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Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Irish Famine 1845 - 1850

To continue the Irish theme from last week's post on Irish genealogy, I thought that this week I'd write about the Irish Famine. I have a particular interest in this because my own Irish family came from Skibbereen in West Cork, one of the worst affected areas. I've visited the family History centre there and seen the exhibition on the famine, which is an incredibly moving experience, and I have visited the Abbeystrowry graveyard where there are 9,000 people buried in the famine grave pits. I was also lucky enough to be able to find the house on Bridge Street where my great grandfather was a shoemaker, he was born in 1844, the year before the famine started in 1845.

The Famine started in September 1845 when blight was first noted in Wexford and Waterford. By November half the potato crop was ruined. The British Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel, immediately recognizing that the circumstances in Ireland meant that this crop failure could cause famine, ordered corn and meal to be sent from the United States and a Relief Commission set up. Food aid had to be bought at market prices, a requirement which meant that the aid itself was less than fully effective since many poor Irish had no money at all and employment on Relief Works was not always immediately available.

The first deaths from hunger took place in the spring of 1846. The new Whig administration under Lord Russell, influenced by their laissez-faire belief that the market would provide the food needed, then halted government food and relief works leaving many hundreds of thousands of people without any work, money or food. Grain continued to be exported from the country. Private initiatives such as The Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends (the Quakers) attempted to fill the gap caused by the end of government relief and eventually the government reinstated the relief works, although bureaucracy made food supplies slow to be released. Grain continued to be exported from the country. The blight almost totally destroyed the 1846 crop and the Famine worsened considerably. By December a third of a million destitute people were employed in public works such as road making.

1847's exceptionally hard winter made conditions even worse. A typhus epidemic killed tens of thousands, including wealthier people as the towns were now also affected. 1847's harvest was largely unaffected by blight but too few potatoes had been planted so the Famine continued unabated. The Soup Kitchens Act provided financial assistance to local authorities to help them feed Famine victims but this Act was withdrawn in September and relief was made the responsibility of local Poor Unions and of charitable organizations. This put impossible loads on local Poor Unions, particularly in the rural west and south. Emigration reached new heights and the infamous coffin-ships crossed the Atlantic in large numbers carrying people fleeing from the famine.

The blight returned in 1848 and outbreaks of cholera were reported. Evictions became common and Famine victims on outdoor relief peaked in July at almost 840,000 people. A doomed uprising against the government was led by William Smith O'Brien. The potato crop failed again in 1849 and famine was accompanied by cholera outbreaks.

In 1850 the potato crop was okay and the Famine mostly ended. By 1851 Census figures showed that the population of Ireland had fallen to 6,575,000 - a drop of 1,600,000 in ten years. The famine left in its wake perhaps up to a million dead and another million emigrated. The famine caused a sense of lasting bitterness by the Irish towards the British government, whom many blamed — then and now — for the starvation of so many people. The fall-out of the famine continued for decades afterwards and Ireland's population still has not recovered to pre-famine levels.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Irish Genealogy

We are rapidly approaching the great Irish holiday of St Patricks Day on the 17th March, when the world goes green! I thought therefore that this would be a good time to do a post specifically on Irish genealogy for all those with roots in the Emerald Isle.

Unfortunately researching your Irish roots is not easy because a lot of records went up in smoke during the Civil War in 1922, where they were kept in the Public Record Office in Dublin. These included most of the Census records and BMD records. Happily most of the Roman Catholic parish registers were retained by the parish churches and although up to now have proved difficult to access, more and more registers and others records are now starting to be digitised and available online.

The GRO (General Register Office) for Ireland has a very good history of registration and records in Ireland HERE. The details of whats available at the GRO is HERE and their fees, payment methods (they have no online facility yet) and regional offices can be found HERE.

To aid your own research I've listed below the best websites & sources I've come across in my search for my own Irish family roots.

Irish Genealogy Links Lists:-

CYNDI'S LIST (the biggest & the best)

Other useful sites

IRISH GENEALOGY (Good guide to where to find records)
THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES (Good introduction to Irish genealogy)
GENUKI-Ireland (Huge online genealogy resource)
ROOTSWEB MAILING LIST from here you can subscribe to the mailing list and browse or search the index for your ancestors surname and/or place of birth.
FAILTE ROMHAT (Griffiths Valuation page, but also check out the blue website index strip near top of page as it has many links to transcripts of census, directories, cemeteries etc.)

At the FAMILY SEARCH website you can search for your ancestors name or just a surname, which will throw up Irish records from the 1880 US Census, 1881 British & Canadian Census's, Pedigree Resource files & Ancestral Files as well as the IGI (International Genealogical Index).

It's also possible to search the IGI by Irish County/Parish at Hugh Wallis's searchable website of IGI batches HERE

The new Family Search PILOT SITE now has the Irish Civil Registration Indexes from 1845 to 1958 online.

Records for Passengers Who Arrived at the Port of New York During the Irish Famine, 1/12/1846 - 12/31/1851 - SEARCHABLE DATABASE

CASTLE CLINTON IMMIGRATION CENTRE offers free access to an extraordinary searchable database of information on 10 million immigrants to the USA. from 1830 through 1892, the year Ellis Island opened.

ELLIS ISLAND Passenger Lists 1892- 1924 - Search for your Irish ancestors as they arrive in New York.

Records of Irish Convicts & Rebels transported to New South Wales, Australia - SEARCHABLE DATABASE

Was your ancestor a CONVICT? (Not just Irish, includes links to Old Bailey records etc)


Subscription Sites:-

The following are very good sites for searchable databases where you can do free searches but will have to subscribe to view the actual detailed records.

(Northern Ireland & Ulster)

Useful Blogs & Websites:-

The following list is of blogs & websites run by people researching their own Irish genealogy, but which contain useful general information for Irish researchers.


Books for Irish family historians (link to

Collins Tracing Your Irish Family History, by Anthony Adolph and Ryan Tubridy

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, by John Grenham

How to Trace Your Irish Ancestors, by Ian Maxwell

Finding Your Irish Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide, by David S Ouimette

I hope you find the above useful in kick starting your Irish research and I'll probably be making further additions to these lists over the coming months, so keep checking back.

Greek Genealogy

Someone asked me about Greek genealogy today, so I thought I'd post what I've been able to find. So here we have what I consider are the best places for links to Greek Genealogy websites -

also you could try Family Search as they have Greece listed. Don't know what sort of records they have, but worth a try, just choose Greece in the Country option & enter your ancestors surname.

The following are also very good sites specific to Greek genealogy.

Try Dimitri's Name Database to get an idea of which region your ancestor came from at

Another great site I have been advised of is at

This has:-

- Growing number of Data Records on Greeks in Greece and Diaspora countries, including United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Greece, Asia Minor, Turkey, Cyprus, Russia, Odessa, Ethiopia, Egypt plus more
- Links to Greek Records microfilmed and available through LDS Family History Library
- 260+ links to help you with your Greek genealogy research
- Greece Gazetteer – 35,900 place names and Latitude & Longitude coordinates
- FREE Online Antiquarian Books regarding Greece, Asia Minor, Cyprus, Greek-Americans, etc.
- Greek Naming Traditions
- Historic photographs
- Greeks in the news circa 1870s thru 1920s – Flower Peddlers, Peanut Vendors, etc.
- WPA Interviews 1936-1940 Greek-American Life Histories
- plus much, much more – being updated all the time

Some of the sites on the links above have forename & surname Greek translators so watch out for those as many immigrants converted their birth names to American equivilents when they arrived in the U.S.A.

Hopefully you will find these links useful when researching your Greek family history.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

The New Family Search Pilot Site

Have you visited the new exciting Family Search pilot website yet? This is run by the LDS (Church of Latter Day Saints aka the Mormons) They have started a pilot program for their new search feature which includes free to view scans of census records, vital records and much more. This looks to be a great site in the making. You should check it out and I will let you know when it gets integrated as the new search function for the site.


Whats available: THE COLLECTIONS (also shows whether original images are available)

The Family Tree Magazine has a great introduction and more details and I have also posted a great video by Robert Ragan at Treasure Maps Genealogy which will give you a better idea of what it's about and how to use it. Make sure you give Robert a visit, his site has lots of good stuff.

If you would like to view full screen click on the button at the bottom, second from the right

Flash Drive Genealogy - How to Store Your Genealogy Stuff

You can now store and back up your important genealogy information on flash drives, the new portable storage media. That valuable information can be:

GEDCOM Files, Pictures, Documents, and anything else that is important to you...

The flash drive (other names are jump drive or thumb drive) is a handy modern-day gizmo that is your "back up buddy."

Go To: for even more information about this lesson, with links, pictures etc.