Journal of the Irish Family History Society

The latest issue of the Journal of the Irish Family History Society, that for the year 2005, with its 128 pages and twenty articles, as usual, provides interesting reading. This year, it is a bit light on source material. Most of the articles are personal accounts of research carried out, and descriptions and characterisations of various ancestors and their times. This personal emphasis makes the booklet more entertaining. It is most unlikely that anyone is going to find a reference to one of their ancestors in a sampling of source material that can be fitted into a short article. Much better to celebrate the lives of ancestors and relate the adventures involved in discovering them.

Margaret Purcell’s piece: ‘Recollections — Looking for Ancestors in Ireland’, details her search for the roots of her ‘four great-grandparents of Irish stock’, all of whom settled in England during the nineteenth century. Luckily for her, one of her forbears, John Purcell, left a Bible after him in which he had written: ‘This Bible belongs to John Purcell, son of Thomas Purcell and Mary Bryan of Grawna in the Parish of Ballingarry, County Tipperary, Ireland’. The inscription was dated 6 May 1854. Her experience of the ancestor trail in Ireland was very positive. She encountered a parish priest who gave her full access to the parish baptismal records. Afterwards he directed her to the local authority on family history, a shopkeeper, who was able to send her on to the place from which her Purcell ancestors came. She was welcomed to the homestead by cousins who had never met her, or even heard of her before. Since then, she has stayed in the homestead on a number of occasions as a guest of her new found cousins.

Patricia Moorhead had a piece in the 1999 edition of the journal of the IFHS about her great-great-grandfather Bernard Sheehan. Part two of the article appears in this issue. Over twenty pages in length, it is the longest article in the booklet. It is very well researched and written in an engaging style. Here, she tells us more about Mr Sheehan who was a Cork pawnbroker who fathered fifteen children and featured regularly in the press due to his involvement in local politics. The article is very well illustrated with old photographs of Bernard and his descendants.

Richard Flatman writes about a more recent ancestor, his grand-father James Michael Duffy. Mr Duffy worked in the Natural History Museum for over forty years, most of it spent in the ‘bone room’. The short article gives a little insight into what working in one of the institutions of the state was like in the early part of the last century.

Other articles of note are Perry Mclntyre’s piece on ‘Famine Orphan Girls to Australia 1849-1950’ and ‘Oscar Wilde’s Friend and Benefactor, Helen Carew (c.1856-1928)’ by James Robinson.

The focus of the various articles indicates a good geographical spread. Patricia Moorhead’s piece, centred on Cork City, is balanced by Margaret Bonar’s ‘The Gweedore Estate of Lord George Hill’, with its focus on rural Donegal at the other end of the country.

The journal concludes with a number of reviews of genealogical publications, both CD-Roms and books.

Original review by Tony McCarthy appeared in Irish Roots Magazine, 2006 Number 1, and is reproduced here by kind permission.