Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday's Tips: The Alumni Dublinenses: Finding a well educated Irish ancestor

The Alumni Dublinenses

If you have a male ancestor in your family tree who was fortunate enough to receive his education at Trinity College in Ireland, between 1592 and 1860, then you may wish to consult the Alumni Dublinenses. Trinity College Dublin is the oldest university in Ireland, and has long stood as the pre-eminent seat of learning. Notwithstanding its Protestant affiliation, it has always been open to students of other religions; therefore, if you are searching for a well educated Protestant or non-Protestant, you might very well find him in the Alumni Dublinenses.

The Alumni Dublinenses is a publication of the registers of all students, graduates, professors and provosts of Trinity College, from its earliest days in 1592, when the university was established, up until around 1860. The publication has full biographical information for almost every student from registers dating from 1637 to 1860. In addition to that it includes around 300 names of those from the period between 1593 and 1637, since registers are no longer extant for this period.

Especially useful to the family historian, the Dublinenses is often the only source of information available about many men with professions, such as  lawyers and doctors, lesser-known writers and theologians, and so on, men about whom it may be difficult to find information. It is also an excellent reference for those who are tracing ancient names in Ireland and Britain.

Produced in three volumes, at around one thousand pages, it contains approximately thirty-five thousand entries, arranged alphabetically by surname.  Some entries are incomplete, but many are very detailed. Specifics in some of the entries are written in the Latin, and although each entry is written in a sort of shorthand, it is easily decipherable.

The alphabetized entries of the Alumni Dublinenses include the following details:

Student's full name, age, and birthplace
Educational classification (Pensioner, Sizar, or Fellow Commoner *see endnote)
Schoolmaster or school, including location
Date of admission
Father's name and profession
Degree earned and date of graduation

If we look at the entries for these young O'Malley men, we can learn quite a bit about them. For example, consider George Orme O'Malley. George was born in County Mayo, the son of John O'Malley, a 'generosus rusticus', that is, a gentleman farmer. George was a pensioner* who was admitted to Trinity College on 3 July 1837, at the age of 16 years, under the tutelage of Mr. McCall.

George earned his Bachelor of Arts degree 'Vern 1843', which means he graduated in the spring of 1843.  He was called to the Irish Bar the same year. Thirty-five years after earning his B.A., George graduated with a Master of Arts in the winter (Hiem) of 1878.  The information inside the square brackets is quite interesting.  In addition to the fact that George altered his surname to Malley, he bore the post-nominal 'Q.C', shorthand for Queen's Council. This post-nominal tells us that George was likely quite a successful barrister, since the post-nominal was awarded by the crown to a chosen few, most often to barristers rather than solicitors.

A 'Q.C.' was recognized on the basis of merit, and chosen because he demonstrated the sort of court room skills that would make him suitable to represent the crown.

If you look at the entry for George May O'Malley, you will notice the inclusion of the letters 'R.C.', which denotes the fact that this George was Roman Catholic.

Where do I find the Alumni Dublinenses?

Online, you can search the complete Alumni Dublinenses via FindMyPastIreland. Also, you can access the Alumni Dublinenses through the libraries of some of the major universities in Canada and the United States, as well as some public libraries. Go to the Open Library website at http://openlibrary.org/ and enter 'Alumni Dublinenses' as the search term. Clicking on the borrow link for the 1924 edition will bring you to a page in the WorldCat site on which you can enter your location, or zip/postal code, and you will see a list of libraries through which you can access the register.

If you would like to have your own copy, you can purchase one on CD through Eneclann. As well, it is sometimes available through online book sites, such as ABEBooks and Alibris. Just be careful that you know exactly what you are buying, because some persons have published only small sections of the 1924 edition. The 1924 edition on FindMyPastIreland, and available through Eneclann, is the most complete.

*Endnote: Educational Classifications:

Pensioner - a pensioner was a student who paid a fixed annual fee for his education. A pensioner would have come from a middle class or upper middle class family.
Sizar - usually born into a poor family, a sizar was a young man who showed intellectual promise. He would be given either a free education or pay a significantly reduced rate of tuition. Also, he might receive other benefits, such as free meals or accommodation, in exchange for doing a specific job which quite often was of a menial nature.
Fellow Commoner - Although it may sound counterintuitive, a fellow commoner was one of those students from the wealthiest section of society. He would have paid double tuition fees and in exchange would receive special privileges, such as the right to complete his degree in three years instead of the required four.

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