In a few weeks our 2018 programme of research activities will begin with our February genealogy course (05-09 February). Due to the success of our 2017 family history courses we will be running four courses in total in 2018. (30 April–04 May, 13-10 June, 05-09 November)
The knowledge you gain from our family history courses will help you get to grips with research techniques, archives and genealogical sources in Ireland; provide you with the information and skills to further explore your family history and help you find your elusive Irish and Scots-Irish ancestors.
For example, did you know landed estate papers (of which the Public Record Office in Belfast has one of the best collections in the British Isles) sometimes contain the names of the tenants showing the land they farmed? These are just one of the types of records the course participants can access during their time in the archives with our research team. Other sources which are not yet online include workhouse registers and many church records.
As well as running one of our family history courses in June the Foundation has also partnered with Cara Group Travel to offer the Scots-Irish Discovery Tour. Participants will explore their Irish and Scots-Irish heritage taking in the incomparable greenery, majestic rolling hills, the warmest of welcomes and the iconic landmarks of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Foundation’s feature event of 2018 is our annual Tracing your Irish Ancestors family history conference. Running from 05-12 September 2018 this year’s family history conference will mark the tercentenary of the 1718 migration and 300+ years of Irish migration with visits to sites and places synonymous with the migration of Ulster and Irish families to the New Worlds (North America, Australasia, South Africa, etc).
During our seven-day conference delegates will be able to shape their own experiences and make treasured memories by choosing to either research in the different archives in Belfast and Dublin or join our staff on daily excursions through Ireland's beautiful landscape to some of its most historic sites.
Our 2018 programme will see delegates embark on a guided tour through the Bann Valley, the area in Ulster most directly associated with the 1718 migration; walk on the walls and explore the historic port city of Derry~Londonderry, one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe; uncover the stories of some of the earliest people to travel from Ulster to Australia at Down Museum; visit the Ulster American Folk Park which is dedicated to the story of emigration from Ulster to North America in the 18th and 19th centuries; as well as delving deeper into the past with visits to the Hill of the O’Neill in Dungannon to learn about the 'Flight of the Earls' in 1607, when two of Ulster's leading lords left the island for Continental Europe, never to return and Barons Court, the magnificent seat of the Duke of Abercorn whose ancestors migrated from Scotland over 400 years ago.
These tours are also enlivened with visits to other renowned historical sites of interest across the island of Ireland including one of Dublin city’s most important monuments and visitor attractions, Kilmainham Gaol. Delegates will also journey into pre-history to marvel at the UNESCO World Heritage site at Newgrange and look out onto the North Atlantic Ocean from the stones of the Giant’s Causeway.
One of the best aspects of the conference (outside our wonderful day trips to these great sites and locations) is for delegates to have the chance to sit down with a genealogist and work out a research strategy.
At our conferences there is always someone nearby if you hit a brick wall, need a word interpreted or just need a little bit of encouragement. With a number of different genealogists on hand throughout the week, if they choose to do so, our delegates are able to obtain advice from a different expert every day. And our panel have their own particular research specialisms to offer our guests.
Even on the very first day breakthroughs can be made as Kayla and Kathy found out in 2016 when they discovered the lease of an ancestor with love poems to Ireland written on the back of it – a very special find indeed!
Other special finds from our previous conferences include delegates learning they were actually related!
Melanie (on the right of the picture) is from Canada (her ancestor David emigrated to Carlton County, Ontario in 1842). Mary Ann (on the left) is from Australia (her ancestor Sarah Ogilby married a Walker and emigrated to Victoria, Australia in the 1850s). Melanie’s great-great grandfather David Ogilby was the brother of Mary Ann’s great-great grandmother Sarah Ogilby! Neither knew of each other’s existence until they met on our family history conference.
So it may not just be ancestors you discover on our conferences and courses, it might also be living relatives - or even the old family homestead as Carol found and visited in 2017!
After sitting down with our Research Officer Gillian on the first morning Carol delved into Griffith’s valuation from the mid-nineteenth century and to her joy discovered the townland her ancestors lived in, with a map. On this map was a pencil drawing of a building. She then went to Google Maps and discovered there was still a small building on the exact same plot of land highlighted in Griffith’s valuation. This house was only a two hour drive from Belfast so not only was Carol able to visit her ancestral homeland she was also able to visit her ancestral homestead. Quite a find.
The staff of the Foundation love being able to tell stories like this if only to inspire other family historians not to give up with their own research as the record or clue that unlocks their ancestor’s story might not be that far away.