Irish Roots

December 14th, 2009

John Grenham


One of the things I love about genealogy is the way it captures the never-ending messiness of real life. He might not thank me for saying it, but Steven Smyrl, one of my colleagues in the Association of Professional Genealogists (www.apgi.ie), has just made a major contribution to capturing the messiness of Dublin life in the two-and-a-half centuries up to 1920. His Dictionary of Dublin Dissent: Dublin's Protestant Dissenting Meeting Houses, 1660-1920 (Dublin, A & A Farmar) is an extraordinarily vivid account of the evolution of religious radicalism in Dublin from the end of the Commonwealth up to the birth of the Free State.

The picture it paints is of Dublin as it was before first partition and then De Valeraís 1937 constitution encouraged Protestants of every stripe to leave. And what stripes there were: not just Presbyterians and Methodists, but Unitarians, Baptists, Quakers, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Moravians, Huguenots (conformist and non-conformist), the Open Brethren, the Exclusive Brethren, The Kellyites, the Walkerites, the White Quakers Ö

In 1900, Dublin had no fewer than 66 dissenting places of worship. In 1911 almost 4% of the population of Dublin were dissenting Protestant. By 1961 the figure was only just over 1%, a drop of almost 75%.

The book gives superb individual congregational histories, but also answers the perennial genealogistís question: where did the records go? Dissenting congregations were of their nature fiercely independent, and opposed to centralised record-keeping, so tracking their records has always been problematic. No longer. Stevenís book answers any question you can ask, with more than 40 pages detailing the locations of baptismal, marriages and burial records, as well as Mission committee minutes, stipend rolls, pew rents, furniture books, and much more.

It is available via the publisher, www.aafarmar.ie, or at Hodges Figgis.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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