Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland

Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland

Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland

This past week, we learned about an important new resource for family history researchers whose ancestors came from Ireland as Irish, or passed through Ireland as some Scots-irish. Other Scots Irish are as much natives as those south and west of Ulster as Dalriada and other families and clans were hopping back and forth across the Irish sea between Ulster an western Scotland for at least 2,000 years.

Some of you may know that there was a proposed project that began in 2018 called “Beyond 2022,” in which the stated goal was to recreate/recover, as much as possible, the original records that had been in the Public Records Office of Ireland in Dublin prior to 1922. In 1922, during Ireland’s last civil war, the PRO was accidentally blown up and set afire from the explosion. It’s never a good idea to store munitions, and additionally mine the building of one’s national records building, if one wants to preserve history.

The pandemic greatly slowed this project, and additionally, it was set up to have the records as they were in original galleries, making it harder to decide where and how to place the bits and pieces being recovered. Not all those bits and pieces were in the original form. Some had been transcribed into other documents or books which would not have been in those galleries as such. Thus a second project was created and introduced in 2022 by the Taoiseach, Micheal Martin. It “supersedes ‘Beyond 2022’ and has more materials,” as per Dr. Peter Crooks, Trinity University, Dublin, Ireland, professor and director of the projects. It is called “ Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland”

Here is what the “Treasury” says about itself:

The Treasury is an all-island and international legacy for the Decade of Centenaries. It re-imagines and reconstructs through digital technologies the Public Record Office of Ireland, a magnificent archive destroyed on June 30th, 1922, in the opening engagement of the Civil War.

The website is an open-access resource, freely and permanently available online to all those interested in Ireland’s deep history at home and abroad. Together with our partners across Ireland and around the world, we are democratizing access to invaluable records and illuminating seven centuries of Irish history.

The Treasury contains online archives and, essentially, a card catalog of all additional records that still exist in Ireland with the locations of those additional records that are not yet online. This enables persons to find other persons close to some of those other libraries, societies and county heritage centers for possible lookups from particular documents and books until they are all digitized and put online.

Now to understand how it works, I tried it out. There is a lot of material, but researchers will have some problems searching for particular individuals. It took an exchange of two emails to learn that under advanced search and a submenu there was the term “exact phrase” that could be used to greatly narrow down the search for individuals. I hadn’t gone far enough in the routines the first two times I experimented with the search mechanisms. Under “Advanced Search,” you can search by “All” which does a search by both title, subject matter, etc. Next to this box is a box with the phrase “All of these words” and yet another drop-down menu. Click on that drop down to find the term “exact phrase,” and click on “exact phrase.” Now, in the third box you can put a forename and surname together. This is the only way you are going to find individuals whose surnames are also either common items in property descriptions or occupations or town names. . When it comes to a series of books, such as the Register of Deeds, going by only the surname presents a very big problem otherwise! You can also use the date range under advanced search to help narrow the search with only surnames, as long as they aren’t a term commonly used in property descriptions. I am still learning the possibilities of this search engine so there may be additional follow-ups.

A second problem is you can only go through large documents page by page, in a more open search when you are looking for just surnames or particular events and are not sure of the date. There is no box telling you how many pages are in a document, or collection and allowing you to enter a page number and go to it, to speed a search. Patience and determination are necessary at present.

Third item, not all of the Register of Deeds, and all of some other collections have been uploaded yet. After learning where the”exact phrase” search routine was I tested it with the name “Samuel Woods.” When I was in Dublin, in person, I went to the Registry of Deeds and did find this name in the 18th century, including an important lease by two brothers, Samuel and Michael Woods for land near Trim, in County Meath, in the 1740’s. Another source I found a few years ago showed additional property transactions and a will record listing the names together near Belfast at the end of the 17th century and into the first decades of the 18th century. None of those came up in today’s search, but three later records for other Samuel Woods’ did, including one related to something found in another source last year. Yet, yesterday, deeds with Campbells in them had shown up in my search. This tells me that some collections are still being uploaded and if at first you don’t find what you’d hoped, try again a few weeks or months later.

According to Dr. Crooks, more items will be digitized and online over coming years. I infer that programming will also be updated as they gain more experience with researchers attempting to use this resource. I also looked for a donate button or means of making donations. People who digitize, transcribe, index and upload literally tons of documents need to eat and have a roof over their heads also. Right now, you have to write to Dr. Crooks, and one or two other persons, to make inquiries about how to donate. Again, I hope this will change eventually and something like a “donate” button will become available.

AmeriCeltic will continue to follow the developments of this new online resource and let readers know of significant changes and additions.

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