Monday, June 20, 2011

Madness Monday: Misinformation Makes Me Crazy!!! Part Three

Uh oh, you may be thinking, here she goes again. Back in March I posted part two about my madness over misinformation, made reference to my first "bout of madness" in July of 2010, and wrote about how I don't usually give in to an inclination to rant. Now, here I am in June of 2011 and I'm feeling that itch again. Three upsets in the space of one year? I'm going to give myself a break and say it's okay.

Once again I made one of my forays around Internet Land, and once again I was surprised at some of the little nuggets that I came upon about doing genealogy research in Ireland. Here are just a few.

1. "It takes two hours to get a reader's ticket at the National Library of Ireland". 

Really? Two hours? What the heck were you doing during that time?

Getting a reader's ticket at the National Library of Ireland is very easy and should take, at most, about fifteen minutes.

One: you fill out the application (now via computer in their lobby).
Two: you present i.d. (your passport is best), and get an i.d. photo taken in their gift shop.
Three: the staff member prints out the ticket with photo, laminates it, and puts in on a little chain so you can wear it.

Tah Dah!

You're ready to research.

(You might spend a few more minutes if you'd like to have a chin wag with the gift shop staff member or the security guards.)

2. "Irish Research Centres are really expensive to search in."


Okay, if a man in a trench coat approaches you on the street and says, "Psst, want to buy some research from my research centre?", then RUN as fast as you can to the National Library of Ireland (NLI) or the National Archives of Ireland (NAI), both located in Dublin City.

Both the NLI and the NAI provide a FREE genealogy advisory service, and they are staffed by very helpful personnel. They will direct you to the library and archive resources which you may want to view (again free). Also, both the NLI website and the NAI website provide research guides to Irish genealogy, and details about all of their holdings, including materials such as parish registers (NLI, on microfilm), Tithe Applotment books, wills and testamentary records (NAI). As is the case with all libraries and archives, you do have to pay for photocopies or microfilm copies.

For those searching online, individual county based genealogy centres have been involved in the transcription and digitization of Irish church records for many years. Most of them are part of the Irish Family History Foundation (IFHF), and their records can be accessed online through the IFHF website. You may search this site for free; the viewing and purchase of an individual record will cost 5 Euros (about $6.50 USD). If you are in Ireland, it is best to stick with such places as the National Library, the National Archives, Dublin City Library, or other local libraries for research. The county centres provide a research service based on the indexes they hold, but do not normally allow members of the public direct access to them.

As is the case elsewhere, if you contract with a professional researcher/genealogist to do research for you, then yes, you must pay for the services of that person. I have been doing research in Ireland for years, and I have never, at any time, paid to do my own research.

3. Few records exist because, "they [the Irish] were taught not to make records".

This bit of nonsense nearly made my head explode. Taught NOT to make records? Was there a training course? Did everyone just sit in the classroom and stare at the chalk board?

Consider for a moment a micro-mini history of Ireland...

12th and 13th centuries:

The Norman invasions: burning, pillaging, rack and ruin: Yes, probably loss of records.

17th century:

That little darling Oliver Cromwell stopped by, ripping up the south and east of the island in his bid to "reconquer" Ireland for England. Catholic Churches were deliberately razed by cannon fire. More burning and pillaging, and yes loss of records, hiding of records, and who knows perhaps even avoidance of making records.

18th century:

1798 Rebellion: some damage to property, perhaps even some destruction of records.

19th century:

1845: legislation provides for the registration of civil marriages and the regulation of all non-Catholic marriages, and creates the Office of the Registrar-General responsible for the collation and custody of all birth, death and marriage records.

1864: further legislation provides for the inclusion of Catholic marriages, together with all births and deaths.(For the history of civil registration in Ireland visit this GRO site history page).

20th century:

1922: during the Irish Civil War: fire at the Four Courts Complex results in the destruction of the Public Records Office and with it the loss of about two-thirds of the pre-1870 Church of Ireland parish registers, as well almost all 19th century census documents, and pre-1922 probate records. (see this post for further information)

YES, throughout Irish history there have been times when records have been destroyed, either deliberately or inadvertently, but the Irish being "taught NOT to make records"? I think that's more than a bit of a stretch.

As always, I thank you for reading/listening to my Monday Madness. Sigh! I feel so much better.


Copyright© J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.
Note: The money image is of defunct Irish legal tender, an old £20 note; the Euro is now the standard used.
Thanks to The Graphics Fairy for the black and white graphics in this post.


  1. LOL that guy in the coat did meet me, but he was selling bus tours.
    :} Charlene

  2. Hi Charlene,

    Thanks for your comment. Maybe he was selling tours and research.


  3. Excellent post and hey, ranting is a good thing when appropriate and helpful. You did a great job of clearing up misinformation about the Irish and their records. The Irish were actually pretty good at making, keeping and, when necessary, hiding their records. I do think more people need to learn their history in order to make their genealogy life easier. I attended the 2011 SLIG course on Irish History Research and Records and there is a wealth of information (you just need to know where and how to look for it). Thanks for the reminder and the kick in the pants!

  4. Well, I am glad your head did not explode, and instead you treated us to an informative and humorous post :) "Taught not to make records" indeed!! Gosh, wasn't there a book out in the last decade or so about how the Irish saved civilization? Not exactly in keeping with being taught not to make records. (And how does one take notes in a class geared toward not keeping records? Too funny.)

  5. Hi Tessa and Christina,

    Thanks for your comments; they are much appreciated.


    As an historian of Irish history, I have to say AMEN to your suggestion that learning history would definitely make the path to genealogy easier for most people. AMEN.

    I am often astonished by the lack of historical knowledge I see. One instance which comes to mind is an email correspondence I had with a professional genealogist in which he refused to change a claim on his website which referred to the Irish Civil War as "a domestic disturbance".


    Glad my head didn't explode too. Ah yes, Thomas Cahill's "How the Irish Saved Civilization", a charming book. :)

    Cheers to you both,

  6. I was in the NLI last month and got my first reader's card - definitely didn't take two hours! Application form computers were upstairs, in a little room to the side (and behind) the desk in the Main Reading Room. I had taken along two passport size photos, but the staff member took a photo of me right there. Probably five minutes all up?

  7. Hi Maggie,

    Thanks for your comment; it is much appreciated.

    Sounds like NLI has streamlined even more since I was there in August, as you say, with the form computers now upstairs instead of in the lobby. Even with one quick change from my old reader's ticket to a new one in 2010, it still only took a few minutes.

    The person I quoted also made a few other suspect claims which make me doubt the veracity of her claim to have done research in Ireland. Go figure.



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Cheers, Jennifer

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