Saturday, 8 December 2018

Latest news from PRONI's stakeholder forum meeting

On Friday 7 December 2018 I had the pleasure to attend the final Public Record Office of Northern Ireland ( stakeholders meeting in Belfast, after a fairly dodgy ferry crossing on the Irish Sea! It was a fairly packed session, with lots to report on.

We started the meeting with a lengthy briefing about the Prisons Memory Archive project, which deals with the legacy of imprisonment at two major Northern Irish prisons, in Armagh and Long Kesh/the Maze. I won't discuss the project here, but will do so in a separate blog post in the next day or two.

Elsewhere in the meeting we also had an update on the archive's recent cataloguing efforts. Work continues on the Londonderry Papers, with recent additions for papers held by the 7th Marquess, under D3099/11. Also catalogued now are the papers of the Augher Co-operative Agricultural and Dairy Society, from 1887-1955, under D3057, with papers such as minutes and accounts included.

With regards to new accessions, new collections currently being processed are photos from the Steeple Community Association, covering the Steeple estate in Antrim, and dating back to the 1960s, which are being digitised for catalogue access. Papers from the Cairnshill Residents Association from the 1980s onwards have also been deposited.

Of family history interest are the recently deposted papers of genealogist John McCabe, which have been donated by his brother, and which cover a period from the 1950s-2016. These are not available yet, but will be under D4692. I believe that this includes lots of work on the United Irishmen.

Other accessions include the papers of the Northern Irish Council for Ethnic Minorities from the 1990s onwards (under D4697) and the Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters dating back to 1918.

On PRONI's church records digitisation project, in the last year 73 volumes have been digitised, bringing the total up to 386. These comprise the records of 30 churches, from three denominations, and can be accessed via the onsite catalogue (called CALM). The full list of holdings is now available in the search room and on the website at I believe the list is also being integrated into PRONI's Guide to Church Records at

New records for digitisation next year are already being gathered, with material from Dundonald and Aghadowey Presbyterian Churches, and Ballyrashane Church of Ireland already sourced. Some non-subscribing presbyterianm churches are also now showing an interest in participation.

We then had apresentation from janet hancock on the new Absentee Voters Lists from 1918 for Armagh and Derry/Londonderry. Janet highlighted that there are published indexes to these, but also original manuscripts held, and that it is worth consulting both, as the manuscript volumes occasionally have slight differences with updates. Further information is available at

Some work is happening soon to rearrange access for some items on the PRONI website, with a new resources page that will be created for materials currently available in areas such as the Decade of Centenaries section, for example on Suffragette resources. Digitised copies of recent exhibitions will also be added. PRONI's YouTube channel is also being restructured shortly.

Finally, some quick headlines:
  • PRONI is launching a new maritime lecture series of talks on Wrecks and Rescues in the new year, and next year projects will also commemorate the 400th anniversary of Derry's walls, the 80th anniversary of the Second World War, and 50 years on from Civil Rights.
  • The Land Registry Service, currently available in PRONI's search room, is moving in February to new premises. 
  • The recent suspension of Freedom of Information enquiries in PRONI, caused by the ongoing political stalemate at Stormont, has a few knock-on casualties for genealogists, not least for access to the 1939 National Identity Register.
  • Next year, Back to our Past in Belfast will be held at the Waterfront Hall.

And finally...! If you haven't had a chance yet, do get yourselves along to the Christmas Market at City Hall - it's brilliant! :)


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