Author Topic: Poor state of Donegal/Ireland records  (Read 1215 times)

Offline mike1979

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Poor state of Donegal/Ireland records
« on: Tuesday 27 October 15 03:52 GMT (UK) »
Hi All
Interested in thoughts on the poor state of Irish (my family is mostly from Donegal) records in general.  And hopefully tell me if I'm missing anything!
Obviously the fire burning all the C19th census returns didnt help but church records for my family only go back to the mid C19th and are pretty sketchy even then.  There dont seem to be many other records which help much.
I also have family from Germany and have excellent church records going back to the C17th naming parents and occupations etc.  In addition to this there are town council records, wills, military service records etc.
I'm not an expert but is it that Ireland (and particularly Donegal) was a bit of a frontier (even the Romans didnt get that far!), generally opposed to officialdom given British occupation, lower literacy levels etc so just didnt keep the same comprehensive records?
I wonder if there are any rich sources of records which have not yet been digitilised which we can look forward to?
Would be interested to hear your thoughts.
M




Offline Sinann

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Re: Poor state of Donegal/Ireland records
« Reply #1 on: Tuesday 27 October 15 07:53 GMT (UK) »
Have you heard about the Penal Laws?
Look into it a bit and it will explain to some extent why Roman Catholics don't feature much in records and why early RC records weren't kept.
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~donegal/penalcode.htm
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penal_Laws_(Ireland)#Gradual_reform_and_emancipation_1778.E2.80.931869

This site is very good for most things http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/ including a good over view of Irish censuses since 1813 http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/Irish-census.html

Offline aghadowey

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Re: Poor state of Donegal/Ireland records
« Reply #2 on: Tuesday 27 October 15 09:18 GMT (UK) »
Are any of your 'excellent' German records online? In the past few years an amazing amount of Irish records have come online- transcribed, indexed or scanned- census, church, valuation, etc.

Obviously the fire burning all the C19th census returns didnt help
All the 19th century census records were NOT destroyed by fire in Dublin. The 1861 census, for example, was destroyed by government order after all statistics had been extracted. Remember that the purpose of a census is to count people not help later generations trace their family.

You haven't mentioned what religion your family were but it wasn't only Catholics that were penalised in Ireland- Presbyterians and anyone else not Church of Ireland (the Established or State Church) were at a disadvantage in earlier times. Ironically, many C.O.I. registers sent to Dublin for safekeeping at one time were also destroyed.

Many pre-1900 Wills were destroyed but the Will books do survive- both PRONI & NAI have put these online. However, many people don't realise that many of these older Wills were copied and survive in various archives.

All civil registration records (births, deaths, marriages) survive and before you complain that Irish registration started so 'late' let me point out that some places didn't register such events until the 20th century.

Interesting article about Romans in Ireland in British Archaelogy journal-
http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba14/BA14FEAT.

The lack of certain records does, however, probably make Irish researchers better at thinking about alternative resources when trying to gather information.
Away sorting out DNA matches... I may be gone for some time many years!

Offline mike1979

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Re: Poor state of Donegal/Ireland records
« Reply #3 on: Tuesday 27 October 15 10:33 GMT (UK) »
thanks both. 

my ancestors were catholics, not very rich and farmers mostly.  All of the ones Ive found so far on my mother's side were in Donegal.  I have my complete pedigree back for about five generations which shows I'm about 95% Irish, 1% German and some change.  The German records are not online but do seem in better shape for the 17th to 19th centuries where I can get back 13 generations with some interesting and descriptive documents (family also farmers, not nobility!).

to your point, I'd like to get 'better at thinking about alternative resources' but am stuck in the early C19th at the moment.

to be honest though I was interested in the 'social history' of what the 'poor' record keeping may tell us rather than complaining about it.  For many centuries / millennia Donegal was effectively the edge of the world and during the migrations of our species these were the guys who kept going until they hit the sea!

thanks for the links - I'll check them out.

Mike