Friday, April 19, 2019

Researching Your Irish Ancestors Seminar

Everyone still has something to learn, no matter how long you have been researching. And it was no different for me when I attended the recent Researching Your Irish Ancestors seminar, put on by Unlock the Past.

The two speakers were David Rencher, Chief Genealogical Officer for FamilySearch, and Dr Perry McIntyre, chair of the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee.

Dr Perry McIntyre (left) & David Rencher (right)

About half my Irish ancestors are Catholic, and the other half are Church of Ireland. I have been lucky with some of these Church of Ireland families, in that the records for their parish survived the fire of 1922. In at least one case I have been able to view the original registers, which means that the parish could prove they had somewhere safe to keep them and they were not submitted to the Public Records Office and therefore not in the Four Courts Building in 1922. In other cases I have seen poor quality microfilms, perhaps of the original register, or perhaps of a copy retained when the original was submitted to the PRO. In other cases the parish registers were amongst those which went up in smoke. The families from those parishes have become some of my brick walls

What I learnt was that the Vestry minutes were not part considered official public records, and therefore were not in the PRO. There are two kinds of Vestry Minutes: Select Vestry  and General Vestry. Any of these might have references to your ancestors, though they are not likely to be references to exact baptism, marriage or burial records. But if a person is mentioned at a certain point in time, then they were alive at that point. Some lateral thinking might be required, but it might help.

Many of these Vestry Minute Books are held at the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin.

Another lesson I learnt, which I really should have realized before, was that you should still look in Church of Ireland records for your non-Church of Ireland ancestors. This means not only the Catholics, but the Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and so on. The reason for this is that the Church of Ireland was the official State Church, and therefore had responsibility for matters like probate, poor relief, local taxes and so on.