Ulster Historical Foundation is a not-for-profit educational charity, founded in 1956, with the simple yet important mission to tell the story of the people of the nine counties of Ulster.
The Foundation seeks to disseminate heritage and cultural knowledge and to generate and provide the research and educational resources necessary to support individuals, families, groups, educators and global diasporas in understanding the history of Ulster.
The Foundation also uses history, not to accentuate difference but to emphasise and reinforce how much of our history is shared and interconnected. This in turn can facilitate community cohesion, which is particularly important in Northern Ireland.
Through its charitable activities the Foundation seeks to sustain interest in local and family history, to celebrate the diversity of the cultural heritage in Ulster and to equip the interested, amateur researcher with practical resources and hands-on archival research experience that will enable them to pursue their own research interests.
The Foundation makes a valuable contribution to civil society in Northern Ireland (which it has developed over many years) particularly with regard to social and educational outreach projects with local groups and individuals.
These educational programmes are designed to facilitate personal development and fulfilment, and build capacity amongst local groups and individuals, and to build bridges between the different sections of the local community. They help to demonstrate the Foundation’s public benefit and value by giving local people access to information and expertise on historical research and publishing.
The core aims of the Ulster Historical Foundation are as follows:
- to encourage an interest in the history of the province of Ulster;
- promote a positive image of Northern Ireland overseas;
- strengthen the links between Ireland and those of Ulster descent;
- broaden access to historical documents and records for Irish and Scots-Irish genealogy;
- and to inspire pride in Irish and Ulster heritage and culture.
Core Aims and Current Objectives
- To encourage an interest in the history of the province of Ulster; promote a positive image of Northern Ireland overseas; strengthen the links between Ireland and those of Ulster descent; broaden access to historical documents and records for Irish and Scots-Irish genealogy; and to inspire pride in Irish and Ulster heritage and culture.
- To become the principal genealogical research agency in Ireland and a leading publisher of quality historical educational and genealogical books.
- To bring together people from all over the world with an interest in finding out more about their Irish ancestry.
- To work with the appropriate local partners on the island of Ireland to develop and implement a series of educational programmes aimed at creating greater cross-cultural understanding and bridge building between young people of different community backgrounds and with those from the migrant communities now living in Northern Ireland.
- To provide youth and community leaders with the skills necessary to participate in the programme delivery and to cascade the educational messages.
- To decrease the level of community tension between indigenous and migrant communities through a shared understanding of history.
- To build on the Foundation’s organisational reputation as an early adaptor and to use new technologies to release the information treasures presently held by the Foundation and in other repositories and collections, through the creation of digitised information systems.
- To work in partnership with local agencies and community groups to create digitised historical resources which are made available widely for anyone with an interest in the history of Ulster.
- To secure the funds necessary to provide skills training programme, including the hardware and software requirements, to digitise further historical resources.
- To examine the potential for people with learning difficulties, physical disabilities, head injuries and degenerative illnesses to participate in volunteering opportunities with the Foundation and in the creation of the digitised resources.
The Foundation has a long history working with local community groups and various support centres. Most, if not all, current Foundation staff members have worked closely with volunteers from many different social and economic backgrounds and with different needs and requirements.
Many of our volunteers come from deprived communities across Belfast and beyond. Others have suffered a life-changing event or major health setback prior to volunteering and other individuals struggle with various mental health issues or disorders and have had difficulty finding employment. However, all our volunteers are ambitious, keen to develop personally and form friendships and relationships outside their immediate family.
Since 2003 the Foundation has worked with organisations such as New Horizons, Mencap and theCedar Foundation providing volunteering opportunities for individuals across Belfast and Northern Ireland. Most of the people who take part in our programmes have a range of disabilities or have suffered a debilitating illness or degenerative disease.
In addition, in 2018 the Foundation established a partnership with the NOW Group providing young interns placements to improve their IT skills and office experience to enhance their employment opportunities and professional development.
The Foundation also offers placements/volunteer positions to students and individuals from local community groups, especially those from socially deprived areas, who wish to learn more about Northern Ireland’s shared history and their own family history as well as improve their own employability and critical thinking and research skills.
Our volunteers contribute in a meaningful way to the activities and work of the Foundation. Through analysing and documenting useful information from primary sources and compiling genealogical databases, much of the work that our group works on helps bring to light genealogical records and obscure historical documents that have immense value to family historians across the world. In addition, given the global audience for genealogy and Irish/Scots-Irish heritage this work also helps contribute to a greater awareness of, and respect for, Northern Ireland’s shared history and strengthens connections with this place through people’s heritage and their ancestors.
The Foundation is established for exclusively charitable purposes and is registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC100280. It is presently governed by a trust deed dated 7 October 1998, and a scheme of incorporation dated 10 May 1999, which establishes the Trustees as a body corporate. The trust deed states the objects of the Foundation as follows:
- to promote and encourage the public study of family history, genealogy, heraldry and local and Irish history with particular reference to Ulster;
- to promote the preservation and publication of the resultant data; and
- to undertake such other activities as shall be charitable at law.
The principal activities of the Foundation include publications, lecture tours, summer and autumn schools (activity holidays), a genealogical research and consultancy service, maintenance of a membership association known as the Ulster Genealogical and Historical Guild, and pay-to-view and member-only online databases.
Structure, Governance and Management
The Foundation has up to 14 trustees who meet quarterly. The Executive Director is appointed by the Trustees to manage the operations of the Foundation including the production of business and strategic plans and the preparation of the annual accounts.
Trustees are recruited by selection via advertisements placed on the Foundation’s website and with bodies such as the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) as well as through networking. Applicants are invited to submit an expression of interest outlining their skills and experience. Applications are considered by the Trustees and appointments made based on the deliberations of the Trustees based on pre-determined criteria.
The Trustees appoint sub-committees dealing with finance, resources and governance issues, and publications. These sub-committees oversee the direction of the Foundation as well as collaboration with external bodies.
The Foundation is a member of NICVA, the Irish Family History Foundation and a number of trade affiliated bodies such as the Publishing Ireland. However these networks have no impact on the operating policies of the charity.
Governance and Risk Management
The Finance and Resources Committee considers issues relating to corporate governance to ensure that the Foundation follows best practice. The FRC has reviewed the major risk and in addition to the obvious risk of finance and damage or destruction to the office and its contents a further major risk is the potential abuse and breach of copyright of digital material published online. The Trustees are mindful of this possibility, and online systems have been developed with security of the data as the primary concern. The levels of risk from commercial competitors in potential breaches of copyright are considered regularly at committee and Board level, and the Trustees have from to time to time asserted their right to protect information belonging to the organisation and will continue to do so when the need arises.
The Trustees are responsible for preparing the Trustees’ report and the financial statements in accordance with applicable law and United Kingdom Accounting Standards (United Kingdom Generally Accepted Accounting Practice).
The law applicable to charities in Northern Ireland requires the Trustees to prepare financial statements for each financial year which give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the Foundation and of the incoming resources and application of resources of the charity for that period. In preparing these financial statements, the Trustees are required to:
- select suitable accounting policies and then apply them consistently;
- observe methods and principles in the Charities SORP;
- make judgements and accounting estimates that are reasonable and prudent;
- state whether applicable accounting standards have been followed, subject to any material departures disclosed and explained in the financial statements; and
- prepare the financial statements on the going concern basis unless it is inappropriate to presume that the charity will continue in business.
The trustees are responsible for keeping proper accounting records that disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the Foundation and enable them to ensure that the financial statements comply with the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 and The Charities (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. They are also responsible for safeguarding the assets of the charity and hence for taking reasonable steps for the prevention and detection of fraud and other irregularities.