December 3rd, 2012

Irish Directories to Enhance your Ancestor Hunt

So many of us have Irish ancestors, yet because of the many Irish records that have been lost or destroyed over the years, it can be difficult to trace our Irish family line. As such, those tracing their Irish ancestry must often look to secondary sources and alternative records to trace their ancestry. One such option is directories. When you have a general knowledge of where your Irish ancestors lived, city and county directories from the area may help. They can at least confirm if your ancestor lived in a place, and in some cases may provide more information than you might expect.

Like the telephone books of today, the city directories of our forefathers contained basic details about the people who lived in a particular area. These areas inIrelandare generally divided into towns, districts, cities and counties, and typically the directory from an area will at least identify a head of household and an address. Some directories included further information such as the names and ages of other occupants, along with the occupations of any who were employed.

Recently I came across some rare publications that I thought I would share with you. They are excellent resources for researchers of Irish ancestry, particularly those tracing relatives inCountyLouth, the area around Dundalk, and theDublinandLeinsterareas. Each is a valuable resource in its own right, and well worth investing in if you’re searching Irish ancestors. Below you’ll find a short review of each and a summary of what information you will find within.

Pigot’s Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1824, Leinster & Dublin Sections

This commercial directory is one of the earliest ever published in the Emerald Isle. It is quite comprehensive, and includes details of over 200 hundred urban hubs from around the country. It is organized first by province and then town, and contains details of individuals such as; every principal office holder, tradesmen, professionals, and gentry. It also lists every known establishment and organization in those areas at the time including; schools, churches, hotels, public institutions, and even local pubs. Accompanying that data is a description of every province and town in the directory, and is a very rare publication that would be well suited for any serious researcher’s personal armoury.

Tempest’s Jubilee Annual 1909

Directories of the Dundalkarea have been published by the Tempest group since the middle of the nineteenth century. Dundalk is the county town of CountyLouth, situated near the border with Northern Ireland. The Tempest’s Jubilee Annual was a once-off special edition of their regular directory which has been published every year since 1861. It celebrates the 50th anniversary of the companies operation, and as such includes a wealth of additional information that won’t be found anywhere else. As a highlight, it looks back on fifty years ofDundalk’s history, and captures the essence of the city in a series of articles that discuss religious issues and growth, educational developments, the establishment of rail services and local sports.

Of particular interest to family historians will be the biographies of over one hundred and twenty prominent citizens of Dundalk and other areas aroundCountyLouth, many of them accompanied by portraits of the person. There is also a comprehensive business and services directory covering all of Louth, as well as other towns such asDrogheda, Blackrock, Dunleer, and Newry in the north. The most detail is provided forDundalkthough, and provides detailed histories of both the town and surrounding county areas. If you’re a statistics person this directory won’t disappoint. There are over two thousand additional individuals listed with their personal information, making this an essential resource for researching the areas covered.

Bassett’s Louth Guide & Directory 1886

As you can see by the title, this is an even older publication, and is considered one of the most valuable resources for published for nineteenth century Louth. It is both a guide to the county and a directory, and includes details such as the names, addresses and occupations of over ten thousand residents of the area at that time. There is also a full colour map of 1886 Louth, a superb additional resource for genealogists.

As a guide the publication details the history, social structure, economy and geology of the area. The directory includes information on every town and village in the county, as well as the names and details of its prominent citizens such as those who held political office, professionals, merchants and tradesmen. Additionally there is an alphabetical listing of farmers and others who were not designated as having a particular trade.

Each village and town is described in detail, and a commentary is provided on its social structure, history, religion, and basic character of the area. Drogheda andDundalklife is especially illuminated, and additionally over fifty towns from outside the area are given a brief description. At the end of the book is an index containing place names, a list of county and local markets and fairs, and as a bonus there is a collection of historical commercial ads.

As I previously mentioned, these are rare and especially valuable resources of Irish ancestry. A Google search of any will however return a variety of places where they may be purchased online. You may also wish to check with a local historical or genealogical society or a local or national library where you may be able to access them for free. They are a great alternative to missing Irish records such as census records, and especially make a great gift for the researcher in your life. You may even wish to schedule a holiday in Ireland and search your ancestry for free in the County Louth Library!