The theme of this blog is my trip to Ireland. This blog will be done in a few parts. I have had a busy two months since my last blog in September. I found out in August that I was going to need to have surgery with a significant recuperation period. So I decided to make a long anticipated trip to Ireland before having surgery in October. I went to Ireland in the third week of September. All in all the trip was fantastic and well worth it. But I had some disappointments. In the course of these blogs I will label what was "WELL WORTH IT" and what was a "DISAPPOINTMENT."
From the moment I stepped onto the Aer Lingus (an Irish airline) plane in Boston, I felt like I was already there and my anticipation was building. Seeing the flight attendants in their crisp "Erin Green" uniforms was a welcome sight and hearing their musical Irish accents was an added blessing. Even the audio entertainment menu included selections of Irish and Celtic music. I was finally on my way to the land of my ancestors.
When planning my trip, I deliberately stayed away from joining any organized tour group. Such tours would not include all of the destinations I intended to go to, they would be too time consuming for non-research activities, and I believe that they would tend to isolate me from the Irish people and their culture. I left for Ireland on a Saturday morning with expected arrival in Dublin on Sunday morning. As the places I intended to do research were not open until Monday morning, I was able to explore around Dublin somewhat upon arrival and then retiring to my hotel when the "jet lag" tiredness set in. Unknown to me when planning the trip was that the day of my arrival was the day after the finals of the Gaelic Football championship. My hotel had a pub (with Irish food, drink (read as Guinness on draft) and live music) connected to it and the hotel and pub were full of Irish people celebrating their win and or bemoaning their loss. My hotel was located right across Kildare St. from the National Library of Ireland with Trinity College across the other street. It was also just two blocks from Grafton St. (a significant shopping area). My hotel was in a great location and full of Irish people. But in terms of amenities, it was lacking. I had to carry suitcases up four flights of stairs (no elevators) and no phones in the room. But it was just what I had in mind.
On Monday morning, my first stop was the National Archives of Ireland. My primary objective was to examine the Kilmainham Jail register that they had available on microfilm. As I had found my ancestor Miles Murphy in the "rebellion papers" as a "State Prisoner" at Kilmainham, I was hoping that this register might provide additional details so I might further confirm that I had the correct Miles Murphy. Unfortunately, after spending a few hours obtaining my "reader’s card" and asking for the microfilm (no self service here) and looking through it, I found out that the register for the target time period was a register of the "common criminals" and the "State Prisoners" (read as political prisoners) were not included in the register. DISAPPOINTMENT. The archives also has the "rebellion papers" and a card index of names for them. I consulted the name index, but did not find any references that I hadn’t already seen in my "rebellion papers" research in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. I looked through all the various card and hand written indices without finding anything significant. So spending my first morning at the archives was a DISAPPOINTMENT. There are a lot of records available there, but I would have to know more about the specific origins of my ancestors and have a little more knowledge and guidance before research at these archives could be more successful. Also it is a difficult location to plan for as they have very little on-line in terms of indices and catalogs to determine precisely what is held there.
Walking back to my hotel from the Archives, I found a shop called the "National Map Store." As I am a "map gazer" and understand things best through geography, I was delighted. I immediately walked in and found a large selection of "Ordinance Survey, Discovery Series" maps and found the one for the northern part of County Wexford. It is an excellent map showing current routes and road conditions and provides place names for villages and townlands. This map would aid me tremendously when I would explore the "heartland" of the Frampton Irish later in the week. This is a map I would not have been able to find anywhere but Ireland so it was WELL WORTH IT. So the journey to the Archives was not a total waste of time.
My first successes began at the National Library of Ireland (NLI) later that day. To ask for the books and sources that I wanted to look at, a "reader’s card" had to be obtained first. Then I worked in the main reading room. I had searched their on-line catalog prior to departure and printed out the various books and sources I wanted to view. There is a wealth of information on the Rebellion of 1798 in County Wexford. I looked through all the books on that subject that I hadn’t seen at other repositories. One particular piece of research I did on-line prior to departure was trying to find more information about the "Banishment Act of 1798." I had found several references to it and the fact that it included a list of names in the full text. But the full text was not available anywhere on line. I found the full text at NLI in the Journals of the House of Commons of Ireland. The Banishment Act passed and took effect on 6 Oct. 1798. It did include a list a persons who had already "surrendered" or who had been captured by that time. My ancestor Miles Murphy was not on the list. However, he was not identified as a "State Prisoner" until a record that was made in 1800. But the Banishment Act would indeed apply to him as the full text of the law included: ". . . and whereas his Majesty may of his Royal clemency, be most graciously pleased to grant his pardon to such of the said persons as have already confessed their guilt, as aforesaid, and to others who may hereafter in like manner throw themselves upon his Royal clemency, upon such conditions as his Majesty may be pleased to prescribe: . . ." Also among the terms of the Banishment Act was that a released prisoner was allowed two months to leave the country. So it was a "open ended" law that would essentially banish from Ireland any future "rebellion prisoners" that may be released. It is my belief, that it was this Banishment Act that forced Miles Murphy to emigrate to Lower Canada in 1806. So being able to read the full text of this law and realizing that this source was only available at NLI it was WELL WORTH IT. I attempted to try to find out further information as to the release of the "State Prisoners" in 1806, but the sources I searched through at this time did not reveal this information.
As the NLI has a complete collection of microfilm of Catholic parish registers for all of Ireland, this was my next research effort. Many of these registers are only available at NLI. The registers have been indexed by the Irish Family History Foundation through their County Genealogy Centres. But the indices are somewhat "monopolized" by the organization and obtaining each record costs 5 Euros and the Wexford records are not yet on-line. My objective was to examine any of the registers for parishes in County Wexford that had any records earlier than 1830. Most of the Frampton Irish were already in Canada by 1830. The search was somewhat complicated! First, many of the registers for the area that constitute the "heartland" of the Frampton Irish in County Wexford have only a few years before 1830. Second, the handwriting in the registers was extremely difficult to read and lacked any standard formats for what information to include or the order in which it was presented. Third, some of the registers were written completely in Latin, the names were in Latin or the given names were expressed in "nicknames." Fourth, there was absolutely no indexing or sorting. So the only way to use these sources is to read through and screen through every page from beginning to end. Why did I bother?? I wanted to at least find a few more Frampton Irish families in some Irish records that gave evidence of their County Wexford origins. My theory had always been that the majority of County Wexford emigrants came from the Catholic parishes that center on the parish of Oulart and stretch from Enniscorthy on the west to Blackwater on the east. To make family search requests through the Irish Family History Foundation genealogy centres would be cost prohibitive for a search for several families considering that I spent a few hundred dollars just requesting searches for my own ancestors. So the registers at NLI was the only repository where I believe I could look at several registers at no cost.
Searching the parish registers at the NLI was time consuming. Each microfilm had to be ordered at the desk in the main reading room. You can order up to three films at a time, but they will only deliver one film to you at a time. So each time you are ready to look at another film involves a time lag. Screening and scanning the films page by page was laborious. Fortunately I am so familiar with the surnames of the Frampton Irish that I could scan down until I saw a possible surname and then check a "print-out" I had prepared ahead of time to confirm a possible find. I worked at this until library closing time on Monday and Tuesday of my trip. After all that screening I confirmed that three Frampton Irish families came from the Parish of Blackwater, one family came from the Parish of Enniscorthy, two families came from the Parish of Wexford Town, two families came from the Parish of Olyegate and five families came from the Parish of Kilmuckridge. It sounds like a lot of work for very little outcome, however I was quite pleased because the search completely confirmed my theory about the "heartland" of the County Wexford emigrants. And since the NLI was among the few places where these films can be viewed it was WELL WORTH IT. Unfortunately, the film the NLI had for the Oulart parish didn’t start until after 1830. As I knew that earlier record existed for that parish I was hoping that my planned visit to County Wexford later in the week would allow me to screen those records. There were many other sources I could have viewed at the NLI, but I was out of time.
The following day I had took the train from Dublin to Wexford Town for a visit to the Frampton Irish heartland and more research at the County Wexford Library and Archives. It was only about 22 Euros for the round trip. The train was a pleasure, very clean and comfortable. I was delighted to hear the little Irish children speaking to their parents in Gaelic. The train followed the coast for a little ways with great views of the English channel and the Irish countryside. The ride took a little less than three hours and the time went by quickly. I had a nice seat with a table where I could consult my maps and keep track of the stops and our location as we proceeded. The train ride was WELL WORTH IT. My blog next month will be part 2 of my trip and my adventures in County Wexford.