Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday's Tip: The NLI Parish Registers & IFHF: Working in tandem

The National Library of Ireland, Dublin City, County Dublin.
No doubt the launch of the National Library of Ireland's Roman Catholic Parish Registers website has elicited reactions running the gamut from joy to despair for researchers mining the registers for ancestors and other relations. If you have access to the website of the Irish Family History Foundation (IFHF), a.k.a. Roots Ireland, then you may find using the site in tandem with the parish registers swings the pendulum of your emotions more toward the side of joy.

Over the years I have been fortunate to have had many opportunities to consult the microfilm in person at the National Library in Dublin, and in doing so have been able to trace my maternal tree back to the 1740s. Although the poor condition of some registers remains a nightmare in terms of the search — using the inverse image function makes them a little more legible — I am grateful to have the registers now so easily accessible online. Sitting at my desk in the comfort of my office, with a nice steaming 'cuppa' tea in hand, while negotiating my way around the wonderfully intuitive site, makes searching a most pleasant task.

Online access also makes it possible to view the digitized microfilm images of the registers in tandem with the transcriptions of the IFHF, simply by opening a second window on the browser on my Mac. Where possible, comparing the original images with the transcriptions has proven to be a worthwhile exercise. Be sure to look in the lower left hand corner of pages for parish registers, where the NLI wisely makes note of the Roots Ireland [IFHF] and the Irish Times Ancestors websites, as well as irishgenealogy.ie, as aids for collaborative consultation when possible.

Look for this in the lower left hand corner of any given parish register page.
The lack of images of original records accompanying the transcriptions has always been my biggest gripe with the Roots Ireland site. The fact is I know my own skill set when it comes to research and transcription, and know my strengths as well as weaknesses when it comes to interpreting data. However, I've never had a clear idea about the skills of those who provide the transcriptions to the IFHF, so have long wanted to see the images next to the transcriptions, just as they are for the most part on irishgenealogy.ie.

In the course of comparing parish register entries to IFHF transcriptions, since the inception of the IFHF site, I have come across numerous transcription errors. Recently, I found one in which the transcription notes the date of baptism as 30 May 1851 and the date of birth as 2 July 1859 for one Bridget Geraghty. As powerful as the Catholic Church was in days of yore, I am quite certain even they were not capable of baptising Baby Geraghty 8 years before she was born.

Given the fact that transcribers are still of the human variety, these kinds of errors are to be expected. However, being able to compare the parish register entries with the IFHF transcription offers the reassurance of getting a more accurate picture. The parish register entry for Bridget Geraghty bears this out. It reveals 2 July 1859 as Bridget's date of baptism, and in fact, offers no date of birth at all. The other details match those of the transcription.

While continuing to search the registers on the trail of other delights, where possible I will consult the entries in concert with the IFHF transcriptions, all the while being well and truly grateful to the National Library of Ireland for delivering on their promise.

Have you used the Roots Ireland site, or another site, in tandem with the NLI parish registers site?

What has been your experience so far on the NLI site?

Some transcriptions conjure up odd images.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday, almost: Short trousers, pinafores and Pupils: School Days

Lately on this blog, there has been a running theme focussed on schools and school children — 'Within these walls: School Days' & 'The Promise in a Photograph'. Given that it is mid-July, boys and girls in Ireland are not yet thinking about going back to the classroom, although many of their teachers are already beginning preparations for their return during the week of 1 September. In honour of all of them, on this Wordless Wednesday, here are photographs harvested from the National Library of Ireland collections on flickr, featuring little 'chislers', as my dad would say, enjoying school days in Ireland oh so long ago.

Look up!
Young boys pictured outside a school room in Connemara, 1892.
From the collection of Major Ruttledge-Fair.
National Library of Ireland (NLI) flickr stream.
Miss Crowe and Mr Gildea with their pupils at Kilglass National School, Ahascragh, Co.Galway
Pupils at Kilglass National School, Ahascragh, Co. Galway,
pictured with their teachers Miss Crowe and Mr. Gildea, 1902.
May 15, 1924
Students of the Ursuline Convent, Waterford,
in costume for their Dolls' Hospital, 15 May 1924.
St. Anne's Kindergarten Class
St. Anne's Kindergarten class, Ursuline Convent, Waterford,
17 June 1927.
Synge Street Boys
Boys of Synge Street School, Dublin City, 1941.
November 23, 1949
Girls at the Sisters of Charity School in Waterford, 23 November 1949.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Countdown to 8 July: Palaeography & the art of reading the illegible

An ideal find: perfectly legible entries in a Donabate Parish Register April 1764, Donabate, County Dublin.
Given that Wednesday 8 July — the official launch day for the National Library of Ireland's Parish Registers website — is almost upon us, today I am revisiting a post from 2013 with suggestions for improving your skills so that you might have greater success reading the more difficult register entries you might come across.

In May, eminent Irish genealogist John Grenham beta tested the parish register site and he was mightily impressed by what he saw, calling it 'extraordinary' and declaring it '90 percent squint-free'. However, you might still face challenges when it comes to deciphering the written script of those who created the entries in the original parish registers. That's where a tutorial in palaeography comes in.

What is Palaeography?

Palaeography, translated from the Greek, means 'old writing' (palaiós meaning 'old' and graphein meaning 'to write'). Strictly speaking, it is the study of ancient writing, but also includes the transcription and dating of historical documents, and in some quarters, the whole study of any book or manuscript written by hand.

Historians of all stripes — family historians and professional historians alike— often have to spend time deciphering the handwriting found on documents essential to their work. Thankfully I have studied enough palaeography to get me through documents for my own work, but it is always helpful to engage in further practice, in order to ensure that deciphering skills are at their optimum.

While you might not wish to commit yourself wholly to the study of palaeography, you may find a tutorial in the practice to be quite useful. The National Archives UK offers resources which you may find helpful in improving your ability to read and transcribe historical records.

(Bonus: There is also a handy historical currency converter on this page, as well as a link for help with reading Roman numerals.)

National Archives UK: Palaeography: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/

On this page you will find an excellent tutorial, which begins with an easy to read document and moves through documents of increasing difficulty to help you develop your skills. Also, in the further practice section, there are a number of interesting documents included which date from the 16th to the beginning of the 19th century, including one 17th century report from English State Papers which refers to Oliver Cromwell's banning of Christmas.

National Archives UK also has a page on Latin Palaeography: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/latinpalaeography/

There are a number of tips and tricks included here for deciphering the text and understanding abbreviations. You can even try your hand at transcribing a document with the online transcriber. As you type in the text any incorrectly transcribed words are highlighted in red, so you can instantly see any errors.

Be sure to stop by these pages on NA UK to improve your transcription skills, or to check out some of the fascinating documents they have included.

County Mayo Parish Register on microfilm:
Both the state of the register and some of the script may prove a challenge.

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