Irish Roots

April 4th, 2011

John Grenham


There are now quite a few organisations involved in the promotion of Irish genealogy, but the great-granddaddy of them all is the Irish Genealogical Research Society, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in the National Library of Ireland last Thursday. The Society was formed in the Office of the York Herald in London in 1936, largely as a response to the loss of so much Irish research material in the destruction of the Public Record Office in 1922. From the outset, its focus was scholarly, with the emphasis on the reconstruction of lost original sources, by collecting and publishing whatever transcripts or abstracts could be found. In the early years at least, its focus was also unashamedly on Anglo-Irish family history: by 1936 it was clear that the Ireland in which most of the IGRS’ founding members had lived was vanishing forever and some of the impetus behind its foundation was the need to keep the memory of that earlier Ireland alive. These days, the Society is more broadly based, and its Ireland branch has a very active programme of talks and outings. Its library, based in the Church of St. Magnus the Martyr in London, has the largest collection of Irish genealogical material in private hands.

But the Society’s single greatest achievement is its journal, The Irish Genealogist. Published annually, it is the only Irish genealogical publication to achieve serious academic status, and has maintained a remarkable consistency of quality over its 75 years. Many references to those odd beasts of Irish research, the census substitutes, lead to the pages of its back issues. Thankfully, a complete set of the journal from 1937 to 1993 has been republished on CD-ROM by Eneclann, and is available to purchase online (tinyurl.ie/3wa).

In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that I am a member and fellow of the IGRS. The society's website is www.igrsoc.org.


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