A Familiar Tune: How music might help you discover your ancestors.

music in finding ancestors

We have a rich musical heritage in Ireland; music and song travelled easily with the Irish diaspora and were surely a source of solace and a mainstay of any social event. Recently, we have undertaken research on an 18th century musical instrument maker, and I have come across a number of sources that may be of interest if you have an ancestor with a musical past.

The website www.dublinmusictrade.ie has digitised the card indexes made by the Irish composer and music professor Brian Boydell (1917-2000). These refers to music publishers, printers, sellers and instrument makers in Dublin from 1750 to 1850 and can be searched by name, date, street address or business type. Brian Boydell’s archive was donated to the Manuscripts Library in Trinity College (TCD MS. 11128).

Trinity College also hold another archive of possible interest to those researching anything related to music. Arthur Darley (1873-1929) was a violinist and founding member of the Feis Ceoil Association and his papers were donated to the college (TCD MS. 10900).

Darley was a collector of traditional Irish folk music – which leads me onto the Irish Traditional Music Archive in 73 Merrion Square. They hold a vast collection of material relating, not only to Irish traditional music, but also to song and dance. Thankfully, the collection is not restricted to just Dublin.


Furthermore, the National Archives hold the notebooks of Dr. W. M. Graham (NAI M. 3075-89). These relate to 18th century Irish music with an emphasis on the 18th century and violin makers.


And finally, the National Library of Ireland holds a collection of mainly 18th and 19th century printed music scores.


By Helen Moss 

Helen Moss

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