Saturday, 21 September 2013

NIFHS does Culture Night in Belfast

A quick plug again for the North of Ireland Family History Society (! Yesterday I was in Belfast for a meeting at PRONI, at which the society's Ann Robinson mentioned to me that the society was participating in the celebrations for Belfast's fifth Culture Night. The plan was a slightly unusual one - essentially they were doing genealogical missionary work in a Belfast cafe/pub!

I was only in Belfast for the day, and due to return back to Scotland on the 7.30pm ferry. To do that I have to get a bus to the Stena terminal from High Street, and it just so happened that the bus stop was directly outside the venue. So of course, a cafe/pub, family history, and good weather in Belfast meant a visit was on the cards before I headed back home!

I caught up with Ann inside who mentioned that they were basically there from 4pm to 10pm to introduce interested visitors to the idea of considering family history research, with one interesting activity being a new "Junior Genies" tree, onto which kids could post names to create a family tree. The venue itself was the National Bar, which I believe is part of the Merchant Hotel on Skipper Street. The cafe/bar has only been open since Monday, and was formerly a bank, with one of its weirder attributes being what looked like a stuffed badger hanging from the ceiling (nobody tell Brian May!), after apparently burrowing through the upper floor. Also on hand was Maeve Rogan, the society's publicity guru, who informed me that they will be attending Back to Our Past in Dublin in October and also taking part in a Family History Fair in Newry on Saturday 26th October.

Maeve and Eddie
Another person I met for the very first time was none other than Eddie Connolly, of Eddie's Extracts fame - if you've not used the site before, and you have Belfast roots, check it out, as it has all sorts of newspaper intimations, rolls of honour and more! As I said to him, the site's been around for a while, but it seems to be in the last six months that I have been tripping over the number of finds on it concerning my family - a crucial resource for Belfast and the north, but there's also some material on the site of Scottish interest, particularly for maritime deaths. Eddie mentioned to me that next year he is putting a lot more attention into a First World War project, so watch this space for more on that!

Sadly I could only stay for just under hour, before a quick trip into a couple of shops in the centre and then the bus to the ferry terminal - but it was a great end to an already buzzing day at PRONI. Belfast is in safe hands for those interested in genealogy, and the idea of holding events in hostelries to interest folk in their roots is just inspired - genealogy cruises are one thing, genealogy pub cruises may be another! :)

Oh, and I met three dragons on the High Street shortly after. Apparently they are locals... :)

Here be dragons...
After the event I got a message from Maeve, telling me how the evening progressed:

"I think some of the kids that took part have caught the bug as they were asking their parents all sorts of questions about their grandparents and families and really got involved in filling in their family tree. Future members maybe! 

"A few other people were seriously interested in joining our Belfast and North Down & Ards Branches so Culture Night, as well as being fun, has got us a few new members, always great to have new people to keep the Society moving ahead."

Mission accomplished!

(With thanks to the good folks of NIFHS and Eddie)


My latest book, Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records, is now available from (print) and (ebook), whilst Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet is available at My next Pharos Scottish course, Scotland 1750-1850: Beyond the OPRs, starts Nov 13th - see

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