A Valuable Guide to Scots-Irish Sources

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by John D. Beatty

A large number of Americans, including this writer, can trace at least a portion of their ancestry to so-called Scots-Irish settlers from Ulster who immigrated to America in the eighteenth century. The challenge of researching these families is often fraught with a variety of difficulties, chief among them identifying the exact place in Ulster where the immigrant originated. Even if the birthplace is known, it can be difficult to identify extant sources in Ireland that might provide useful information. A popular misconception is that the 1922 Public Record Office fire destroyed all valuable Irish source material.

William Roulston's book, "Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors: The Essential Genealogical Guide to Early Modern Ulster, 1600-1800," (Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2005) (Gc 941.6 R759r) comes to the rescue and provides an important tool for what is admittedly a difficult area of research. The words "essential genealogical guide" in the book's title are not an overstatement. Roulston, the Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation in Belfast, has produced the most authoritative book on this subject to date. He begins with a short overview of Ulster history and follows with chapters on church records, gravestone inscriptions, seventeenth and eighteenth century records, landed estate records, deed records, wills and testamentary papers, election records, local government records, military records, newspapers, genealogical collections, and other miscellaneous sources. The book is also enhanced with maps of the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Monaghan, and Tyrone.

Each section in the book is richly detailed with references to specific sources, many of which are located in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). An appendix on church records lists, alphabetically by town, all extant seventeenth and eighteenth century registers and vestry minutes. A second appendix, arranged by county, lists extant estate collections with their PRONI or National Library of Ireland catalog numbers, while a third appendix, arranged alphabetically by parish, lists a variety of pertinent records, giving users an easy means of cross referencing estate papers and census substitutes for areas of interest. Genealogists will find many new leads, especially with respect to estate papers, whose value is often not fully appreciated by American researchers.

Roulston himself will be at the Allen County Public Library, together with Brian Trainor, for a Scots-Irish workshop on October 4. Come and take advantage of the opportunity to hear one of the foremost authorities in this field. The book is also a valuable read and is frequently consulted in my own personal research.

Genealogy Gems:[1] News from the Fort Wayne Library
No. 53, July 31, 2008