Ireland’s Genealogy & Local History Specialists

Monthly Archives: February 2017

Jillian van Turnhout awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite

The founder of, Jillian van Turnhout, was awarded the prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite by the President of the French Republic. The Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite is the second highest national order of France and was presented to Jillian van Turnhout by the Ambassador of France to Ireland at an event hosted in the French Residence in Dublin

The award was made in recognition of Jillian van Turnhout’s work in strengthening children’s rights and for her engagement with civil society organisations across Europe.

On receipt of the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, Jillian van Turnhout said “I am immensely honoured to be recognised by the President of the French Republic for my work in promoting children’s rights and for my engagement with civil society organisations across Europe. Recent world events have strengthened my resolve and belief in the European Union project and to advocate for a Europe that is stronger together. This award and the French national motto of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ remind me of our shared values. We must work together in solidarity to uphold and ensure the rights of all citizens to live without fear in a world that respects freedom, democracy and equality.”

At the event in the French Residence, the Ambassador of France to Ireland, H.E. Jean-Pierre Thébault, remarked that “with the bestowal of the Ordre National du Mérite to Ms Jillian van Turnhout, France wishes to acknowledge a friend’s lifetime commitment and the part she played on numerous subjects that require flag bearers: from issues related to children’s rights to the promotion of the European ideal. Jillian’s public and professional paths are also testament to the important role women play in public life to make change happen and shape a better and more inclusive society.”

Maurice Pratt, Chairman of European Movement Ireland, commenting on the distinguished honour, said “There are few people more deserving of this award than Jillian. Having worked closely with Jillian, I have seen her tireless dedication to the causes she champions, including Irish-European affairs and children’s rights. It is a pleasure to see her being recognised for her outstanding contribution to developing Irish-European relations, and Irish-French relations in particular. I offer her my sincere congratulations on this well-deserved honour.”

The Chief Commissioner of the Irish Girl Guides, Helen Concannon, who also attended the event, said: “We are delighted to congratulate Jillian on the acknowledgement by another country of her tireless work for young people. She epitomises what the Baden Powells, the founders of Guiding and Scouting, meant when they said, ‘Girls should be brought up to be comrades and helpers, not to be dolls. They should take a real and not a visionary share in the welfare of the nation.’ “We are proud of all Jillian has achieved and all she continues to achieve through her involvement with Girl Guides,”

Biography Jillian van Turnhout
In addition to her work with, Jillian van Turnhout is a leading children’s rights advocate and a former Irish Senator. In her 5 year term in Seanad Éireann (upper house Irish Parliament), Jillian spearheaded a number of legislative and policy changes to further children’s rights. Jillian is involved with several not-for-profit organisations on a pro bono basis including as Vice Chair of European Movement Ireland, Chair of Early Childhood Ireland and Chair of Children in Hospital Ireland. She is a former Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, former Chief Commissioner Irish Girl Guides and former President of the National Youth Council of Ireland.

For over 12 years Jillian was a member and Vice President of the EU Advisory Body, the European Economic and Social Committee. Jillian drafted the first Opinion from an EU body on the need for a European Youth Policy and published a number of papers to further children’s rights. Jillian represented the EESC on the Steering Group for the European Forum on the Rights of the Child and the EESC EU-China Round for over 6 years leading to first formal dialogue on children’s rights between China and EU in 2010 in Chongqing, China. Jillian is a co-founder of the European Youth Forum.

Snowdrops in February at Altamont Gardens

My Great Aunt called snowdrops ‘fair maidens of February’.

If you love snowdrops and are in Ireland in February you should visit Altamont Gardens?, Carlow. The tour by the gardener is highly recommended.

“Every visitor says it has a special atmosphere, that’s why so many people come back. Every element you want from a great garden is here, from lovely lawns, floral beds and beautiful woodland going down to the river, to a walled garden and really superb collections, such as the snowdrops, rhododendrons and the fabulous oaks in the arboretum” Paul Cutler, head gardener at Altamont Gardens.

If you can’t make it this year, check out this short video we made of our visit.  The video is an example of a presentation we at can make of sites of historical importance to your ancestors.

Find out more here:

Overview of Services offered by

Get help finding your Irish ancestors from the specialists at

With over 10 years of experience in history and genealogy research, we are expertly placed to do the entire investigation for you or we are equally happy to become your trusted partner.

In this video we give you a quick overview of the services we offer:

Introduction to

Check out our introduction video

With over 10 years of experience in history and genealogy research, we are expertly placed to do the entire investigation for you or we are equally happy to become your trusted partner.

If you are just starting, we can show you the way with an initial investigation and point out further avenues for research and give advice of how to proceed.

If you already have a family tree but do not know what to do next, or have hit a brick wall, we can help you move forward. We can also verify your research for you, to ensure you have found the right people.

We can also enrich your family tree with local history and site visits.

And we can help you putting your data in a great looking presentation – slide show, video or booklet – for that next family gathering or as a personal gift.

Campaign to release the 1926 Census


I join with other genealogists and family historians in calling on the Irish Government to release the 1926 Census. The current restriction on public access to the census returns taken since independence in 1922, commonly known as the 100-year rule, was introduced as part of the Statistics Act 1993. However, during the legislative debate, the then Minister of State Noel Dempsey TD gave a commitment to the Seanad to reduce the lock to 70 years. While the 2011 Programme for Government made a commitment to release the records, every effort to date to change the law and allow for the release of records has been blocked.

The 1926 Census would be a powerful genealogical tourism tool. For family historians it would be wonderful to track each part of our family line between the 1911 census and 1926 census during this period of Irish history.

I use my own history as a case in point. My dad, Michael Hassett, was born in 1936 in Dingle, Co. Kerry. His mother, Mary Catherine Foley was born in 1905 in Cromane, Co. Kerry and his father, John Francis Hassett was born in 1904 in Glin, Co. Limerick but grew up in Knockanean, near Ennis, Co. Clare. They married in Dublin in 1930 and my dad was the fifth of six children. His mother died in Beaumont, Ballintemple, Cork, in their then family home, in December 1944 and his father died within three short months in February 1945 after an accident on his bike. My dad had lost both parents by the tender age of eight.

Dad was fortunate that his Aunty Helen moved to their family home in Cork to look after him and his five siblings including his older brothers Tom, and Sean and baby brother Liam who would still like to know more about their parents’ history. My dad died in November 2015 and I am still on the trail of his parents and their ancestors through available records and newspaper cuttings. I know the 1926 Census would provide rich data and add to our knowledge and yet these records are ‘sealed’ until January 2027.

I can access the 1940 US Census, the 1939 Register of England and Wales, the 1920 Canadian Census but alas not the 1926 Census of Ireland.  The 1950 US Census will be released in 2022 – five years before Ireland releases the 1926 Census. The information in the 1926 Census has been sealed in the interests of confidentiality. However, it is highly likely that every adult recorded in that Census is now dead. Furthermore, the information recorded simply comprises of forename, surname, age, marital status, relationship to head of household, religion, occupation and townland where born, employer, and if unemployed normal profession – and so I wonder why the need for secrecy.  Why can’t the 1926 Census be released?  My dad’s three brothers are currently aged between 73 and 81 years. The 1926 Census has the potentially to fill in important gaps in their family history, such as where their mother and father were in the years before they married in 1930.  It is absurd that we have to wait until 2027 to access this information?  The story of my family history is just one of countless who hunger for information on their identity and roots not to mention the benefits to tourism a release of this nature will attract.

In July 2016 I wrote an Open Letter to Government calling for release of 1926 Census of Ireland.

For background reading here are extracts I have put together of the original Oireachtas Debate on Statistics Bill 1993

I have received the following responses:
Letter from Chief Whip Regina Doherty, July 2016
Letter from Minister for Arts Heritage, Regional, Rual and Gaeltacht Affairs, 19 August 2016
Letter to Minister Shane Ross from Dept of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 19 August 2016