Irish Roots

June 27th, 2011

John Grenham


The new Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in the Titanic Quarter is now open to the public and it is a revelation. More than 80 Reading Room desks, free wi-fi, self-service digital photography facilities and acres and acres of space. All a Southern researcher can do is weep.

PRONI's online offering (proni.gov.uk) also continues to grow. The eCatalogue is providing deeper and deeper insight into their holdings, often linking to detailed analysis and summary of the collections. One example: clicking on the "view" link in the eCatalogue entry for the Earl of Erne papers (D1939) takes you directly to a 19,000 word essay giving a history of the family, a detailed description of the evolution of the estates in Dublin city and in Cos Donegal, Fermanagh, Mayo and Sligo (including listings of the townlands covered by rentals and tenants lists), as well as painstaking accounts of all the original wills and deeds and much more. And this is only one of hundreds such essays accessible through the eCatalogue.

Outside the eCatalogue, a whole range of individual record categories is searchable: freeholders and voters lists going back to the 17th century; 31 Belfast and Ulster commercial directories up to 1900; the Ulster Covenant of 1912; post-1858 will calendars and their corresponding will transcript books. The least-appreciated online research tool is probably the "Name Search". Although it sounds like a surname dictionary, this actually permits detailed searching of transcripts of all the personal names in a wonderful mixed bag of early records, including 1766 census transcripts from 15 counties in the Republic: over the period of most interest for genealogy, there was no border between North and South.

The only complaint (there has to be at least one) is that PRONI should do a better job of publicising of what they have online.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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