Archive for January 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Poor Law Records part 2

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Ireland and Scotland

As with many other records for Ireland, those for Poor Law can be sparse. Remember though that Ireland was under British rule until 1922; therefore, many records are held at The National Archives, England (TNA).  There is a research guide on TNA’s website about Poor Law.  After Ireland split, Northern Ireland remained under British rule with that area of Ireland remaining under the English Poor Laws.

The Irish Poor Law Act passed in 1838 was similar to the 1834 English Act.  Poor Law Unions were abolished in the Republic of Ireland (Eire) in the early 1920s and workhouses were closed accordingly; except for Dublin.  The minute books of poor law unions have mainly survived and these are held at National Archives Ireland in Dublin.

Loan funds were set up in Ireland in the early 19th century and one of these was the Irish Reproductive Loan Fund (which operated 1821-74) and gave credit to the poor without them having to provide any security. These records have recently been added to Findmypast under the Institutions and Organisations group, the record set name is: 'Ireland, Poverty Relief Funds 1821-1874' and they are name searchable.

Prior to the passing of the Poor Law Act of 1845 the Church of Scotland had been responsible for the care of the poor and records relating to these matters can be found in the Kirk Sessions.  The Kirk Sessions have been digitised and can be viewed at National Records of Scotland (formerly National Archives of Scotland) (NRS).  These records are not currently available through the internet and Scotland’s People, nor have they been filmed.

Cases of bastardy were vigorously followed up on and it is not unusual to find testimony from what seems to be the whole village.  Payments to the poor may also be found in the Kirk Sessions.

The Act of 1845 established parochial boards and records for these boards may be found at local archives and at the National Records of Scotland. Each board kept a roll of the poor who were receiving relief.  Other records relating to the poor in Scotland are those for charitable hospitals, schools and judiciary/commissary courts (Sheriff Court post 1828) records.

An example from The National Archives, Irish Reproductive Loans Fund Records. County: Roscommon


Wednesday's Child: Summer reads series

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Recommended read

Backwater by Joan Bauer (1999)

I have to say I am completely loving reading these YA (young adult) novels as part of our Summer Reads series. These are seriously smart books, great for kids and for adults and like the previous Greyhound of a Girl and Holes, Backwater is a true delight of a story. It’s funny, smart, emotional, with a great protagonist in Ivy Breedlove. In fact, I loved it so much, I ended up reading it all over again.

Told in first person, sixteen-year-old Ivy Breedlove is the youngest in a family of lawyers and of course is expected to study the law, even though she doesn’t want to. History is her love – and her Breedlove family history is what her brilliant legal father calls an obsession she is “totally enslaved” by.

She tells him:

“I could be on drugs, Dad. I could be smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. I could be-“
“Getting ready to study the law.” I could almost mouth the words. “When I was sixteen, Ivy, I had read every piece of literature there was to read concerning America’s great law institutions where fine men and women learned to love the law, learned to defend it to the death, learned to not take no for an answer.”
“Learned to bill by the hour,” I added, and Dad said that as God was his witness, a law education was the cornerstone of a successful, fulfilled life.
“You know, Dad, there are important people in this family other than lawyers.”
He coughed.
“What about Mercy Breedlove who lived in the time of the Woman’s Suffrage Movement and believed so strongly that women should have the right to vote that at seventeen she embroidered the front and back of a dress with Susan B. Anthony’s words of freedom: Men, their rights, and nothing more. Women their rights and nothing less. And she wore that dress day in and day out with everyone pointing at her, screaming at her to stop. That was long before anti-perspirant, too.”
“Embroidery,” Dad sputtered, “is not a proper Breedlove career.”

Ivy is writing a family history she hopes to have completed for her Great Aunt Tib’s birthday, yet the more she researches, the more she becomes fascinated by her family, from her late mother whom is barely talked about, to her mysterious Aunt Jo who has disappeared off the face of the planet. The story is about Ivy’s search for her missing relative, who like herself, eschewed the law to follow her own “unacceptable” passion. Yet it is also about learning more of her late mother.

Here Ivy asks her aunt if she remembers her own mother’s funeral:

“Do you remember your mother’s funeral?”
“Some parts.”
“I don’t remember anything,” I said. “I had this dream right after she died that I was on a mountain and birds were flying over me and I was standing in the tall grass that was wafting in the breeze.”
“You remember that?”
“I dreamt it.”
“No, you didn’t.”

And of course like any good teen novel, we have romance, and naturally all good boyfriends are called Jack. Says Ivy of her Jack, a hopeless mountain ranger (it’s set in New York’s Adirondack mountains), “Jack Louden might not be major ranger material, but in the boyfriend department, he redefined the genus.” Goes without saying, this book has a most wonderful ending.

Go here if you are interested in borrowing Auckland Libraries' copy.


Church Record Sunday: Online Catholic Parish Records

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Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19221130-39-3
Geraldene O’Reilly, convenor of the NZSG Irish Interest Group, has sent out their latest newsletter. As usual it is full of interesting tips and news concerning Irish archives and tracing your Irish ancestors.

Of particular interest to me in this month’s newsletter is a post she has shared from National Library Ireland News, which I have copied here in its entirety:

Online Catholic parish registers from the National Library of Ireland

A huge change is coming soon for everyone involved in Irish genealogy. By summer 2015, the National library of Ireland will have a dedicated website making its collection of Catholic parish register microfilms freely available online. These records are – by a long way – the single most important source of historical Irish family information, one of the greatest legacies of the Catholic Church to Ireland.

It is important to understand precisely what the website will do. The Library’s aim is to reproduce on the internet the service already available to the public in the microfilm reading room in Kildare Street in Dublin, where images of 98% of parish registers before 1880 can already be viewed by anybody, without payment of proof of identity.

The new site will offer precisely the same (sometimes frustratingly) opportunity to look at (sometimes blurred) photographic reproductions of the original records. But instead of having to travel to Dublin from Buncrana or Ballymena or Boston, you will now be able to view them online. With this service, the Library is simply taking at face value the word “National” in its own title.

What are the implications? Clearly, once these images are as easily available in Salt Lake City and Bungalore as they are in Dublin, swarms of transcribers will descend. Ideally, the results will be free, though some transcripts may sit behind paywalls. On the other hand, there will be nothing to stop any local history society in the country from just putting a transcript of their own parishes online. The more the merrier.

Some opposition can be expected. The existing transcription-only service at will protest loudly. But would they not be better advised to use the images to improve their own offering and increase their head-start on competitors?

It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of what is about to happen. When the Irish public service gets things right, it can get them spectacularly, gloriously right.

December 1, 2014 @ 1:32 pm by JOHN GRENHAM

What does Auckland Libraries hold that can be accessed in the interim?

Apart from the offerings on subscription websites such as FindMyPast and Ancestry that are available for free through our Digital Library to anyone who is in an Auckland library, you can do a Call number search on our Classic Catalogue for 4 IRL BDM to see the different resources we hold for searching births, deaths and marriages in Ireland.


Treasure Chest Thursday: Discovering the Waiheke family

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In 2013 the Gulf News celebrated its 40th year chronicling the stories of the Waiheke community. We have been indexing the Gulf News into Index Auckland since 1990, with our focus on the people and their stories, and stories about Waiheke’s organisation’s and development.

We have followed Helen Elscot’s column as she interviews various islanders asking them where their favourite place is on Waiheke, finding out their life stories as they talk. We have followed families over the years through their various activities, such as protesting against marinas or initiating charitable ventures. There is more to these articles than a local’s rant at council, and even that can be of interest when researching a relation years down the track.

Like others of their kind, and there can’t be many that are similar to the Gulf News, local rags can be a gold mine for family historians. As an island newspaper, the Gulf News reflects its inclusive, thriving and vocal community.

It’s not just people who are of interest in this magazine. There is bucket loads of local history, ranging from early days on Waiheke to the history of the local library. For anyone interested in maritime history there are stories on historic scows that have been part of Auckland’s history, including the story of the hulk M. A. Doran.

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 5173
The Gulf News is a little gem, packed with stories of human interest and stories that narrate the development and spirit of a gutsy little island.