Category : Genealogy Articles


Ireland’s genealogy project archives

Compiled by Christina Hunt

Altruism is the foundation on which today’s world of genealogy is built. Family history societies around the world were creating databases to share information freely before the Internet was heard of. The volunteer spirit is still alive, and there are great outlets for those wishing to contribute. Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives (IGPA) is a prime example. Christina Hunt, the IGPA manager, tells its story.
With some 40,000 transcribed and searchable headstone photos and many thousands of transcriptions from church registers, court, military, land and will records, obituary columns and other miscellaneous resources, Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives (IGPA) has come a long way in just five years.
The ‘archives’ evolved as a natural supplement to Ireland Genealogy Projects, our long-standing collection of ‘county’ websites, each of which provides in-depth advice on researching family history at the county level. Each county contains links, research addresses and photos, and some have a selection of transcriptions. IGP was led by the late Don Kelly for more than a decade.
Our ‘County’ webmasters and our archives ‘File Managers’ are all volunteers. At the county level I started out as webmaster for Co. Longford and Co. Tipperary. In the past, I put all kinds of transcriptions in my county projects. Since starting the IGP Archives, my main focus has been on the creation of a wellorganised repository. I think of it like a filing cabinet with the Counties as headings, and then the Subjects under each county.
In the IGP Archives, sharing is very much our ethos. Our view is that a lot of people have a lot of information in their possession. We want the IGPA to be a place where people, whether their families remained in Ireland or emigrated, can share publicly what they have with other family historians.
There are the usual categories that you would expect – birth, marriage and death records, cemeteries and newspapers – but we also have subjects that feature more heavily in Irish research such as Census Substitutes and Constabulary records.
All our records are submitted by family historians from around the globe, and apart from photos, they are presented in plain text which saves space and loading time. With technology changing so rapidly, we also hope plain text will be around for a long time. Text files are easier to copy and paste, which is useful when you want to save a record to your computer or into a genealogy programme or an email. We like to think that we are not just sharing, but helping to preserve information collected by avid Irish genealogists.
Spreadsheets have always served as a useful tool for pulling data out of a document such as a set of baptisms or marriages. Genealogists have already been doing this as they research their families. We convert it to plain text in columns, and upload it to the Archives.
For people who want to share, but have not already transcribed their documents, we have Submission Forms by Genrecords <>. These forms were created by David Crosby for use in the USGenWeb Archives. The forms create a text file for us which speeds up the process.
Headstones are a growing category in IGPA and can be a treasure trove in Ireland, providing names of parents and/or siblings. Considering the lack of records in other areas, they can be a little genealogy set in stone.
While the rest of IGPA is text-based, the headstones section is image-based. We use a free programme called Picassa (a Google product), which can take a whole folder of photos and create a webpage from it, complete with a thumbnail of each photo.


Locating Persons in the United States

It is difficult to trace someone in the United States when their whereabouts are completely unknown, as there are no central records of names and addresses available to the public. For those trying to locate former colleagues, friends or relations the following information may be of assistance. When writing to an agency or organization listed below, you should provide as much information as possible about the person you seek. At least the full name, date and place of birth should be given. For military personnel, the rank, serial number and branch of service should be specified.  NB: IMPORTANT NOTICE – It is NOT possible to trace the whereabouts of persons through U.S. Immigration channels. Records of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service are protected by the Privacy Act and cannot be divulged to third parties.


We hope that success results from your efforts. Unfortunately, The Embassy is unable to initiate a search for an ancestor, missing person or person whose location may be unknown.  However, the following may be of use in your research:




Present day immigration records are stored at the Embassy for a limited period of time.  However, the following address may also be of use to you in your research:


American Family Immigration History Centre

Ellis Island Foundation Inc.

Attn: History Centre

17 Battery Place #210

NY 10004-3507

Phone: (001) 212 561 4588


Immigration and Naturalization Service

423 1st St NW,

Washington D.C. 20536

Tel: (001) 202 633-4316 / 4330 / 4354


The Director of Freedom of Information Staff

Bureau of Public Affairs

Department Of State

Washington D.C. 20520


United States National Archives & Records Administration

8601 Adelphi Road,

College Park,

MD 20740-6001












Records of Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce can be ordered over the internet on  If you do not have internet access you must write to the relevant office in the state of Birth, Death, Marriage or Divorce.  Unfortunately there is no central

Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages to whom you can direct inquiries, however the American Citizen Services Unit, the Consular Section, the American Embassy, 42 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Phone: (01) 237-5809/5810, would be happy to supply you with addresses of the relevant offices when you are in a position to identify the state or states.  For your information, it is often extremely difficult to locate a specific record of a birth, death or marriage without exact information as to the names of the parties involved, the date of the event and the place in which it took place, etc.




In the United States there are Family History Centers, which are usually located within Latter-day Saint churches. There are over 2,400 of these Family History Centers worldwide. Here you can find, or obtain, census returns, wills, church records, etc. from most parts of the world. In addition, you can consult the International Genealogical Index (I.G.I) and the Ancestral File. The I.G.I. is a worldwide index of approximately 187 million names of deceased persons. This index does not contain records of living persons. The Ancestral File contains genealogical data on millions of individuals from many countries, including information on names, places and places of birth, marriage and death. Please note that most of the information on the File concerns deceased persons. The File also contains names and addresses of persons who have submitted information, and this information is updated periodically.  The family history Library may be contacted at the following address, at which a full list of all Family History Centers and their telephone numbers worldwide can be obtained, is located at the following address:


The Family History Library

35 North West Temple Street

Salt Lake City

Utah 84150

Tel: 801-240-2331


Passport Services Research and Liaison Branch

Room 500,

111 9th Street NW

Washington DC 2054-1705

Phone: (001) 202 955 0447




In the 1950’s and 1960’s a number of Irish children were placed for adoption in the United States.  Those wishing to trace records of such children may wish to contact both the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, and the U.S. based Adoptees’ Search organization for assistance in locating passport and other records of these children:


Irish Department of Foreign Affairs

80 St. Stephen’s Green

Dublin 2

Tel: +353-1-4780822



Irish Children Adopted Overseas continued…


The Irish-Born Adoptees’ Search                                    Adoptees’ Liberty Movement

C/o Catherine O’Dea                                                        PO Box 85

18460 Bishop Lane                                                          Denville,

Strongsville, OH 44136                                                   NJ 07834

U.S.A                                                                              Email:

Tel: (001) 216 238-1004                                        




The following organizations may be able to assist in cases of sufficiently compelling humanitarian need and where the missing person is a close relative:


Adoptees’ Liberty Movement Association

P.O. Box 727

Radio City Station

New York, NY 10101


Tel: 001-212-581-1568



International Social Services

New York, NY 10016

Tel: 001-212-532-6350


The Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs will attempt to forward correspondence to missing persons, but only when a considerable monetary or strong humanitarian consideration is involved. You should send a letter intended for the missing person, along with a brief letter of explanation to the appropriate agency. The letter to be forwarded should contain nothing of value and be in a plain, unsealed, unstamped envelope bearing only the person’s name and social security/military serial number. If this number is not known, you should include any other identifying information, such as full name, date and place of birth and parents’ names. The addresses are:


Social Security Administration Department of Veterans Affairs

300 North Green Street

Baltimore, MD 21201

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20420


In the case of the Social Security Administration, a $3.00 fee applies in cases involving a monetary purpose. An International Money Order in dollars should be enclosed and made payable to the Social Security Administration. The SSA will be unable to report whether or not the letter is actually delivered.


Services of a U.S. Attorney

You may wish to retain a lawyer in the U.S. to help you.  The American Bar Association can assist you in locating attorneys within any given state.  Their website address is



How to find family / friends affected by natural disaster

The American Red Cross maintains a database to help you find family.

Contact the local American Red Cross chapter where you are staying for information. Do not contact the chapter in the disaster area.   Their website is


International Family Tracing Services, American Red Cross
2025 E Street NW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20006


The following addresses may also be of use in obtaining assistance in locating a missing adult or child




Search Reports Inc/Central Registry of the Missing        Missing Person’s International

345 Boulevard                                                                 P.O. Box 46896

Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604                                        Los Angeles, CA 90046

Tel: 201 288-4445


National Cener for Missing Adults

PO Box 6389

Glendale, AZ 85312

Tel: 001-602-749-2000





Missing Children – Help Center                                       Missing Children of America

410 Ware Blvd                                                                 P.O. Box 670-949

Ste. 400                                                                            Chugiak, AK 99567

Tampa, FL 33619                                                            Tel: 907 248-7300

Tel: 001-800-872-5437


Adam Walsh Child Resource Center                               Child Find of America

3111 S. Dixie Highway                                                   P.O. Box 277

Ste. 244                                                                            New Paltz, NY 12561

West Palm Beach, FL 33405                                           Tel: 914 255-1848

Tel: 407 833-9080


Find the Children                                                             National Center for

11811 W. Olympic Blvd                                                  Exploited and Missing

Los Angeles, CA 90064                                                  Children





The Irish Consulates in the United States may also be in a position to assist you.





Embassy of Ireland

2234 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.

Washington D.C. 20008

Tel: 202 462-3939/462-3940/462-3941



Irish Consulate General                                     Jurisdiction over the

Ireland House                                                    following states:

345 Park Avenue                                               Connecticut, Delaware

17th Floor                                                          Florida, Georgia,

New York, NY 10154-0037                             Jersey, New York, North

Tel: 212 319-2525/319-2550                             Carolina, Maryland,

Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia,


Irish Consulate General                                     Jurisdiction over the

Chase Building                                                  following states: Maine,

535 Boylston Street                                           Massachusetts, New

Boston, MA 02116                                           Hampshire,

Tel: 617 267-9330/267-4470                             Rhode Island, Vermont



Irish Consulate General                                     Jurisdiction over the

400 North Michigan Avenue                             following state: Alabama,

Chicago, IL 60611                                             Arkansas, Illinois,

Tel: 312 337-1868                                             Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky,                          Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin


Irish Consulate General                                     Jurisdiction over the

44 Montgomery St., Suite 3830                        following states:

San Francisco, CA 94104                                 Alaska,

Tel: 415 392-4214                                             Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming


Honorary Consul of Ireland                              Jurisdiction over the

65 Broadview                                                    following states: Kansas,

St. Louis MI 63105                                           Missouri

Tel: 618 274-0886




Major Irish-American Newspaper in the United States


Irish Echo

309 5th Avenue Room 402

NY 10016-1266

Phone: (001) 212 686 1266





Written requests for assistance in locating information on military personnel currently serving may be sent to the appropriate office Listed below:


Air Force Worldwide Locator                                          Army Worldwide Locator

AFPC/MSIMDL                                                             US Army ELREC

550 C Street W,                                                               Suite 508899 E. 56th Street

Randolph Air Force Base                                                Indianapolis, IN 46249-5301

TX 78150-4752





Locating Active Military Personnel continued…


Navy Worldwide Locator                                                Marine Corps Worldwide Locator

Bureau of Naval Personnel                                              Commandant of the Marine Corps

For family members: BUPRS                                          HQ, USMC, Code MMSB

Pers 324D, 2 Navy Annex                                              Washington, DC 20380-1775

Washington, DC 20370-3240

For non-family: BUPRS

02116, 2 Navy Annex

Washington, DC 20370-0216


Coast Guard Locator

G-MPC-S-3, U.S. Coast Guard

2100 2nd Street SW

Washington, DC 20593


The above locator offices may be able to provide a current address, and in some instances will attempt to forward correspondence to the individual’s military base/unit. Correspondence for the missing service member can be enclosed – together with a brief letter of explanation – to the appropriate service locator. The letter to be forwarded should contain nothing of value and be in a plain, unsealed, unstamped envelope bearing only the individual’s grade, full name, and, if possible, military serial number. Please ensure that your name and return address – including country – is clearly indicated on the top left hand corner of the envelopes, as required by the U.S. Postal Service. Please note that a nominal fee may be charged for this service.




All Official Military Personnel Files of discharged and deceased veterans are kept in the United States at the National Personnel Records Center (N.R.P.C.). Requests for information on former service members must be directed, in writing, to that agency. You should mark your letter for the attention of Mr. Charles Pellegrini and mark it “Do not open in the Mail Room”. A form requesting a record search will be mailed to you. When completing the form, you should provide the full name, including middle initials, details of military service, and the former service member’s serial (or social security) number, if known. Please note that certain restrictions imposed on the N.P.R.C. by the 1974 Privacy Act may make your search more difficult. These restrictions limit disclosure of data from U.S. government files to the individual themselves or to


Those who can provide clear evidence of direct kinship to the individual being sought. In the case of children trying to trace their fathers, the N.P.R.C. is required to provide only the last known town and state – i.e., not a full street address – if they believe the father to be still alive. Addresses on record are often those furnished by the service member at the time of discharge and may well be some years out-of-date. In all instances only written requests – signed and dated – on the appropriate forms will be accepted. The address of the N.P.R.C. is:


National Personnel Records Center

Attn: Mr. Charles Pellegrini, Military Personnel Records

9700 Page Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63132-5100






Locating Former Military Personnel continued…


U.S. citizens wishing to re-establish contact with, or information about, former service friends mainly use military publications and the magazines of veterans’ organizations. A brief notice placed therein reaches a wide audience and may well come to the attention of the individual themselves or a former member of the same unit. As well as individual veterans’ associations’ publications, letters are published in the following large-circulation newspapers and magazines:


Army/Navy/Air Force Times                                           American Legion Magazine

Locator Service’                                                               700 N Pennsylvania Street

6883 Commercial Drive                                                   P.O. Box 1055

Springfield                                                                       Indianapolis, IN 46206

VA 22159-0160


Air Force Magazine                                                         The Retired Officer Magazine

‘Bulletin Board’                                                               201 N Washington Ave

1501 Lee Highway                                                          Alexandria, VA 22314-2539

Arlington, VA 22209-1198


Letters written to the above publications should be brief and preferably typed. Do not send documents or photographs, and please ensure that your name and return address – including country – is clearly indicated.


Requests for information on former military personnel should be addressed to the National Personnel Records Center, Attn: Military Personnel Center, 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132, U.S.A.  You should be aware the addressed on record with this office are usually those furnished by the service member at the time of discharge from the armed forces and they are rarely updated.  You may be required to provide adequate information concerning the service member and proof that your inquiry is made with the permission of the service man’s next of kin.


The publications listed have a wide readership and often feature letters and advertisements from individuals trying to locate former servicemen, their dependents or survivors:


The following associations may be of use in researching those who fought in the American Civil War:


The American Civil War Association, c/o Gary Griesmyer, P.O. Box 1865, Alexandria, VA 22313

The American Historical Association, 400 A. St., S.E., Washington D.C 20003


The Civil War Press Corps, 2724 Heriot Drive, Fayetteville, NC 28311

Civil War Round Table Associates, P.O. Box 7388, Little Rock, Ar 72217

The Civil War Society, 24 N. Buckmarsh St., P.O. Box 770, Berryville, VA 22611

Civil War Token Society, P.O. Box 330, Garnerville, NY 10923

Institute of Civil War Studies, c/o Alexander C. Niven, 141 N. Merranec, Ste. 12, Clayton, MO 63105


The following organizations all pertain to veterans of World War 1, and maybe able to help you in your search for persons involved in these conflicts. 


Veterans of Foreign wars of the U.S.A., VFW Memorial Building, 200 Maryland Avenue, NE, Washington D.C. 20002

The American Historical Association, 400 A. St., S.E., Washington D.C. 20003


The following organizations all pertain to veterans of World War 1, and maybe able to help you in your search for persons involved in these conflicts. 


World War 1 Aeroplanes, 15 Crescent Road, Ploughkeepsie, NY 12601

World War 1 Overseas Flyers, 1037 N. Astor St., Milwaukee, WI 53202

Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.A., VFW Memorial Building, 200 Maryland Avenue, N.E., Washington D.C. 20002

National Ladies Auxiliary to Veterans of World War 1 of the U.S.A., P.O. Box 2907, Bay st., St. Louis, MS 39521-2907

Veterans of World War 1 of U.S.A. 941 N. Capitol St., N.E., Room 1201-C, Washington D.C.

World War Tank Corps Association, 2245 Cypress Drive, Ft., Worth, TX 76133

Military Order of World Wars, 435 N. Lee St., Alexandria, VA 22314

National Association Rainbow Division Veterans, 16916 George Franklyn Drive, Independence, MO 64055

Order of Lafayette (World Wars), c/o Asa E. Phillips, Jr., 1 Post Office Square, Ste., 310, Boston, MA 02109

Retreads (World Wars), c/o Orville A. Rummel, 1504 Umpqua Place, Woodburn, OR 97071

30th Infantry Division Association (World Wars), 13645 Whippet Way, E., Delray Beach, FL 33484


The following organizations all pertain to veterans of World War II, and maybe able to help you in your search for persons involved in these conflicts. 


Veterans of Foreign wars of the U.S.A., VFW Memorial Building, 200 Maryland Avenue, NE, Washington D.C. 20002

Allied Airborne Association, c/o Mark C. Lenze, 155 Cross Road, St. Mary’s, PA 15857

American Division Veterans Association, PO Box 1381, Boston, MA 02104

American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, c/o Capt. Elmer E. Long, Jr., PO Box 12052, New Bern, NC 28561-2050

American Merchant Marine Veterans,  1430 NE 54th St., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33334

Association of Free French in the U.S., c/o Dr. Rudolphe L. Coigney, 1200 5th Avenue, No 12A, NY, NY 10029

B-26 Marauder Historical Society, 14211 Chestfield Rd., Rockville, MD 20853

Bombardiers, 200 Van Buren St., No. 2109, Daphne, Al 36526

China-Burma-India Hump Pilots Association, P.O. Box 458, Poplar Bluss, MO 63901-0458

China-Burma-India Veterans Association, 5860 Amrap Dr., Parma Heights, OH 44130

Combat Merchant Mariners, 14 Castle Dr., Spring Valley, NY 10977

829th Signal Service Association, c/o A. Boehnlein, 29146 Sheridan St., Garden City, MI 48135

8th Air Force Historical Society, P.O. Box 7215, St. Paul, MN 55107

8th Armored Division Association, 66 N. Chicago St., Joliet, IL 60431

Flying Tigers of the 14th Air Force Association, PO Box 285, Selden, NY 11784

4th Marine Division Association, 2854 S., 44th St., Milwaukee, WI 53219

International B-24 Liberator Club, PO Box 15-2424, San Diego, CA 92195

94th Infantry Division, c/o Ross L. Jordan, 1415 Orion Rd., Batavia, IL 60510

99th Infantry Division Association, 1901 Roberta Lane, Champaign, IL 61821

North American Branch, (1940) Dunkirk Veterans Association, 214 Island in the Sun, 12100 Seminole Blvd., Largo, Fl 34648-2825

Pearl Harbour Survivors Association, National Adm. Office, Drawer 2598, Lancaster, CA 93539

PT Boats, INC, PO Box 38070, Germantown, TN 38183-0070

Second Air Division Association, PO Box 627, Ipswich, MA 01938

17th Airborne Division Association, 62 40 Acre Mountain Road, Danbury, CT 06811


The following organizations all pertain to veterans of World War II, and maybe able to help you in your search for persons involved in these conflicts. 


U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans of World War 11, SS Lane Victory, Berth 53, PO Box 629, San Pedro, CA 90733

United States Submarine Veterans of World War II, 862 Chatham Avenue, Elmhurst, IL 60126

Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, PO Box 11129, Arlington, VA 22210-2129

Military Order of the World Wars

435 N. Lee St., Alexandria, VA 22314

National Association Rainbow Division Veterans, 16916 George Franklyn Drive, Independence, MO 64055

Women World War Veterans, Morgan Hotel, 237 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016


The following organizations all pertain to veterans of Vietnam, and maybe able to help you in your search for persons involved in these conflicts. 


Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.A., VFW Memorial Building, 200 Maryland Avenue, NE, Washington D.C. 20002

America’s Victory Force, PO Box 2016, Learned, MS 39154

Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 2030 Clarendon Blvd., Ste. 412, Arlington, VA 22201

Gamewardens of Vietnam Association, PO Box 5523, Virginia Beach, VA 23455-0523

77th Artillery Association, PO Box 141, Booneville, MO 65223

Society of Vietnamese Rangers, PO Box 29965, Atlanta, GA 30359

Veterans of the Vietnam War, 760 Jumper Road, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702-8033

Vietnam Combat Veterans, 1267 Alma Ct., San Jose, CA 95112

Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, 7 W. 7th St., Ste. 1990, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Vietnam Veterans of America, 1224 M St., NW, Washington, DC 20005-5783

Vietnam Veterans Inst., PO Box 386, Timonium, MD 21093


Burial Places of Veterans


The Department of Memorial Affairs at the Veteran’s Administration administers cemeteries for veterans of American wars.  If the person whose place of burial you seek was in the armed forces, they may have a record of his burial.  You may contact the Department of Memorial Affairs at the following address:


The Department of Memorial Affairs

Veteran’s Administration

810 Vermont Avenue N.W.

Washington D.C. 20420

Tel: 202 393-4120


Welcome to the Arigna Mining Experience

Arigna Mining Experience centre was developed to preserve the energy heritage of the Arigna Valley and to ensure that Arigna maintains its link with energy themes: past, present and future.

This Energy Centre provides visitors with a unique insight into what coal mining life was like in the Arigna Valley, since its beginning in the 1700’s until closure in 1990.

Underground Experience

During the underground tour, visitors will experience what it was like to work in some of the narrowest coal seams in the western world. The tour which will last 45 minutes brings visitors to the coal face of the mine, where the methods used to extract coal are demonstrated.  Lighting and sound effects in the mine, add to the authenticity of the underground experience.

Exhibition Space

Local geology and the formation of coal deposits are explained in our exhibition area, as is the history of energy production.

The exhibition also explains the concepts and operation of different renewable energy systems. Some of these systems can then be viewed in operation in the Energy Centre Building and on the nearby wind farms.

A history tour presents the origins and history of the Arigna coal mines. It explores its impact on the local community, through a photo gallery & displays. The Renewable Energy Demonstrations can be viewed on site in the Centre.

Arigna Mines, Derreenavoggy, Arigna, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Roscommon.

Tel: 071 9646466.

How my research into family history became a novel

Marion Reynolds explains how her family history inspired her to write her novel A Soldier’s Wife

Like many people, I didn’t delve into my family history until I was past middle age. When you are young, the past is another country and you are too involved with education, career, partner and children to have time to think about your ancestors. With middle age, for most of us, comes time to think, especially about the influences that made you who and what you are. You begin to wonder about your parents and their lives before you knew them, your grandparents and the generations before them. If you are like me, you leave it until it is almost too late, when the people who are the links with your family history are dead and gone.

For most of my childhood, I lived in a small two up, two down house on the north side of the city of Dublin. Many of our neighbours had other relatives living on the same street or on one of the neighbouring streets. It was a close community where the children played “Relievio” or held impromptu concerts in the street or spent the summer  days rolling down the hills in  the People’s Gardens of the Phoenix Park. My grandparents were old when I was born; I was the daughter of their youngest child. They seldom talked about their lives when they were young. At times, I caught glimpses into their past: a shred of luminous silk   which I found at the back of the wardrobe, a box of medals which I played with, my grandfather wearing a red poppy when no one else on the street did, a whispered story about burials at sea. A picture in an ornate frame which hung over the sideboard intrigued me: my grandfather looking dashing in uniform, my grandmother elegant in a beautiful lace dress, a blonde baby between the two of them. Who was she, I asked? “That’s my first baby, Nancy, she died when she was a baby, when we were on our way to India”, I was told.

My grandparents died and I grew up. I didn’t really think about their past until a cousin began to investigate my grandfather’s military history with the Connaught Rangers. We discovered that he had also served in Cyprus and North Africa before he met my grandmother. They spent seven years together in India and he served in Flanders during WW1, leaving my grandmother and her children at home for four years.  I began to look at the dates of his military career and realised that he and my grandmother had lived through some of the most momentous events in Irish and European history.  I knew that I wanted to write their story. How to write it was the next question. I could have written it as a memoir but there were too many pieces of the jigsaw missing. I decided to write it as a novel which would give me the freedom to be creative when I didn’t know the real facts.

I had always been a writer, of short stories, articles, reviews and interviews but this would be my first novel. Then I began to think about how to write it. Apart from the fact that  I know little about military matters, I felt that there were enough excellent books about that period of history which gave the male point of view. I decided to write from my grandmother’s point of view, to try to give some insight into the lives of the thousands of Irish women who stayed at home while their husbands went to war. I then began to research my grandmother’s life. I knew that she had grown up on Lord Lucan’s estate in Castlebar, Co Mayo where her father was the lodge keeper. I visited Castlebar and found the ruins of the Lucan home but not the gate lodge which had been demolished. My grandmother’s siblings were all girls which made it more difficult for me to trace their descendants. The local library was very helpful and found a number of newspaper articles which mentioned my relatives. I realised that my grandmother had had a genteel upbringing and worked as a maid/ governess with the chidren of Lord Lucan. I knew that she enjoyed the years in India, the luxury and the servants. How had she adjusted to life in a small house in a poor area of Dublin?

Family lore told me that my grandfather had been in Flanders for all of WW1 with only one trip home. While he was away, the family lived through the momentous events of 1916, the War of Independence and the Civil War. My grandmother had made occasional reference to things like hearing Michael Collins speak. “He was the most handsome man I ever saw” she told me. She also attended the funeral of Arthur Griffith. Though she remained pro-British, her children became nationalists, which must have created tension in the home.

I always loved history and enjoyed verifying the events which impinged on my family. The historical facts in my novel are as accurate as I can make them. Some of my family history has been changed because many of the grandchildren are still alive. I changed the names and genders of my aunts and uncles but the events are real.  When telling my story, I tried to be non-partisan and to reflect the different, legitimate points of view of the different opinions at the time. I hope that I have succeeded.



A Soldier’s Wife by Marion Reynolds was published on 1st May by Indigo Dreams Publishing at £ 8.99 or €10.99 in Ireland and is available from my website or fromindependent bookshops and Amazon.

Joining the Family History Community

Claire Santry advises

Family historians could be forgiven for thinking that resources – whether on-line or not – are the be-all-and-end-all of genealogy research. Certainly all the headline stories tend to focus on the latest brand new or upgraded digital releases or the newly accessible collections increasingly being made available through national, county and city archives.
Now, I’m not going to deny that learning of a new resource doesn’t send a tingle of excitement down my spine. Of course it does. But resources, new or old, are not all that family history is about these days. There are now a great many alternative ways to get involved, to enjoy your research and to extend or share your knowledge of your ancestors’ lives.
You might, for example, want to connect with a sociable genealogical community in your own neighbourhood, or you might choose to seek out and share information with like-minded folk on-line. Or maybe you’re a truly generous soul who wants to donate some spare time in transcription and similar projects to help other researchers, or perhaps you simply prefer a bespoke approach to extending your understanding of your family.

Going ‘off-piste’


Today, genealogy and the Internet seem natural partners. So much so that ‘going off-line’ can feel a little like ‘going off-piste’ – altogether too adventurous for the novice! But it’s worth remembering that family history research and a genealogy community existed long before www slipped so effortlessly into our everyday language.
As the popularity of ancestral research has grown, so that community has become better organised. There are now three genealogical societies with an island-wide remit, plus a healthy number of more localised or regional groups; collectively they provide the life-blood of Irish family history research. Most are members of the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO), a lobby group that campaigns on behalf of all Irish genealogy researchers – no matter where they live – for better and greater access to source material.
Joining a local or national group brings the opportunity to meet up with like-minded people, and to attend regular lectures or outings on research issues or specialised social or family history themes.
Most organisations also publish newsletters, journals and books crammed with valuable insights, and many work closely with their local and regional archives on transcription and indexing projects.
Aside of genealogical groups, there are also many historical societies across the country. They have a different focus, but one that complements the genealogist’s curiosity about the area and community where their ancestors lived, loved, worked and died. Some even run their own heritage centre or town museum.
Historical and family history societies give you the chance to put something back into the growing pot of accessible genealogy records or to simply keep local knowledge and memories flowing. Whether you’re best suited to transcribing old documents, helping to organise the lecture diary, or making tea and buns for members’ meetings, you’ll find such groups will always be happy to have another volunteer. Local, regional or national, they’ll snap up your skills and enthusiasm.
Give and take online
If membership of such groups isn’t for you, an on-line community may suit you better. They come in many guises. Probably the most obvious are genealogy forums where you can respond to the questions of other researchers and get answers to your own queries. and are the two that I happily recommend; they both have some very knowledgeable regulars.
Blogs are another way of extending your grasp of history, genealogical techniques and myriad Irish heritage and culture issues. There are loads of them. Some are niche, some have a wider remit. Some are professionally produced, some are published by enthusiastic amateurs who may (or may not!) be true experts in their field. Most allow comments where you can pose questions or add your own views on the subjects under discussion.
Of course, you could always start up your own blog to tell the world about the highs and lows of your personal ancestral hunt, to discuss the trials and tribulations of a family historian, or to offer advice via your own experiences.
Twitter is another route to a worldwide genealogical community. While ‘what I had for breakfast’ tweeters do exist, they are easy to avoid if you take your time in deciding who to ‘follow’. Soon enough, you’ll be making friends (if you want to) with people whose interests you share, and swapping news and ideas for further investigation.
Still on-line, you could connect with one of the free Internet-based archives for volunteer-donated records and materials. Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives is a great example of a website that uploads photos of gravestones, transcriptions of records, obituaries and newspaper reports that researchers have come across. Facebook, too, has several Irish genealogical groups that meet in cyberspace.
There really is a big wide genealogical world beyond the record collections, and it’s worth  venturing into it!

Claire Santry runs the very popular Irish Genealogy News blog and the Irish Genealogy Toolkit website. She is on the Council of the Irish Genealogical Research Society

National and local genealogical groups:

Local history groups:
Enquire at your local library



Looking North

People who have done no family history investigation don’t understand the pleasure you can get from a research trip. A genealogist is never too seasoned to get a kick out of new sources and experiences. Recently I visited the General Register Office of Northern Ireland for the first time since the early 1990s. The trip was prompted by being told by a Belfast-based colleague that GRONI’s upgraded facilities were now fully functional.
Copy of PRONI - day

The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland Offices

Having booked myself in for an Index Search (£14), I arrived on the appointed day and was shown up to the search room. It was equipped with computers for twenty or more visitors. Within minutes I was finding results. The births database indicates the child’s exact date of birth and mother’s maiden surname. For deaths, the exact date of death and age (or, for more recent years, exact date of birth) are stated. Marriages are best of all. The spouse’s full name, the exact date of marriage and place of marriage are given. The name of the church is stated except in the case of Roman Catholic ceremonies, where the registrar’s district is given.

GRONI’s facility covers records for all six counties of Northern Ireland from the commencement of civil registration (1845 for non-Catholic marriages; 1864 for all other records) forward. It should be remembered that pre-1922 records for Northern Ireland are available also through GRO Ireland in Roscommon / Dublin. To go beyond GRONI’s computerised indexes you can get a ‘verification’ for £4. This consists of being shown a digitised image of the record on a computer screen and being allowed copy down the details. The price of your first two verifications is included in the £14 search fee. A more elaborate option is the Assisted Search (£35 per hour), but certainly that would not be for the first time visitor.

The only way of getting a print-out of the digital image of an actual record is to purchase a certificate. This costs £14, a pretty expensive option. There are pros and cons when comparing GRONI’s facilities with those offered by GRO Ireland. On balance GRONI is streets ahead of its older sibling south of the border. Furthermore, I am reliably informed by GRONI’s management that its earlier material will be searchable on-line within two years. If only those in power at GRO Ireland in Roscommon were so interested in engaging with the public.

GRONI is not the only Belfast record repository that could teach the Republic’s institutions a thing or two about research facilities. In May of last year the National Library in Dublin downgraded its reading room services, making efficient research nigh impossible. Having been frustrated in my attempt to do extensive newspaper searches there, I found it worthwhile to stay over in Belfast to use the newspaper section of Belfast Central Library. This repository is more akin to Dublin City Library & Archive in Pearse Street, but both now offer better research facilities than the much larger national institution.

The newspaper library of Belfast Central is around the corner from the main building, which is in Royal Avenue. It is the most user-friendly newspaper research area I have ever visited. As well as Belfast publications, which were the focus of my research, they hold a range of local titles from across Northern Ireland and Donegal, as well as the Irish Times and a good run of the Irish Independent and the Irish Press. There are hardcopy and microfilm options in most cases. You may order only one item at a time, but each hardcopy newspaper I ordered was on my desk in less than five minutes. There was no limit to the number of requests I could place. I went through several volumes of newspapers per hour, and each volume was delivered with a smile. The powers that be in Belfast Central Library evidently understand the nature of research.

Belfast has two other record repositories of interest to genealogists, though they were not on my itinerary for the recent visit. The Linen Hall Library is within walking distance of both GRONI and Belfast Central. Situated in the heart of town, facing City Hall, the Linen Hall is my idea of what Heaven’s research facilities would look like. With its unique nineteenth century entrance, the high ceilings of its reading rooms, and its curvaceous staircases, the Linen Hall gives a feeling of connection with the past. The institution was founded in 1788 and it is the last remaining subscribing library in Ireland. Its Irish & Reference area, on Level 4, is where to find the likes of early periodicals and newspapers, manuscripts, publications in Irish, Ulster Scots and Ulster dialects, early Belfast books, and a very extensive collection of genealogical publications.

Slightly away from the centre of town is the city’s most important place of research, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. PRONI moved into its new headquarters in the Titanic Quarter just a year ago. The spacious purpose-built facility is an impressive state-of-the-art record repository. It is one of Ireland’s premier store-houses of local and family history material, principally but not exclusively for the province of Ulster.

Sitting at home finding ancestors on your computer may be most family historians’ dream scenario. It’s convenient; it can be very rewarding, but it’s also solitary and somewhat sterile. A research trip to a library or archives that welcomes your presence and caters for your needs is an entirely different experience. This is one of the elements that encourage people to cross oceans to visit Ireland in pursuit of elusive ancestors.


Belfast Central Library

address: Royal Avenue, Belfast, BT1 1EA
phone: 028-90509150 (within Northern Ireland) or 048-90509150 (from the Republic)
opening hours: Mon.-Thurs. 9.00am-8.00pm; Fri. 9.00am-5.30pm; Sat. 9.00am-4.30pm
requirements: none
(Newspaper Library around the corner in Library Street)

General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI)

address: Oxford House, 49-55 Chichester Street, Belfast, BT1 4HL
phone: 0300-2007890 (within Northern Ireland) or 048-91513101 (from the Republic)
opening hours: Mon.-Fri. 9.30am-4.00pm; no admissions between 12.00 & 12.30pm
requirements: appointment necessary / photographic ID required

Linen Hall Library

address: 17 Donegall Square North, Belfast, BT1 5GB
phone: 028-90321707 (within Northern Ireland) or 048-90321707 (from the Republic)
opening hours: Mon.-Fri. 9.30am-5.30pm; Sat. 9.30am-4.00pm
requirements: none, but donations from visitors welcomed

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)

address: 2 Titanic Boulevard, Belfast, BT3 9HQ
phone: 028-90534800 (within Northern Ireland) or 048-90534800 (from the Republic)
opening hours: Mon.-Wed. & Fri. 9.00am-4.45pm; Thurs. 10.00am-8.45pm
requirements: apply for Visitor Pass on first visit / photographic ID required for same