Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Belfast Weekly News for Scottish research

A few years ago I blogged about how difficult it was to do any meaningful research into the activities of Orange Order based ancestors (see http://scottishancestry.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/orange-order-records-in-scotland.html). Now don't get me wrong - I have no love for the Orange Order whatsoever - but as family historians we are constantly advised not to judge the actions of our ancestors in the past from a modern perspective. So whether I agree or not with what the Orange Order stands for today is irrelevant - I have ancestors who were members, and if I wish to understand who they truly were, it is an aspect of their lives that must also be researched.

To lay my cards on the table, I have a great grandfather who was said to have been a grand master of a lodge in Northern Ireland, and a great grandfather who was stated to have been a grand master of a Royal Black Institution lodge in Glasgow, its sister body. With the latter, my father has in the past talked about how his grandfather was apparently fetched every year in a horse and cart to lead the July 12th parades in Glasgow. I've never been able to prove the RBI connection until now, but a new resource online has proved to be of enormous help on this front.

Amongst the holdings of the British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) is a run of the Belfast Weekly News, which, when complete, looks likely to cover the period from 1857-1914 (at the time of writing the site has coverage from 1857-1880, 1882-1883, 1885-1890, 1897-1898, 1904-1914). This title was very much one that had an Orange perspective at the time of publication, but one of the things that I have discovered within it is that it carries regular reports from Scottish based Orange lodges, sent over to Belfast on a weekly basis - and in amongst these I have finally discovered which Orange lodges, and which Royal Black Institution lodge, in Bridgeton, Glasgow, that my great grandfather was a member of at various points - he is not only regularly reported as an office bearer at meetings, but also at various parades and funerals etc. In addition, I have also discovered mention of one of his brothers in a lodge in Glasgow, pushing back his own date of arrival in Scotland from Derry by at least a couple of years in the 1870s.

The reports, it has to be said, are usually incredibly dry, merely listing meetings, who attended, who gave addresses, who sang, who gave toasts, etc, and tend to name office bearers rather than rank and file members. But the period in question is also that of the three Home Rule bills, the Ulster Covenant and the lead up to the First World War, and as such, is a useful title to help gain the Orange and Unionist persective of events in Ireland from that time.


For details on my genealogy guide books, including A Decade of Irish Centenaries: Researching Ireland 1912-1923Discover Scottish Church Records (2nd edition), Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html.

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