Irish Roots

January 2nd 2012

John Grenham


Of their nature, commercial directories were urban, designed to connect the growing middle class to the merchants and traders that served them. So directories are most useful for the three largest cities on the island, Belfast, Cork and Dublin. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland website, proni.gov.uk, has a wonderful run of 30 directories between 1819 and 1900, all freely searchable and digitally imaged. PRONI's holdings demonstrate very well an often-overlooked feature, the degree to which the directories' coverage broadened and deepened over time. By 1890, for example, the Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory includes alphabetical and street-by-street listings for every provincial town in the nine counties of Ulster, as well as going house-by-house through Belfast itself.

Cork City Libraries does something very similar to PRONI at their website corkpastandpresent.ie. Fourteen directories between 1787 and 1945 are available as searchable PDF files in the "Places" section, again moving from a narrow city focus in the early publications to later detailed alphabetical listings of, for example, all local farmers under the entry for every town in the county.

Dublin is less well served online for the moment, even though Thom's and its predecessors have an unbroken annual chain of publication stretching back to 1751. This continuity is what makes the Dublin directories uniquely useful, since it permits the tracking of individuals and businesses over multiple generations - the open shelf copies in the Dublin City Library and Archive Pearse Street reading room still provide the best line of attack, though nine early Dublin directories are on findmypast.ie and at least three early copies of Thom's are at books.google.com.

Outside the major urban areas, Pigot's (1824) and Slater's (1846) are the two main works that provide early, country-wide, town-by-town listings. Both are in PDF on failteromhat.com. For more ephemeral once-off publications, the best online resource is findmypast.ie.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


Current column

2014

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
6
3
3
7
5
2
7
4
1
13
10
10
14
12
9
14
11
8
20
17
17
21
19
16
21
18
15
27
24
24
28
26
23
28
25
 
 
31
 
 
30


2013

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
7
4
4
1
6
3
1
5
2
7
4
2
14
11
11
8
13
10
8
12
9
14
11
9
21
18
18
15
20
17
15
19
16
21
18
16
28
25
25
22
27
 
22
26
23
28
25
23
 
 
 
29
 
 
29
 
30

 
30


2012

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2
6
5
2
7
4
2
6
3
1
5
3
9
13
12
9
14
11
9
13
10
8
12
10
16
20
19
16
21
18
16
20
17
15
19
17
23
27
26
23
28
25
23
27
24
22
26
24
30
 
 
30
 
 
30
 
 
29
 
31


2011

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
3
7
7
4
2
6
4
1
5
3
7
5
10
14
14
11
9
13
11
8
12
10
14
12
17
21
21
18
16
20
18
15
19
17
21
19
24
28
28
25
23
27
25
22
26
24
28
26
31
 
 
 
30
 
 
29
 
31
 
 


2010

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
4
1
1
5
3
7
5
2
6
4
1
6
11
8
8
12
10
14
12
9
13
11
8
13
18
15
15
19
17
21
19
16
20
18
15
20
25
22
22
26
25
28
26
23
27
25
22
27
 
 
 
 
31
 
 
30
 
 
29
 


2009

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
6
2
2
6
4
1
6
3
7
5
2
7
13
9
9
13
11
8
13
10
14
12
9
14
20
16
16
20
18
15
20
17
21
19
16
21
27
23
23
27
25
22
27
24
28
26
23
28
 
 
 
 
 
29
 
31
 
 
30