Irish Family History Specialists


New City Pictorial Directory

Most Irish family history researchers will be familiar with Thom’s Directories. In 1850, Henry Shaw tried to launch a competing publication, the New City Pictorial Directory. It was not a commercial success, and the 1850 edition was destined to be the only one. It provides a unique insight of the city in 1850 though because – as the title suggests – it was pictorial.

Henry Shaw had established himself as a newspaper publisher in 1848. He was not the only one to do so; thanks to technical advances of printing technology, a lot of newspapers were established in the nineteenth century. Many would only exist for a short time. Shaw’s The Commercial Journal and Family Herald existed from 1848 to 1872. The newspaper appears to have been off to a good start, claiming 9,000 subscribers (according to Shaw).

In 1850, as mentioned above, he published a city directory. This was possibly to expand his publishing business, or perhaps to promote his newspaper as subscribers to the full edition (there was a cheaper single sheet edition) received a free copy of the directory.

The directory contained:

  • Review of 1849
  • Calendar of 1850 events
  • List of government departments
  • Banking directory
  • Law directory
  • Street directory
  • Alphabetical list of nobility, gentry, merchants and traders

The unique part of the directory were the drawings. It displays many beautiful engravings of street frontages. Being a commercial publication however, many residential areas did not get such treatment and only those businesses who took out an advertisement received a detailed drawing of their premises, as opposed to just an outline. All main streets were included. But also, in some cases, smaller streets, if a business in such street would have taken out an ad. If this was not the case, no pictorial view of these smaller streets would be included.

If your ancestors owned a business in the city of Dublin in 1850, you might be lucky and a drawing of their premises might exist.

The National Library of Ireland and Marsh’s Library have a copy in their holdings. We have also seen second hand copies being offered on various websites. Articles was established in 2017 and in addition to research for our clients, we have been creating various content such as articles, posts, magazines, videos and news items right from the start. If you follow us on Facebook, Instagram or X (formerly Twitter), you will have seen our short messages about Ireland, genealogy, local history and more. Some are educational, some are informative, whilst others are just meant to entertain. Our magazine and blog offer short articles. We release the magazine twice a year, and in between, we publish blogs. You may subscribe to receive notifications for either of them. Almost 600 of you have already done so!

We also write longer articles that require extensive research. Typically, we write one article per year that we share with a specific publication. Our work has been featured in various family and local history magazines and journals, both in Ireland and North America.

Of course, a new article would always be the topic of a blog, and as a subscriber you would have been notified. But if you haven’t been a subscriber from the beginning, or you are just reading this blog post, did you know you can access all articles we have published via our website? You can download the articles we published until 2020 free from our website. After 2020 our policy changed: to support the publishing organisations, we provide links to their websites where you can purchase the magazine or journal where we are featured.

If you find yourself with some time on your hands during the upcoming Christmas break, why not have a look by clicking on the picture below? The very first article mentioned on the page is brand new, it was only published in November 2023.

Enjoy, and have a great Christmas and a fantastic 2024.

The team.

Accredited Genealogists Ireland

Since 1986, Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI) is an accrediting and representative body for professional genealogists in Ireland.

The role of the AGI is twofold:
1. Representing the interests of people who are professionally employed in the field of genealogy.
2. Monitoring the standard of their work on behalf of their clients.

Anyone wishing to become a member, must be a professional genealogist, living and working on the island of Ireland, research Irish sources and cannot be full-time employed outside the field of genealogy.

There is a strict process to become a member. The first step is to become an affiliate. This involves an application outlining the number of years active in genealogical research for a fee; research experience, experience in related fields, and courses attended. It should be noted that experience is a requirement; but courses are not. In addition, the applicant should submit a dissertation or essay of approximately 1,000 words to demonstrate their knowledge, ability and communication skills

The next step is to become a full member. Admission to membership is based on the recommendations of an independent Board of Assessors. This board will assess work completed by the applicant for a fee-paying client. If successful, the genealogist will be allowed to display the AGI membership badge as a credential of their professionalism and quality of work.

I am happy to report that my submission was successful and that I am now a fully accredited genealogist!

Book of Icelanders

Íslendingabók means “Book of Icelanders”. It is the title of a book, but in this post, we mean an online database created by the biotechnology company deCODE in Iceland. The aim of this Reykjavik-based company is to use population genetics studies to identify variations in the human genome associated with common diseases. So the purpose was medical. A large number of Icelanders participated in their research.

In 2003 the database the company had created was made available online but with limitations on who can see what. It very quickly became a very important genealogical database for Icelanders. To get access you must get a password, which you can only get if you have an Icelandic social security number. Users can see information on themselves, as well as all their ancestors, plus all descendants of their grandparents and great-grandparents. They can also see how they are related to anyone born after 1700 in Iceland.

The following information is available in the database:

  • Names, birth and death dates, and places of parents
  • Names, birth and death dates, and places of siblings
  • Names, birth and death dates, and places of partners
  • Names, birth and death dates, and places of children

In February 2020 the database held data on 904,000 people. The current population of Iceland is only around 400,000 and it is estimated that only about 1.8 million people ever lived on the island, since its settlement in the 9th Century. It holds information on 95% of all people born in Iceland since 1700!

The wide scope of people that users can see information on, meant that sometimes people found family members they did not know existed. Sometimes, that was a family secret or something that people had tried to hide. So not everyone was delighted with this resource!

Apart from family history research, the database also helps people check potential partners: Iceland has a very small population on a relatively remote island (at least it was before airplanes became widely used). And that means that many Icelanders are (closely) related to each other. published in “Irish Family History Journal” – 2021

The Irish Family History Society (IFHS) is a voluntary non-profit making organisation, established in 1984. It is based in Ireland, but open to anyone who is interested in looking to trace their Irish roots, wherever in the world they are based. Every year the Society brings out a journal, full of informative articles. In Volume 37, our Michael van Turnhout contributed an article.

The article is about “Massy’s Estate and Killakee House”. Massy’s Estate is now an “urban forest”, but once was the location of a 36-room mansion with lavish gardens. The article traces its history and the histories of the various families associated with it, including successful businessmen, politicians, and nobility. And it even contains a murder!

You can buy a copy of the journal directly from the Irish Family History Society, via their online shop. The link below brings you to their website.

IFHS Online Shop

A picture is worth …

A few months ago, a window of opportunity to travel opened up here in Ireland. Our own Michael van Turnhout decided to visit his family in The Netherlands. The last time he visited his mother had been in January 2020, and the opportunity to visit was warmly welcomed.

Cover of 1939 Phone Book

One thing he had promised his mother was that during his stay, he would bring her to some of the old addresses she had lived as a child, including the address where she was born. As her family had moved within a year of her birth, she could not remember it, nor had ever visited it. Thanks to some pre-travel research, we had discovered the address. This was not as easy as it sounds, as most cities and towns in The Netherlands renumbered their streets at some stage after the Second World War. So whilst we had an address, that address no longer exists. We just knew the street, which unfortunately for us is a very long one. It took the combination of a number of sources (newspaper, land registry, and municipal archives, old phonebooks and even a war diary of a local published online) to find it.

Address where Michael van Turnhout’s mother was born. Modern dwelling to the left, old company premises in white to the left.

The house itself had been replaced by a more modern dwelling, but the hall behind it – where Michael’s grandfather ran a milk business – still exists, albeit that it has been converted into a separate house.

Spurred on by this trip, Michael’s mother produced an old photo album that she had inherited from her mother, his grandmother. The pictures had been added without any comment and in a seemingly random manner. It was (relatively) easy to recognise Michael’s mother and her brother as babies, children, and young adults. But there were also lots of pictures of his aunt, who had died at a very young age before he was born. Michael had seen pictures of his maternal grandmother before, but was amazed to see pictures for the first time of his grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-grandmother. The oldest pictures were 100 years old!


Great Grand Parents – before 1925


There were many other family members. It was only possible to put names to the many faces thanks to the amazing memory of Michael’s mother. Michael took of course many notes, and is now in the process of cataloging the collection, preserving the information.

Prayer Card for Theo and Arie Klever

Michael’s mother also told the sad story of two of her nephews, Theo and Arie Klever. During the Second World War, they joined the resistance against the Germans who had occupied The Netherlands. Their local resistance group was however betrayed. When the Germans tried to arrest the group, a firefight resulted in the death of  Theo. As several German soldiers had been killed too, out of revenge, the Germans executed 7 young men, some not even attached to the group. Arie was one of them. Both Theo and Arie were only in their twenties, and this happened just a few months before the end of the war. The story of the betrayal has been turned into a book and later also a documentary (in Dutch).

If you get the chance to visit a member of (a) previous generation(s) of your family this Christmas, why not ask them if they have any old family photo albums? And if they do, why not take some time to go through the pictures, ask as many questions as you can and take copious notes.



The National Archives of Ireland is Ireland’s repository for records relating to administrations, Public Records (administrative, court, and probate records), and records of Government Departments and their agencies.

Recently the NAI agreed that an organisation that had handed over their old archives to the National Archives, would be allowed to film them. Very unusually, it allowed the archives to be taken from its offices for the duration of the project. Filming them on the premises of the NAI would mean spending a long time there. Because of COVID-19 this was not considered best practice from a health point of view.

Taking the opportunity, was asked to digitise the 20 boxes of archives, with due care.

The archive consists of documents, pictures, certificates, logbooks, etc. in many different formats and sizes. Some were individual documents, some stapled together and others were in book form.


To be able to cope with the vast amount of archive material decided to invest in some proper equipment, which you can see in the pictures below. It comprises a high-resolution camera, mounted in a stand. In manual mode, there is a handy separate remote control button to take a picture. But there is also an automatic mode, which takes a picture every 5 seconds.



The software that comes with it allows you to crop and adjust the pictures and export them in a number of different formats, includes searchable PDF. This way, not only are the archives copied, but also digitised.


Even with the new equipment, the project will take about 3 weeks to complete.

“Laurels and Ivy, So Green, So Green”

Christmas Customs in Ireland

One hundred years ago, in December 1920 in the Freeman’s Journal, Mary Mackay felt it was essential to share her views about a true Irish Christmas. She looked to the west and south of Ireland where they are “jealous and tenacious of their own national customs and celebrations”. “There we have words and phrases lingering through centuries to tell us”.

26 December is nowadays called “St Stephen’s Day” in Ireland. In the past – and in some places to this day – it was called “Wren’s Day” or in its Irish form “Lá an Dreoilín”. The tradition consists of “hunting” a fake wren and putting it on top of a decorated pole. “The Wren Boys appear, masked, beribboned, and covered with green and coloured wreaths and garlands, chanting the story of the captured wren, which their leader is supposed to carry attached to the top of an ivied pole”.

In her article, Mary Mackay explains that Christmas Day is scarcely noticed in favour of “Little Christmas” or “Twelfth Day” which was the day the festival was observed before the change of calendar. Little Christmas is marked on 6 January and is more widely known as the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated after the conclusion of the twelve days of Christmastide. In traditional custom, this was the day of a festival in Ireland. In some parts of Ireland, it was and still called “Nollaig na mBan”, literally “Women’s Christmas” and it is the day the menfolk take down the decorations while women relax or meet their friends socially returning home to a meal cooked for them. It is also the traditional end of the Christmas season and usually the last day of holidays for school children.

The article tells us of the old and purely Irish tradition of candles. On Christmas Eve, “custom says that it must be a man, preferably dark-haired, who will light the first [candle]; and all the other will be lit from that flame. They are supposed to be kept burning all night, though that is seldom found practicable; but it is extremely unlucky if one goes out or is quenched accidentally before its time. Then for Christmas wishes …”.

In more recent times, and I think appropriate now, is to light a candle in your window for the Irish diaspora in the world. This year, we will light our candle and think of all the family histories we have uncovered and the stories we have shared. From all of us in we will light our candle to send a warm glow and message of love to all the Irish and friends of Ireland around the world.


We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 


If you want to read the original article, click on it below to download it.


Jillian van Turnhout is now an AGI Affiliate

Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI) is a representative body for professional genealogists in Ireland. It has been in existence since 1986. You can’t just join it, anyone* wishing to become part of the organisation will first need to apply to become an “Affiliate”. Affiliates who meet certain criteria will have a chance to become a full member in due course.

The initial application is assessed by an independent Board of Assessors and includes proof of experience and a case study.

Jillian decided to start this process and has now cleared the first hurdle:

* Membership is open to professional genealogists based on the island of Ireland, who are not engaged in full-time work outside of genealogy and whose research is mainly in Irish sources.

Christmas in 1900’s Ireland

As we approach the Christmas season, we urge you to try and make time to share memories with your family, look at old photos to see if you can uncover any new gems. We take this opportunity to look back to Christmas in Ireland over 100 years ago. Christmas was simpler, but like today, it was also a family affair. We found this gem in a family memoir box, written by Kathleen Hassett in the early 1980s. Her childhood was spent on a small rural farm Knockanean, near Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland. The pictures show her as a girl and later in life.

Christmas in the 1900s, Kathleen Hassett (1897 to 1985)

I was born in the last few years of the reign of Queen Victoria, so I can say something of Christmas before the First, or Great War. It was a holy day rather than a holiday, but that did not mean we all wore long faces. Schools closed for almost a fortnight, as it does today; that in itself was a holiday; through as always had little tasks to perform – washing up, wiping up, dusting, shopping etc.

Each Christmas season the local grocer gave us a “Christmas Box” of a quarter stone of sugar, 1lb.tea, 1lb. each of currants, raisins and sultanas, and perhaps even half lb. of candied peel. Though the actual goods and the amounts varied from one business to another, the custom of giving Christmas boxes to customers was general, but it came to an end due to rationing during the 1914-18 war and was never renewed.

By Christmas Eve, we were excited – Father Christmas or Santa Claus would come during the night, but we had to be asleep. We hung up a stocking borrowed from an adult or used a pillowcase. We slept soundly and awoke bright and early to see what the great man had brought us. The toe of the stocking was usually filled with sweets, and an apple and an orange took up more room.

Each little girl got a doll usually beautifully dressed; my younger sister, born in 1908, was the first in the family to have a Teddy Bear from Father Christmas. Little boys usually got a game or a ball. Father Christmas was a wise man – if we had a doll, we did not usually get another. Dolly perhaps got a dolls house, or a tea-set, or some doll’s furniture. As we grew older, our gifts also grew older – we got a sewing-set or a book, which we found exciting.

Soon it was time to get washed and dressed and go to Church. The highlight of Christmas morning was to see the Crib where the Holy Child lay sleeping.

Dinner time brought fresh excitement, especially when the Christmas pudding appeared. We had all had to stir it, and we knew that silver 3d pieces and 6s pieces were there, and if one found a silver coin in your portion, you would have a year of good luck. Afterwards, we played games, or read until tea-time after which we were advised to get to bed early to sleep off the excitement of the great day.

At, we wish we could give each of you a big hug and hope this article will act as a virtual hug. We would like to wish all of our customers and friends a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

PS: If you are really stuck for a Christmas present, you might consider giving a voucher. Contact us for more information.

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