Irish Roots

The Other Clare Roots


Local societies are the lifeblood of genealogy. The missionary (and occasionally messianic) zeal with which they transcribe, organise, publish, and educate helped to create the public demand that has driven many improvements in access to Irish records over recent years. They are also one of the strongest bastions of volunteering, doggedly non-commercial and steeped in the ethos of mutual self-help. In other words, very nice people, only some of whom are ex-hippies.

The single most active local society in Ireland is probably Clare Roots (, based in Ennis. Just nine years old, it has a superb track record in organising conferences, digitising records and publishing – among its publications are already gravestone transcripts, mortuary cards, parish records, and (in collaboration with the hyper-energetic online local history section of Clare County Library – see a complete index to biographical notices in the Clare Champion 1935-1985. A good example of their sheer industry is the “’My People, My Place & My Heritage” project. This takes individual areas of Ennis town and brings together in a single book every conceivable record for the area: property records, school photographs, oral history, Urban District Council minutes, newspaper reports and much more. The end result restores and preserves entire lost dimensions of these places. So far, the project has published individual books on Summerhill, Abbey St, O’Connell Street, Steele’s Terrace and Cusack Road. The detail, and ambition, is astonishing.

On a recent visit, the society asked me to help publicise their latest venture, a continuation of the Clare Champion transcription project over the earlier 33 years from 1903 to 1935. They need volunteers – see – and I couldn’t say no. Their chairman awed me into compliance by mentioning in passing that he now had more than 80,000 individuals in his family tree. I didn’t have the nerve to tell him about my own piddling 600.

Note: the society shares a name, with the Corofin commercial genealogy centre. Yin and yang, so to speak.