Behind the scenes in the National Library’s Genealogy Room: Carmel Gilbride.

There is nothing like a session in the Library to bring home just how individual families can be. Whilst we study families and try to deduce patterns at play, each individual story shows the wonderful diversity of our families.

Listening, as I do each week, to visitors to the library, it is fascinating to walk alongside people on their journey of discovery. Parish registers can be such a mine of information and often spring surprises.  The appearance of the word ‘alias’ in a baptismal record more than hints at the unmarried status of the baby’s parents.  After an initial surprise for visitors who find this clue in their family history, there is a chance to discuss how the parish registers show the baby as his father’s natural child.   Quite how things panned out from there is endlessly variable.

With civil records now online, we can discover so much more at one consultation.  Now, instead of pointing our visitor to the General Records Office, and left to wonder what s/he might find, we can search for grandad’s death certificate, and discover he died, in his fifties, of bronchitis.  Commenting on how awful to die prematurely of a curable condition, the grandson was quite sanguine because ‘granddad smoked like a trooper’. Combining the documented record with the oral history provided a more rounded picture of this ancestor.

Another visitor spoke of how disapproval of her grandparents’ differing religions forced them to leave Dublin by ferry. On arrival in the port-town of Holy-head, they married on the same day, then took the return-boat back to Ireland.  Back home, they presented their marriage as a fait-accompli. The young bride and groom’s families had greater respect for the institution of marriage, than for a difference in religion, and family life developed happily, but in a slightly different direction. Such is life.

Leaving the Library, I mused on how many other families whose ancestors‘ marriages cannot be found in Ireland, may have taken fate into their own hands, and caught the boat to Scotland, Wales, Liverpool, or even the Isle of Man?

By Expert Researcher

Carmel Gilbride.

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