Behind the scenes stories at the Irish Family History Centre. .


Sometimes there are other records…and even more.

When Judy Harper from Australia visited the Irish Family History Centre, she had quite a bit of family research already completed. She had traced her family back through a number of generations in South Africa to Dublin, to the Pittar family in the eighteenth and nineteenth Centuries. The Pittar family were of French Huguenot origin, and established themselves in Dublin as goldsmiths. They arrived in Ireland during a period of religious persecution of protestants in France.

At the Irish Family History Centre we sought to bring the story a little further along. In 1757 we found the records of goldsmith John Pittar, being admitted by service as a Freemen of the city of Dublin, having completed an apprenticeship. In 1780 his son, John Pittar, goldsmith was admitted as a freeman by birth; and in 1807 John jr.’s son Parke Pittar, goldsmith with an address in Stephen’s Green, was likewise admitted a Freeman of the City by birth. We then found the silver hallmark registered to and used by John Pittar during the reign of King George III.

John Pittar's Dublin hallmark from 1808
John Pittar’s Dublin hallmark from 1808

The Great Famine 1845-51 decimated the Irish population, and affected all sections of Irish society, including indirectly silver and goldsmiths. Approximately 1/4 of all landed estates were bankrupted by the Famine. With numerous landed estates in decline there was no market for fine silver items and many tradesmen emigrated, including John Pittar. Pittar settled in India, where since the early 1800s a branch of the family had traded as silversmiths, and tried to rebuild his life. 

We found records from the Landed Estate Courts Rentals that showed properties previously owned by the Pittar family, sold from the 1850s. And, we identified a number of Pittar graves in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin, and were able to forward to Judy photographs of the headstone inscriptions.

By 1901 the Irish census recorded that there were no longer any Pittar descendants in the country. Judy however, had found a number of interesting line of enquiry to pursue, in tracing her goldsmith ancestors as they moved around the world.

Declan Brady

Genealogist at Irish Family History Centre

Declan Brady

Discover your family history.

Hire Us