Behind the scenes in the Genealogy Advisory Service @NLIreland: Various.

The fun of the genealogy service in the National Library is that we never know in advance who we’ll meet, or what stories we’ll hear.  Our job is to listen, to identify verifiable facts and events, and to guide enquirers in their research.  The search never ends, because family history isn’t just about the past, it allows people to construct their own personal identity.

Here are some of the stories we’ve heard from recent visitors to the Library’s Genealogy Room.


Last week I met a lady researching her ancestor: an Irish-born sea-captain, a slave-owner, who ran a sugar plantation in the West-Indies. We inevitably got into a discussion about difficult histories. She left me with the thought, “You can’t face the present, if you can’t face your past.”

* * * * * * * *

It’s all in the name!

I met a lady in the Library from the southern states of America.  She told me: “My ancestor is Andrew Carruthers , C-A-R-R-U-T-H-E-R-S from Omar”.

I searched the different web-sites and data-bases with no success.  There was a smattering of Andrew Carruthers but none in Omagh, county Fermanagh.

“I found a cluster of Andrew Carruthers in the neighbouring county, but there’s no-one of that name in Tyrone,” I said, dejectedly pointing to the map.  “There’s more than 40 miles between Omagh, and where Andrew Carruthers is turning up, so it’s probably  not him!”

The lady squinted to where I was pointing at the map, and gave a small shriek of recognition! With a beaming smile she opened her notebook: “That’s him, look! Andrew Carruthers of Armagh.”

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A pleasant-faced man turned up in the library. “I’m on a mission. My sister found out I was coming to Ireland, and she sent me here.” He came prepared, and showed me an 1884 civil marriage for his immigrant ancestor, Roseanna Glazier aged 21 years.

New Zealand records are wonderfully detailed, and the marriage gave the names of both of Roseanna’s parents, Mary Ann Fitzell, and William Glazier, farmer of Kerry. I almost jumped out of my skin –  a Gleazier married to a Fitzell in mid 1800s Kerry!?!

In Ireland these names are very rare, and are almost exclusively associated with the Palatines – religious refugees from the Rhine area of present-day Germany that settled here between 1709 and 1720.

The Palatines were forced out of their homeland, when the French invaded the rich farmland along the Rhine. The French took what they needed to feed and transport their armies, creating famine conditions among the farmers. Between 1709 and 1720, thousands of Palatine refugees arrived in Ireland. They were a rural people, and they settled in rural communities in Limerick and Wexford.

In Limerick the Palatines settled on marginal land, which they had to ‘recover’ or ‘improve’ in order to farm. They kept a strong sense of their own cultural identity. Many successive generations in Ireland continued to speak German, and to intermarry within their own tight-knit communities.

By the mid 1700s when the Palatine population began to expand, and the rents on their reclaimed land were raised, the Palatines began to extend into Kerry.

The evidence of her New Zealand marriage proved that Roseanna was born ca. 1863 immediately before the start of civil births in Ireland in 1864.

There is no online record for Roseanna, or any siblings born to these parents.

Nor did we find a relevant marriage record for Mr. Glazier and Miss Fitzell (sometimes Fizzell).

Although not definitive, this last ‘negative finding’ at least allowed us to deduce that Roseanna may have been a late child, born to parents that married before April 1845, when registration of non-Catholic marriages began in Ireland.

Searching land and tax records on we quickly found Roseanna’s father, William Glazier, in the townland of Tullig (in Griffith’s Valuation 1851, and also in the LEC Rentals 1865). The land records confirmed our suspicion that Roseanna’s father was not a young man – “Agreement dated 22 May 1865… for the lives of William Glazier then aged about 50…”, indicating William Glazier was born ca. 1815 – certainly old enough to marry in the late 1830s.

We now had an address, by which we were able to identify the church records which probably hold baptismal records for Roseanna and her siblings.

Just as important, we have factual evidence of the Glaziers, including the names and family-relations of William Glazier’s brothers and nephews, recorded in the LEC as farmers in Tullig. On the basis of a short consult in the Genealogy Room, this gentleman found enough evidence to trace his ancestral family back to the early 1800s and earlier in Kerry, and possibly even back to Limerick before 1740.

Sometimes the longest way round, is the shortest way home.


Sincere thanks to our visitors to the Genealogy room @NLIreland, who agreed to share their family stories.

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