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11 January 2011

‘Irish Gathering – Recording your Family History in real time Global Web Environment’ by Joe Whelan

On Tuesday January 11th members and visitors heard about a wonderful on-line resource for Irish genealogy. This lecture by Joe Whelan differed from others dealing with websites containing particular sources such as newspaper archives or census returns. The title of Mr. Whelan’s lecture -‘Irish Gathering – Recording your Family History in real time Global Web Environment’ gave little indication of the innovative nature of this on-line resource. The website is designed to allow the individual to build their family histories on-line and to share the information with others across the globe. It is especially aimed at reenergizing the Clans Movement to encourage people sharing a surname to get involved in organizing events to bring these ‘clanspersons’ together both on-line and in their places of origin. It also acts as a portal for Irish genealogy by directing the visitor to other sites or resources to assist them in their quest for information of ancestors or on family connections in Ireland. The concept for the website is taken from the ancient gathering of the clans and Mr. Whelan hopes that over the next six months to have 100,000 Irish Clan members signed-up. So checkout

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8 February 2011

RIC and Related Police Forces’ by Garda Jim Herlihy, FGSI

On Tuesday 8th February members and visitors heard a lively and fascinating lecture by Garda Jim Herlihy, FGSI on the RIC and Related Police Forces’. Garda Herlihy is a renowned expert on the history of policing in Ireland having published several authoritative works on the subject. These include ‘The Royal Irish Constabulary: A Short History and Genealogical Guide with a select list of medal awards and casualties’ (1997); The Royal Irish Constabulary: a complete alphabetical list of officers and men, 1816-1922’ (1999); ‘The Dublin Metropolitan Police: a complete alphabetical list of officers and men, 1836-1925’ (2001); ‘The Dublin Metropolitan Police: A Short History and Genealogical Guide with notes on medal awards and casualties, and lists of members connected with the London Metropolitan Police, the Irish Revenue Police, the (Royal) Irish Constabulary and the British Army’ (2001) and ’The Royal Irish Constabulary Officers: A Biographical and Genealogical Guide, 1816-1922’ (2005). All of the above were published by Ireland’s leading academic publisher, Four Courts Press. Clearly with such a wealth of information already published on the subject, Garda Herlihy’s lecture was both wide ranging and, where appropriate, detailed in a manner suited for genealogy. With the aid of a PowerPoint presentation Garda Herlihy traced the development of policing in Ireland and the role of the policeman in the turbulent years of the 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time the politics of rebellion and civil disobedience in the cause of independence and land reform took its toll on the police. The musical talents of the various police bands were also mentioned by Garda Herlihy who advised the meeting of a special anniversary concert to be held in May at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Garda Herlihy had some medals awarded to the RIC which he showed around. An excellent lecture!!

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8 March 2011

‘Researching the Irish Revolution’ by Dáithí Ó Corráin, St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra.

On Tuesday 8th March members heard a very interesting lecture on the topic of ‘Researching the Irish Revolution’ by Dr. Daithí Ó Corráin of St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin. By way of clarification for our readers the ‘Irish Revolution’ is the period from the 1916 Rising to the conclusion of the Civil War in 1923. The human cost of Irish political violence was traumatic with in excess of 2,500 fatalities to the Truce of July 1921 alone. Dr Ó Corráin focused in particular on the array of historical sources for the period and their strengths and weaknesses. The most challenging period for the historian or genealogist is the 1916 Rebellion. Much of the information is incomplete given that the outbreak was unexpected, of short duration and occurred during the Great War. Burial registers, eye witness accounts, the register of the Commonwealth Graves Commission and the newly digitised 1911 census are the most fruitful research avenues. In the historiography of the period, civilian fatalities have generally been ignored or underemphasised. Tracing their circumstances is not easy, though the local press often yields rich personal and funeral details. Dr Ó Corráin drew attention to two often overlooked sources. Military courts of inquiry which superseded coroners’ inquests from August 1920 are held in UK national archives in London.  Compensation awards at quarter session hearings are an accurate source of person information in terms of martial status, occupation, dependents and circumstances of death. Under the Criminal Injuries Act (1919) state servants and others murdered, maimed or maliciously injured by unlawful organisations were entitled to monetary compensation. While the life details of British officers are recorded in the Army List, tracing servicemen is more difficult. In 2005 regimental enlistment or attestation books were saved from destruction and returned to regimental archives and museums. They are a fascinating source providing age, place of origin, next of kin, service number and so forth.  Regimental journals, newspapers and histories, private diaries, rolls of honour, collections of letters and reminiscences, sound recordings as well as digests of service and war diaries are all valuable military sources. Regular soldiers describing their experience in Ireland often grumbled about that old Irish reliable the unreliable weather! Those interested in policemen are indebted to the pioneering work of Jim Herlihy, FGSI. On the Republican side there is an abundance of material from roadside memorials to well known chronicles such as Dan Breen’s ‘My fight for Irish Freedom’. But many volunteers did not write memoirs. To this end, the Bureau of Military History collected oral testimony from participants between 1947 and 1959 in the form of witness statements. While they may be weak at times on dates they provide a fascinating insight to IRA activities at a local level. They are available for consultation from the Irish Military Archives. As we approach 2016, much attention will be focused on the military service pension applications. When they become available for public consultation, historians will be able to build an even more nuanced and informed picture of the dynamics of the Irish Revolution. A very lively Q+A session followed this very informative lecture. 

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12 April 2011

‘The 1641 Depositions as an aid to the genealogist’ by Dr. Elaine Murphy and Dr. Mark Sweetnan, Trinity College Dublin

On Tuesday 12th April 2011, Dr. Elaine Murphy and Dr. Mark Sweetnan delivered a fascinating lecture on the ‘The 1641 Depositions as an aid to the genealogist’. This project transcribed and digitised the 1641 Depositions in which Protestant men and women of all classes told of their experiences following the outbreak of the rebellion by the Catholic Irish in October 1641. Located in Trinity College Dublin they comprise 3,400 depositions, examinations and associated materials collected by government-appointed commissioners in the wake of the 1641 Rebellion. The approximately 19,000 pages of witness testimonies constitute the chief evidence for the sharply contested allegation that the rebellion began with a general massacre of protestant settlers. As a result, this material has been central to a protracted and bitter historical dispute. Propagandists, politicians and historians have all exploited the depositions at different times, and the controversy surrounding them has never been satisfactorily resolved. In fact, the 1641 ‘massacres’, like King William’s victory at the Boyne (1690), and the battle of the Somme (1916), have played a key role in creating and sustaining a collective Protestant/British identity in the province of Ulster. Using both a PowerPoint presentation and direct access to the website, the lecturers pointed out that this body of material is unparalleled elsewhere in early modern Europe. It provides a unique source of information for the causes and events surrounding the 1641 rebellion and for the social, economic, cultural, religious, and political history of seventeenth-century Ireland, England and Scotland. In addition, the depositions vividly document various colonial and ‘civilizing’ processes, including the spread of Protestantism in the north of Ireland and the introduction of lowland agricultural and commercial practices, together with the native response to these developments. The website allows users access to all images and transcripts, with search options allowing free text search, while the database is certainly of interest to the general public, both for historical and genealogical purposes. A very lively question and answer session followed. For further info. see: