Irish Roots

May 25th, 2010

John Grenham

Records of the Irish overseas can sometimes provide unlikely ways of getting around the gaps in records here in Ireland. In my own family, for example, the records of the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters, a credit-union-style life insurance scheme set up in Boston in 1879, provided dates and family details for a period not covered by the Irish parish registers. (The records have been transcribed and indexed by The Irish Ancestral Research Association in Boston and are searchable at www.tiara.ie.)

The main destination of migrating Irish for the last five centuries has been Britain, and British records should therefore be a logical extension of any Irish research. Not so. Our post-colonial blind spot has left most of us very ignorant of the local detail of England and Wales; like most people educated in Ireland, I have difficulty telling my Fetherstonehaughs from my Cholmondleys. So when it comes to getting a clear view of what British records exist, and which of them are online, any shortcut is welcome.

The Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society website (www.mlfhs.org.uk) is well worth visiting for its own sake, since this part of England saw huge Irish immigration and the Society has transcribed and made searchable many 19th century Catholic registers from the Manchester area. But what makes it especially valuable is the “M&LFHS Toolbar”. This is a small application you can download and add to your internet browser, providing clearly categorised and comprehensive links to English and Welsh birth, marriage and death transcript sites, societies, publications, libraries and much more.

Like all collections of links, it suffers from a little link-rot, but for the moment at least it is a ready-made and very welcome solution to our ignorance of British records.



Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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