, 1174 to 1684 A.D. We need the 55th through the 58th Reports and their Appendices (1928-1950), which list materials saved from the fire or later acquired.

    Other collections or indexes of wills in our possession include those edited by Rev. Wallace Glare, W.P.W. Phillimore, and Gertrude Thrift, and the Abstract of Wills in the Registry of Deeds, Dublin,by P. Beryl Eustace. Of the last we possess only Volume I. We will purchase the recently published Volume 3 and will try to locate Volume 2.

    For burial records we are fortunate to possess 12 of the 13 volumes (Volume I is missing) of the Memorials of the Dead; Some Funeral Entries from a Manuscript in the British Museum; and Gravestone Inscriptions from Belfast and from Counties Armagh and Down.

    For marriages we have Farrar’s Irish Marriages, 1771-1812, and Indexes to the Marriage License Bonds of the Diocese of Cork and Ross, 1620-1750 and to the Diocese of Cloyne, 1630-1800.

    For parish registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials we possess the 12 volumes published by the Parish Register Society of Dublin, with records from 1619 to 1800.

    For family histories we have several books of ancient genealogies and 54 published family histories, as well as 56 books on local history in 27 counties. These latter sources often contain genealogical material.

    We have collected biographies such as O’Callaghan’s History of the Irish Brigades in France, D’Alton’s King James’ Irish Army List (1689), and Webb’s Compendium of Irish Biography (1878).

    For surveys of Ireland we have Pender’s Census of Ireland c. 1659; Simington’s Civil Survey, 1654-56; Mason’s Statistical Account or Parochial Survey, 1814-19; and the General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland from the census of 1851.

    We have ample reference manuals, including the indispensable two volumes by Falley, and the major bibliographies, printed immigrant lists, and works on nobility, heraldry, etc. (prior to 1920 often listed under “British” sources).

    We have some of the important histories of Ireland, including four of the ancient annals, Four Masters, Loch Ce, Giraldus, and Polychronicon. We have Curtis’s Irish Historical Documents, 1172-1922; Green’s The Making of Ireland and its Undoing, 1200-1600 A.D.; Maxwell’s Irish History from Contemporary Sources, 1509-1610; Orpen’s Ireland under the Normans, 1169-1 716; and Prendergast’s Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland (published 1865). We would like to add more recent histories.

    Our Rare Book Collection includes Croker’s Narratives Illustrative of the Contests in Ireland in 1641 and 1690 (which includes “Maeariae Excidium”); King’s State of the Protestants of Ireland under the Late King James (1691); Walter Harris’s Hibernica (1770); and Ayloffe’s Calendar of the Ancient Charters (1772).

    We have material on emigration and immigration which includes passenger lists, on the Irish in America and the Irish in Canada. [New titles on the large Irish communities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick include the Saint John Alms and Workhouse records for the 1840s, at the peak of the Famine immigration. Indeed, our Canadian collection is strong on source records for Irish [53] genealogical studies in Canada and New England.] We also have atlases and [city] directories for use in following migration patterns.

    I have left to the end the two perhaps most useful sources of genealogy presently in our collection. The first is journals. We have complete runs of the two leading current periodicals on Irish genealogy: The Irish Genealogist, published in London from 1937, and The Irish Ancestor, published in Ireland from 1969.  It is in journals such as these that one finds much of the research published today. I hope we can add some others such as The Irish Sword, The Journal of the Cork Historical, and Archaeological Society, and Irish Historical Studies.

    Library visitors may refer to an excellent list of recent publications in Elton’s Annual Bibliography of British and Irish History to which we subscribe.

    The last source I will mention is a complete set of Casey’s 15-volume O’Kief, Coshe Mang, Slieve Lougher and Upper Black water, a forbidding title in itself.  One is further daunted by the size and weight of the volumes, which number about two thousand pages.  Each page is made up of four, photographically reduced pages; readers will often need a magnifying glass.  The name index at the back of each volume is hard to read and not completely reliable, but the wealth of material for counties Cork and Kerry (and some for the rest of Ireland) make its serious study worthwhile.  Fortunately there is a separate subject index volume as well as a table of contents in the front of each volume.  Incidentally, the New York Public Library and the Boston Public Library both have partial sets of this work.

    Library visitors should ask about aids to reading old documents and about other obscure or unexpected sources.  For instance, an arts and crafts book may contain genealogical clues such as pewter marks and dates.

    I have listed here only the highlights of our collection. We now have available (first presented at our April 4 seminar with The Irish Ancestral Research Association) a complete listing of 450 titles, divided into categories and with call numbers, in the hope that the Irish material will be more easily accessible. As more books are acquired, titles will appear in the “Recent Books” column in the Register.  

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