Behind the scenes in the Genealogy Advisory Service @NLIreland
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 explore personal identity.
Here are some of the stories we’ve heard from recent visitors to the Library’s Genealogy Room.
A cruise ship recently docked in Dublin and as the passengers were disembarking they were told they might want to consult the duty genealogist at the National Library of Ireland. We had several visitors who were eager to learn more about their ancestors but with an eye on the clock to make sure they got back to the ship on time!
The first lady I met had a photocopy of a rent receipt from her ancestor John Norris in 1864. Her ancestor, she believed, was from Northern Ireland. The handwriting was very hard to read but the printed section stated that it was Corkaguiny Barony which is of course county Kerry: not particularly Northern! After much “hmming” and rotating the paper every which way we agreed that the end of the word was “glass”. We searched through the townlands of Kerry until we found Knockglass. Yes, that was just a very gappy looking K at the beginning! We consulted Griffiths Valuation and were delighted to see a John Norris.
Next, we searched the baptismal registers for Kilgobbin parish at www.irishgenealogy.ie. We found John Norris and his wife Catherine having a number of children in the 1840s and 1850s. She immediately recognised the family names as the entire family had emigrated to the US. We looked for Knockglass on google maps and saw that it is a little townland in a picturesque setting near the Atlantic coast, just outside of Tralee on the Dingle peninsula. “Why did they ever leave?” she asked me.
One thing was for sure, she wouldn’t make the trip before she had to return to the ship but she would return and walk in the steps of her ancestors at a later date.
Contributed by Linda Byrne
If you have ever visited the National Library’s Reading Room, you will have passed by a little brass plaque at the top of the stairs. Most people pass it by, but last week, we had a visitor to the Library with a personal connection to the person memorialised in this plaque.
We had a visitor in the Genealogy Room last week, Kathie Ordal from Oregon, whose ancestor was a cousin of Thomas William Lyster (1855-1922). T W Lyster joined the National Library of Ireland in 1878 and was its Librarian from 1895 to 1920.
He was also a founder member of Cumann na Leabharlann (The Library Association of Ireland) and the Irish Rural Libraries Association. He encouraged University College Dublin’s students to visit the Library’s collections, one of them being James Joyce. He was immortalised by James Joyce in the novel Ulysses in the episode about the National Library, as the “Quaker Librarian” even though he was a member of the Church of Ireland. He was also included in As I Was Going Down Sackville Street: A Phantasy in Fact by Oliver St John Gogarty after Gogarty visited the Library.
In 1923, the Friends of the National Library erected a commemorative plaque, situated in the hallway leading to the main reading room and states:
IN MEMORY OF
THOMAS WILLIAM LYSTER
FOR TWENTY FIVE YEARS THE ABLE AND ENLIGHTENED LIBRARIAN
OF THIS LIBRARY WHOSE ENTHUSIASTIC LOVE OF BOOKS AND
WHOSE KINDLY NATURE ENDEARED HIM TO ALL WHO KNEW HIM
Contributed by Maura Flood.
To see a picture of the plaque in situ click on http://bit.ly/29bJ18p
To see a photo of T.W. Lyster, see Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/yournlireland/5721225761