Irish Family History Specialists

Category: Genealogy.ie

Notes about Michael Collins

About a month ago we attended a workshop at a conference about politics in Ireland one hundred years ago. We believe some of the notes we took are worth sharing.

Before doing that, we want to set some context: one hundred years ago, in 1919, the War of Independence started in Ireland. This was in effect a guerrilla war fought in Ireland from 1919 to 1921 between the Irish Republican Army (IRA, the army of the Irish Republic) and British forces: the British Army, along with the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC, the police force) and its paramilitary forces the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans. Michael Collins is often depicted as the leader on the Irish side, but he did not start out as such and technically never was.

The War of Independence was a culmination of what had started in Easter 1916. Then the Irish Brotherhood via the Irish Volunteers (or at least part of that organisation) and the Irish Citizen Army launched a rising against British rule. Michael Collins did take part in the rising but only in a minor role. The rising was defeated a week later but the harsh British response led to great popular support for the Irish republicans.

As a result, in the December 1918 election, the republican party Sinn Féin won a landslide victory in Ireland and formed on 21st January 1919 a break away parliament (Dáil Éireann) and government and declared Irish independence. Eamon de Valera was its leader.

And now for some of the notes we took.

The parliament was quite different from what we expect from a legislative house. To ensure that not all TD’s (Teachta Dála, or members of parliament) would not be arrested at the same time, when a sitting was called, some got a letter stating “You are invited not to attend”! It only met 21 times in two-and-a-half years, with two gaps of 4 and 8 months respectively. In its entirety its minutes only amounted to 300 pages.

It was however successful in setting up ministerial departments. Arguably the best run of these were the Department of Finance, led by Collins, and that of Local Government which had Cosgrave at its head. The latter department was based in Wicklow Street, in an office masquerading as an Insurance company. Before leaving, Cosgrave would put on a disguise, as he was a wanted man. This did not fool everyone however, and one day, leaving his office, he was greeted by a beggar with the words “Please spare me a copper, Mr. Cosgrave.”

Not all were able to evade the British forces. By accident De Valera, the leader of the Irish government, was picked up in Blackrock, a suburb of Dublin. The local police must have been disgusted to get an order from British Prime Minster Lloyd George to release their catch! This was because at that stage, Lloyd George had realised he could not win the war and he needed someone to negotiate with.

The War of Independence was fought by the Irish Army. However, it always adhered to the civilian government, as least in theory. The negotiations also took place between the civilian governments of the United Kingdom and that of what would later become the Republic or Ireland. The veneer was kept intact that a civilian democratic government was in charge. This was important for Ireland’s future development. The country easily could have gone autocratic a number of times in its history. Thankfully the seeds of democracy were sown and Ireland has always been a democracy.

Back to the negotiations however: De Valera was still the leader of the government. Rather than leading the delegation himself however, he requested Collins to lead the negotiations.

Collins had become notorious. The British press had created an image of Collins as a most dangerous man, responsible for most violence in country. Collins was a mystery for a lot of papers. Once a paper even thought he did not exist. Others described him as the most wanted person in world, thought he had dozens of doubles and was even called the Moriarty of the IRB. A US reporter wrote he did not find a man, but a god. There were stories of Collins dressed as a monk or woman, some even saying Collins kept trinkets of his murders. He was called a bloodthirsty chief, mysterious Mike.

When negotiations started officials on the British side were disappointed. Descriptions from them at the time said he had the demeanor of a civil servant, that he was uneducated, stupid, ordinary. Although all agreed he was a good military leader.

In fact it is not even certain Collins ever killed anyone, or even fired a gun. He was a manager, an organiser. One of his biggest accomplishments was the ensure money would come in and was managed properly. He did create his murder squad (called Collins squad, or the 12 apostles), but was not in control of most of the violence in the country. He was however very accomplished in PR – using outrages about the violence committed by the British forces to his advantage, and he is thought to have stopped a plan to kill the British government because it might lead to adverse opinion. And he probably fanned the imagination of the British papers, leading to the above descriptions. However, violence was for Collins functional and not an aim. Despite photos of Collins in an army uniform are the best known, he only wore one in the last 6 weeks of his life. And again the reason was more political than military: he was trying to convince the army to support the treaty he had negotiated with the British. The treaty that would lead to Irish autonomy and as Collins predicted, would form a stepping stone to Irish independence. Unfortunately he had to fight a Civil War first against the opponents of the treaty, which would lead to his killing in 1922.

School of your Ancestors?

The Kilmacud Stillorgan Historical Society has been publishing its annual journal, Obelisk, for 13 years. Since 2016 – for 4 years now – Genealogy.ie’s Michael van Turnhout has been contributing an article to it.

These articles are about local history, rather than family history. However, we believe local history is important to get a better understanding of the society your ancestors lived in. In this case, it gives you a picture of what kind of school your mid-nineteenth Irish ancestor would have gone to.

St. Mary’s National School, Sandyford, Dublin, Ireland

On our page dedicated to the growing list of articles that we have contributed to magazines and journals – including the respected Irish Family History Journal of the Irish Family History Society and North American Magazine Your Genealogy Today you will be able to download our article and follow a link to the Society’s website, if you are interested in purchasing a copy of the journal.

You can visit this page by following this link:
 

Our Articles

 

The Destruction of Irish Genealogical Records

The Four Courts fire of 1922

“The floor of the repository is piled 10 to 20 feet high with twisted ironwork and debris and entry is impossible . . . In the vaults were deed boxes on iron racks. The racks were evidently softened by the great heat, and the weight of the boxes has bent them and drawn them forward; the lids of the boxes have fallen in, and the contents have been reduced in every case to a little white ash.”

This was a contemporary description of what as left of the Four Courts records after the shelling in 1922 by the Free State troops to end the occupation by the anti-treaty forces.

The Four Courts were the main repository of all public records in those days. The fire caused by the fighting meant a lot of records were lost forever:

  • The Irish Censuses of 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851
  • Approximately half of all Anglican Church of Ireland registers deposited there following the dis-establishment of the state church in 1869
  • Most wills and testamentary records that had been proved in Ireland (their indexes survived)
  • Legal documents from before 1900
  • Local government records from before 1900

However, there is also plenty that survived:

  • The Censuses of 1901 and 1911
  • Civil registration records
  • The other half of the Church of Ireland parish registers
  • Baptism, marriage and burial records for Roman Catholics, Presbyterians and Methodists
  • Griffiths Valuation

It does mean however that it is just that little more difficult to find your Irish ancestors. But not impossible. You will have to know however where to look and there are also alternative resources. Ever thought about checking the dog licence register?

You should start by looking through the resources that still survive. You can find advice on how to go about this on our website:
 

Advice on Genealogical Resources

 
And if you do hit the famous brick wall, please feel free to Contact Us

Jillian van Turnhout published in Irish family history journal

The Irish Family History Society, established in 1984, is based in Ireland and has a worldwide membership. The Society is for those who are looking to trace their Irish roots. The IFHS is a voluntary, non profit making organisation. One of our objectives is to help members to do their own research through information and advice. You can visit their website here.

The IFHS is a constituent member of the Federation of Local History Societies and an associate member of the Federation of Family History Societies.

Every year the Society brings out a journal, full of informative articles. This year, in Volume 33, our own Jillian van Turnhout was asked to contribute an article. The title of the article – which has pride of place as the very first article – is:

John Fenton Hudson, 1932 Captain Royal Dublin Golf Club, The “Missing Photo” Challenge

In it, Jillian outlines the research she did on behalf of the Golf club to find a photograph of this previous Captain. All past Captains were remembered with a photo in a gallery at the club. However, John Fenton Hudson’s was missing. As he had been a life long bachelor, so there were no descendants to ask. After extensive investigations, Jillian was successful in finding a picture, which is now proudly hanging in the Captain’s gallery. You can read her entry here: “Missing Photo” Challenge

Read our other articles here

Genealogy.ie Twitter Feed

We post several tweets a day. Some of our tweets are about Genealogical research, some about our services. Most are just meant to be entertaining. You will find our last few tweets on this page. If you like them, why not follow us?
 

Jillian van Turnhout awarded honorary fellowship

 

On 12th October 2018, Jillian van Turnhout was awarded with the honorary fellowship of the Faculty of Paediatrics, the highest honour the faculty bestows.

It is conferred on individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the practice of paediatrics and also to individuals who have made significant contributions to improve the lives of children.

Dr Ellen Crushell, dean of the Faculty of Paediatrics, paid tribute to the new honorary fellows: “We are delighted to confer Honorary fellowship to four deserving candidates in recognition of their activities, advocacy and work for the benefit of children in our society.”

Jillian is joined by Joe Schmidt, a New Zealand-born rugby union coach – currently the head coach of Ireland, paediatric ophthalmologist, Professor Michael O’Keeffe and paediatric oncologist, Professor Sir Alan Craft.

Jillian van Turnhout commented upon receiving the award:

“I am chuffed to receive the tribute of an Honorary Fellowship by the Faculty of Paediatrics of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. It is “in recognition of your significant contribution to children’s health and wellbeing, through advocacy and in particular your work in the area of promoting children’s rights nationally and internationally.” It was a great honour to receive this award along side Dr Michael O’ Keeffe, Joe Schmidt, and Prof Sir Alan Craft.”
 

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Castle Garden Emigrant Landing Depot

Between 1808 and 1811 a fort was built to help protect New York against invasion. This was not an idle threat, as in 1812 a war broke out between England and the USA, with the former trying to regain possession of its former colonies.

The fort did not however see any action during this war, or at any time after.

The original name of the fort was “West Battery”. In 1815 however, it was decided to rename it “Castle Clinton”, after a popular New York mayor (and not the last politician of that name to rise to high office).

In 1821  the United States Army  decided it no longer needed it. The city of New York leased the property and used it as a place of public entertainment, under the new name of Castle Garden. Officially however, the name is still Castle Clinton.

An ever increasing number of immigrants started to arrive in New York, mostly landing at the docks on the East side of the tip of Manhattan, around South Street.

To cope with this influx, the castle was converted in 1855 to an “Emigrant Landing Depot”. It would fulfill this function until in 1890 the federal government took over and moved the center to the larger and more isolated Ellis Island.

The latter because immigrants were known to carry diseases, which led to epidemics of cholera and smallpox.

When it closed, more than 8 million people had arrived in the United States from via Castle Garden.

Questions? Click Here!

St. Patrick’s Day

We in Ireland are looking forward to next weekend, when we celebrate St. Patrick. Patrick is Ireland’s most famous saint. He lived from ca. 385 to ca. 465 AD. He was born in Roman Britain, apparently in a well-to-do family. This did not protect him from being kidnapped by Irish marauders who sold him into slavery in Ireland. He managed to escape and return to his homeland, where he became a priest. It was in this role he returned to Ireland, this time to convert the then still pagan Irish to Christianity.

Nowadays, his day – 17 March – is a huge celebration across the world.

Every year our “an taoiseach” (Irish Prime Minister) gets to visit the White House in Washington to offer the sitting President of the USA a bowl of shamrock.

The parade in New York City, this year under Grand Marshal Loretta Brennan Glucksman,is one of the biggest parades on New York’s calendar. It has been going since 1762 (although initially it was a gathering and not a parade).

And of course people drink and eat green food, fountains spout green water and landmarks “go green”. Last year a record 278 iconic landmarks and sites in 44 countries were turning green for St Patrick’s Day – the biggest number to date.

In Ireland St. Patrick’s Day has been turned into a 5-day festival. This year it takes place from 15-19 March. You can read all about it here: St. Patrick’s Festival Dublin 2018

It is also a busy time for genealogists, as many Americans, Canadian, Australians, etc. want to learn more about their Irish roots. If you have a friend, family member or acquaintance who is interested in his or her Irish ancestry, can you imagine how happy they would be to get professional help?

Here at Genealogy.ie we sell vouchers in USD, EUR and GBP and in various amounts. You can order them by clicking on the picture below.

shop genealogy

Genealogy.ie Published in Your Genealogy Today Magazine

 

Genealogy.ie has just been published for the second time in “Your Genealogy Today“, a leading genealogical magazine in North America.
 

 
“Your Genealogy Today” is a resource guide to successful genealogical research. Whether you are a beginner, or an experienced genealogist, each issue provides you with proven techniques and sources for discovering your ancestors. With regular columns on: “Genealogy Tourism”, “DNA & Your Genealogy”, and “Advice from the Pros”. In each case, the columns will be authored on a rotational basis by contributors who are experts in their respective fields. It is published six times a year.

It can be bought in Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million in the USA and Chapters book stores in Canada.

Our article in the January/February issue is about “Avoiding Common Mistakes”. It gives advice on how to prevent research errors by using the guidelines of the Genealogical Proof Standard, that we in Genealogy.ie rigorously adhere to.

This article joins a growing collection of contributions that Genealogy.ie is making to various magazines in North America and Ireland. You can read about the periodicals and download our articles from our website, by clicking the button below. (Note: our latest article is not available for download yet as it is only just published).
 

Our Contributions to Genealogical Magazines

 

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS + a little Christmas treat

 

We would like to wish you a very Happy Christmas and hope you will find lots more long lost family members in 2018.

 
TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE

Family stories can be found in many places. Ever looked in that box in the attic with old films? Super8 films can now be converted to digital format, as we did with this short video, which was taken by a relation when she visited Bath in 1965. Included in this video is the front of 58 Hungerford Road, 3 Wellington Place and 19 Camden Place (all homes of ancestors). By 1966, 3 Wellington Place no longer existed as it had fallen away. Of course, in the film you will also see the Assembly Rooms, Bath Cathedral and life at that time.

PRAISE FROM DOWN UNDER

Finally, we just completed work for Michael, all the way from Queensland in Australia. We were very chuffed with his feedback, which we are quite happy to share with you.
 


“Your work is perfect Jillian, thanks very much. I’m so pleased I commissioned you to research my family, it saved me countless hours of fruitless searching. Your final report is so detailed, professionally presented and easy to read. I really wasn’t expecting so much, information. Well done and again thank you, it was well worth it.”

 

 
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