Irish Roots »

  • Mad cows and Dubedats

    January 29, 2012 @ 1:53 pm | by John Grenham

    With genealogy blinkers on and up to the tonsils in luverly, luverly databases it can be hard to grasp the implications of online records for other areas of research. An obvious beneficiary, when you think of it, is the study of James Joyce. Many of his characters are based on real individuals, often appearing under their own names. The period he writes about is slap in the middle of the 1901 and 1911 censuses, transparent and free online; Dublin parish registers are also online; and Dublin newspapers, and Dublin directories, and Dublin voters’ lists and maps and …

    A few examples: Miss Douce “of the bronze hair”, immortalised in the Sirens episode of Ulysses, set in the Ormond Hotel, was actually Maggie Dowse, manager of the Bailey in Duke St. in 1901. No doubt “Douce” was a more fitting variant. The Dubedat family are celebrated in one of Ulysses’ many joyously puerile jokes – “May I tempt you … Miss Dubedat? Yes, do bedad. And she did, bedad.” And there they are in Dublin Church of Ireland registers, the Du Bedats, Du Bidats, Dubédats … Like genealogy, collecting Joyce trivia can become compulsive, and can lead in unexpected directions. A four-word headline noted in passing in Stephen Hero, “Mad Cow at Cabra”, recalls the practice of driving cattle through the city streets from the markets in Prussia Street via Phibsborough down to the cattle boats at the North Wall. Sometimes, understandably, a cow would run amok. As so often in Joyce, even the tiniest details are made out of real incidents.  The weekly Irish Times of April 9 1904 has a tiny news-item at the bottom of page 20: “Mad Cow Shot at Cabra Road”.

    For more fun with Joyce, see The link was pointed out on The Irish Genealogical Research Society’s excellent Facebook page,

  • Rootsireland again

    January 25, 2012 @ 1:08 pm | by John Grenham

    The most important Irish records website by far is, the largest online source of church register transcripts. Its search interface has improved steadily and it is now just about possible to grin and bear the pain of paying €5 per record transcript in return for the power of the free index search.

    But one aspect of the site still drives regular users nuts – well, it regularly drives me nuts – and that’s the refusal to specify precisely which records it holds. The map that directs users is seriously misleading: if a local centre with responsibility for an area has uploaded any records at all, the area is coloured green, indicating records online. So, for example, Irish World is responsible for the records of Fermanagh and Tyrone and has records on the site, and thus Fermanagh and Tyrone are both green on the map. But Irish World has only transcribed church records for Tyrone, none at all for Fermanagh.

    The site does provide a space for centres to list their records, but then exercises no editorial control. For some areas (Cavan, Down) “Currently being compiled” is the only information, even though many (all?) of their transcribed records have been online for three years. For others (Tipperary North) the centre seems to have listed all the records it has access to, not those actually online, and for still others (Roscommon, East Galway …) the listing provided by the centre just doesn’t match the records the site actually searches.

    As an equal opportunity moaner, I should add that the main competitor,, has its own problems. Four months after putting up nearly a million fresh church record transcripts and images, its list of holdings still hasn’t been updated. The “full list of current areas and dates” gives no idea that almost all pre-1880 Cork & Ross and Dublin city Roman Catholic records are there.

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