Genealogy and Geology Combine again in Patrick Roycrofts paper on Donegalite.

Figure 1 The “donegalite” specimen from the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History showing the original label from ‘C.R.C. Tichborne’ and a modern museum label for this mineral specimen. Photo: Patrick Roycroft.

Dr Patrick Roycroft is both a genealogist at the Irish Family History Centre (CHQ Building, Dublin) and a geologist. In his spare time, he likes to combine these interests and has published several geology papers over the last few years that have included an Irish genealogical component. Most notable is his 2016 paper on the mineral “cotterite” in which was included the detailed genealogy of the hitherto mysterious “Miss Cotter” after whom the mineral was named – see https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/10.3318/ijes.2016.34.45.pdf?seq=1).

Now, he has done it again! This time with co-author Eileen Vard (Clanwilliam Institute, Dublin, and an associate geology lecturer with the Open University) in their 2019 paper in the Royal Irish Academy’s Irish Journal of Earth Sciences. This paper appeared just before Christmas 2019 and is on the obsolete mineral name “donegalite”: what mineral is it, and where did the name come from? Patrick and Eileen infer that the name – obviously after County Donegal, but why? – was coined by 19th century Dublin-based chemist Dr Charles Robert Clarke Tichborne (~1838–1905) for a mineral he had in his personal mineral collection but that he could not identify: so Tichborne just seems to have named it himself. In the paper, Patrick and Eileen include a whole subsection on Dr Tichborne’s family history. Although the full paper is not available for free, the first page, including the abstract, can be viewed at https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3318/ijes.2019.37.3?seq=1 .

And what is “donegalite”? Click on the above link to find out. Enjoy!

Figure 2 Close-up of the original label made for, and filled out by, Charles Tichborne. The label reads, “Name: Fibrous donegalite with cinnamon stone. Locality: Donegal. No.: [unreadable]. C.R.C. Tichborne.”

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