Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A research visit to Ireland

Apologies everyone, there has been a bit of a gap in the last few days on this blog, as I have been in Ireland doing some research and visiting family!

I first spent a few days in Piltown in Co. Kilkenny, where my wife and I had one of the greatest family history related experiences ever since I first started looking into the past on her side - you can read about our experience at

Somewhat more disappointing, however, was the fact that a series of pawn shop ledgers I had previously been allowed to look at about eighteen months ago (see have now been removed from a heritage centre in Carrick-on-Suir and placed into its vault, with the public no longer allowed to access them. I have been encouraged to email them to do a search for me, which I will do, but having previously spent a day and getting only a third of the way through them, the task will be substantial, and I can only hope the volunteers there will be as fascinated by their genealogical potential as I was on my last trip!

Also on my trip I recced a site where a battle took place on a farm belonging to my wife's great grandfather during the Irish Civil War in 1922. Unfortunately, like a complete eejit, when I left Piltown yesterday morning I left my coat behind by mistake, along with my wallet and camera in the pockets. I should have listened to myself - I knew our morning start was going to be waaayyy too early...! :)

Yesterday afternoon I then spent a few hours traipsing the length and breadth of Islandmagee in County Antrim to find graves and old family homes (much to my wife's and wee sister's amusement!), including this one to the right which may prove to be highly significant for my Montgomery ancestry there.

The significance here lies in that although the transcriptions from St John's Church of Ireland cemetery have been published, the record for this stone reportedly noted the date of death for this Nathaniel Holmes as being in 1912, aged 60. In fact, that turned out to be an error - it is in fact 1812 (so born circa 1752), and as such, this may well be the grave of my earliest settled Montgomery ancestor on the peninsula. I recently established from other sources that it looks like the family was not there in the 1770s - the earliest I have for the family there so far is with two apparent brothers in the early 1800s, via rental records held at PRONI dating back to 1812. Much more to do on this front!

Another great part of the day was to visit Brown's Bay, at the far north of the island. Not only did I get to see the area where my four times great grandfather David Gordon and three times great grandfather Robert Montgomery once resided, I also got to see somewhere that I have not visited since I was a wee boy in Carrickfergus - and it was an absolutely gorgeous day, a great one to watch the ferries sailing off from Larne to Troon in Scotland!

Just to top it all off, as I was seated in the car park at the ferry terminal last night, awaiting the boat back to Cairnryan, I suddenly received a message on Facebook - "Are you in a red C4?"! It turned out that directly behind me in the queue was Brynley Williams, a former classmate of mine at Carrickfergus Grammar School who I had not seen since school, some 25 years ago. Quite coincidentally, it was only two weeks ago that I blogged about an initiative that Bryn was setting up in Aberdeen for his Wobbly Williams charity, which is seeking funding for research into a cure for Parkinson's (see Needless to say, we had a hell of a lot to catch up with on the Irish Sea!

Normal service will soon be resumed... :)


Time to find your inner Irish...! All the best online Irish genealogy resources can be found through my book Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet - in print and ebook formats. "Very useful, makes me wish I was Irish!" - Saint Patrick, patron saint.

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