Date Published: 20-Jan-2011
By Bernie Ní Fhlatharta
The interest in genealogy continuesto grow and a new book just published concentrates on Galway families as well as being a DIY guide for the amateur genealogist.
The author, local historian Peadar O’Dowd was chuffed when he was asked by the publishers to research and pen their Galway edition of the very popular series on how to trace your ancestry.
He admits he was apprehensive as he says he might be an historian, but he isn’t a professional genealogist.
It took Peadar two years to research and write A Guide to Tracing Your Galway Ancestors and he appears to have enjoyed every minute of it.
“I didn’t know much about genealogy when I started, but I have certainly learnt a lot about how to go about tracing your family history and I learned a lot about Galway families,” he said.
He includes a potted history of some of the city and county’s famous families including the city’s 14 Tribes.
He was obviously the right man for this job as he is not only a local historian, but has a series of other titles to his name, all to do with the history of his native city.
He used many sources to compile his latest book from census results to the GAA to local histories. In fact, he was pleasantly surprised at how much history he came across through GAA sources.
“They were a magnificent source because down through the years, local clubs have kept track of local families
“Graveyards, too, are a great source of information, as are clergy and their records. Other sources are land and church records as well as civil registration records, wills and marriage registrations.”
The book should be a great help to anyone thinking of starting their family tree.
But Peadar is not one to rest on his laurels and, as well as starting work on another new project, he is also going to return to another book, the history of Digital, which he started three years ago but abandoned to write the ancestry book.
A Guide to Tracing Your Galway Ancestors, which is also illustrated, retails at €13 and is currently in the shops. It will be launched in the Galway City Museum on Wednesday evening next.
For more on this story, see the Galway City Tribune.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.
Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.
She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.
Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.
Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.
When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.
Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.
And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.
All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.
“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”
That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.
For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here
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