Gabriel Byrne’s dyspeptic take on The Gathering in 2013 has at least drawn more attention to it. But despite the hooting and jeering (see below), interesting things are happening. More and more local groups are actually taking up the idea of researching the descendants of those who emigrated from their area, and making clear that they are very welcome to come back. Something about the idea chimes with Irish notions of hospitality and extended family. As well as chiming with our beloved begrudgery.
As part of the preparations for next year, the Department of History at NUI Maynooth is hosting a conference on Saturday November 24th next titled “The Gathering: Local History, Heritage & Diaspora“. Some very interesting speakers will discuss the concept of reverse genealogy and the practicalities of engaging with our diaspora.
One of the main aims of the event, however, is to draw the attention of local history and genealogy groups to the Morpeth Roll. This is the huge testimonial to the departing Chief Secretary of Ireland George Howard, Viscount Morpeth, in 1841. Apparently organised by Daniel O’Connell’s supporters and encouraged by the Catholic Church, more than 250,000 signatures were collected in the space of a month. The giant roll recording them has been in Castle Howard in Yorkshire for the past century and a half and has only just been transcribed. As renowned local historian Mario Corrigan will show, local historical expertise brought to bear on the Roll can turn it into that most precious of genealogical treasures, a pre-Famine census.
But to do that, the widest possible range of researchers need to engage with the Roll. So come one, come all. It sounds like a great Saturday, and a great project.
['Irish Roots archive from 2009 at www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/magazine/column]