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Irish Genealogy: Day 8 in Belfast

The Ulster Historical Foundation
49 Malone Road - Belfast

   Today it was back to PRONI.  Rather than hit the microfilms, I spent my time with textual records.  I had discovered last year after I returned to Dublin, that the Valuation Revision Lists (or cancelled books) for the northern counties were no longer at the Valuation Office, but at PRONI.   I’ve talked about these in some of my older blogs.  If you have worked with Griffith’s Valuation, you’ve seen the list by County, Barony, Parish and Townland of all the occupiers of tenements. Although it is sometimes referred to as a census substitute because it lists names, it’s important to remember that it is a tax list.   So after the initial valuation, the lists had to be kept up to date so that taxes could be collected from the proper individuals.  If you found your ancestor on Griffith’s,  you have all of the information you need to access the revision lists.  At PRONI there are a set of books that list all of the townlands in northern Ireland, so when you find your townland, you’ll find the reference you need to the revision lists.  Enter the numbers into the computer ordering system and you will be assigned a table in the reading room.  A digital display tells you when your records are ready.  

    When the original valuation was done, each name and piece of property was written into a book (in the same way it is printed on the valuation lists you’ve seen).  When a new valuation was done, changes were made by crossing out names and writing in the new information.  The year was written at the far right of the page.  The interesting thing about working with the originals, is that each valuation was done in a different color ink, so the cross outs and years are easy to identify.  If you’ve seen these on microfilm (from the Family History Library) you loose the colors and it can be quite confusing.  After a number of revisions, the pages are so crowded that the most current information is copied into a new book and the process begins again.  Sometimes there are 5 - 10 books of revisions.  Start with the oldest and work forward.  (If more than one book is bound together, begin at the back and work toward the front of the book).

    Why do you want to do this?  A change will frequently denote a life event, such as a death or emigration.  If you’re not sure when an individual died, this can give you a ballpark date.  Today, I discovered that the James King I thought was mine in Griffiths was the wrong one!  He died too early and the land moved to a female with the wrong given name.  I’ve copied the names of all of the Kings in this townland and now have to figure out which one is mine!  

    In another case I was trying to identify a family that emigrated and by checking in the revision books I could determine which ones stayed in Ireland past the emigration date of the individual I was searching.

    That took up most of my time, but I also checked a few other things.  One of the resources at PRONI is a personal name index card file.  In the 1920‘s PRONI started a project to index all of the names in their documents.   Obviously this couldn’t continue because of the volume, however, the file is worth checking.  The cards are in alphabetical order and indicate the document and call number where the name appears.  I though I’d hit the jackpot when one of the names I was searching was listed with a genealogy of 1600 people.  I requested the document (typescript) only to discover that half of the document was missing, and you guessed it, the family I was looking for was in the missing section.  I had one of the assistants double check to see if there was another envelope, but alas, no luck.

    I could have spent another couple of days at PRONI, but I wanted to make sure to leave time to visit the Ulster Historical Foundation.  I am a member of this organization and I received an invitation in June to attend the opening of their new library.   Last year when I visited they were in downtown Belfast in an office that didn’t have a library, but only a computer to check their indexes (which are also online).  They’re new office is at 49 Malone Road a short bus ride from the city.  I had a chance to meet with Dr. William Rouston, the Research Director (and author of the book I recommended on Day 6).  The Library is small and still being catalogued, but expanding.   William pointed out a few books I hadn’t seen elsewhere, including the Fasti of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Fasti of the Seceder Ministers Ordained or Installed In Ireland, 1746-1948 (still didn’t find my minister).  They also had an excellent collection of journals from various locations so if you’ve found a reference in Sources at the National Library, you might find the journal here.

    I’m writing this on the train back to Dublin which is a great way to make the trip.  It takes about two hours, is comfortable, and you don’t have to worry about driving on the wrong side of the road!  Only a week left and still a lot to do.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2013