Tuesday, May 21, 2013

dead records

It occurs to me that I owe my predecessor in the parish a debt of gratitude. I arrived to find that all the records - burials, marriages, & the like - that ere more than ten years old had been sent off to Dublin to the Church of Ireland's library. At first I was rather doubtful about the idea ... it is nice to be able to look through them and learn about the history of the parish. But over the course of the last year I've come to appreciate the wisdom of his decision. Every time someone calls to the door or phones or emails looking to track down an ancestor from 150 years ago or so I can put my hand on my heart and answer with all honesty that I can't help them & refer them on to the library.

That might sound a bit unhelpful. But truth be told I put in a lot of hours over the years doing that kind of work. You can put in a lot of hours going through dusty registers in cold, damp vestries trying to track down someone's dead relative ... especially when it turns out that they weren't buried in your graveyard in the first place! I learned quickly to ask why they thought their ancestor might be buried in one of our parish churchyards ... you wouldn't believe the amount of times that they had no reason whatsoever to think so ... they were just calling all the churches in the area, trying to cover all the bases ... and even if their family member was Catholic, calling the Church of Ireland clergy 'to be sure to be sure!' I don't mind helping ... I'm not as keen on wild goose chasing.

And  it is amazing the amount of people who show up on your door step from the other side of the world & knock on my door. They've spent months planning their trip to the 'auld sod' ... but it never occurred to them that it might be advisable to call in advance to see if the clergy might be able or available to help them out. I remember  one day when I had someone visiting from Australia, who was staying in Dublin, drive down to see me without calling first. 'What a pity,' I said 'All the records are in Dublin ...' I found out later they could have saved themselves the trip. Their ancestor wasn't in my churchyard. Hadn't even ever lived in the parish ...

Nope. Far better that the records are somewhere central. This genealogical stuff is too tangled for amateurs. Best leave it to the professionals. 

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