Let the quibbles begin

Last week’s historic newspapers post omitted to mention a few salient facts. The two websites I wrote about are both subscription-only, though irishnewsarchive is free in public libraries in the Republic and britishnewspaperarchives offers a pay-as-you-go option, ideal for occasional users like myself. I also failed to point out that on this site I try to keep tabs on which publications and what years they both cover – check out Waterford, for example.

Now, let the quibbles begin.

One group of important papers still falls between the gaps left by both sites. These are the large numbers of local papers published between 1750 and 1820, catering mainly to the Anglo-Irish – literate, propertied, urban, English-speaking, precisely the people most affected by the destruction of the Church of Ireland parish registers in 1922. The British Library doesn’t have many of them and they certainly don’t form part of the Independent News & Media archive. NLI has the largest collection, still only searchable manually. And so still a time sink.

A sample of Rosemary’s Cork and Kerry extracts. A scan of a printout from a microfiche image of a carbon copy

The one way to short-circuit the manual search is a wonderful collection of abstracts created by the indefatigable Rosemary ffolliott more than 40 years ago. She went through almost every newspaper published in Munster and south Leinster between the mid-1750s and the early 1820s and extracted every single item of biographical interest – BMDs, of course, but also bankruptcies, changes of business address, reports from overseas wars, elopements, in short anything that might be of interest to a family historian, covering tens of thousands of families.

She then arranged them alphabetically in two series, one covering mainly Cork and Kerry papers, the other Limerick, Ennis, Clonmel and Waterford.

Her impish sense of humour is evident. The following two items follow each other in her arrangement:

Cork Constitution Thu 6 Nov 1767: “Married last Sunday Mr Harding Daly of Whitehall near Kittmount to the agreeable widow Fleming of Hamon’s Marsh with a fortune of £800.”

Cork Constitution  Mon 9 Nov 1767: “The paragraph mentioning the marriage of Mr. Hardng Daly to the widow Fleming appears to be without foundation.”

Dublin City Library & Archive

One of the (many) bees in my bonnet is just how hard it is to get access to the collections. Both are on microfiche, but the only place I know that has the full set is Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse St.

FindMyPast/Eneclann digitised Rosemary’s other major achievement, The Irish Ancestor. I would have thought these collections would be ideal for them.





5 thoughts on “Let the quibbles begin”

  1. It would be so wonderful if a person could find something in one of those early newspapers that would help me connect with my 2 X’s great grandfather Thomas Daniel O’Ragan (probably not the Irish spelling) as I believe he was going to become a priest but never finished his vows as he got involved in the Rebellion of 1798 and of course had to leave the country to save his life. I have read a lot about the rebellion but of course no unimportant names were mentioned. I may never trace him back to Ireland except that my Dad said he came from Dublin. If only I had asked more questions years ago I may have got more information. I realize the early records were destroyed in a fire so his birth or baptizmal records would all be gone too.

    1. Hello, Irene

      My name is Sean Watson, and I’m also directly related to Thomas Daniel O’Ragan. He was my 3rd great-grandfather, and I’ve also found it difficult to uncover very much information about him. But when I saw your post I immediately remembered my father telling me about one of our Irish ancestors who had left the priesthood to marry a protestant woman before eventually settling here in Canada. So this is very exciting that I’ve finally been able to verify this much about Thomas by reading your words!

      It would be wonderful to speak with you by phone or Skype one of these days, as I’m sure we would both have bits and pieces of info to share to help solve some of the mysteries of our shared ancestry.

      Best wishes,


  2. I would love to know why I cannot find any evidence that my great, great grandfather Patrick Geoghegan ever existed. He would have been born around 1812 to 1815 in Ardrahan, Ireland.
    His son was Martin Patrick Geoghegan b. 1837 in Gort, County Galway, Ireland d. 1947.
    Martin Patrick G and Catherine had Maria Geoghegan who married Thomas Patrick Tobin. Maria and Thomas had my dad Thomas Patrick Tobin b. 1916 d. 1771 Warwickshire, England at a 153 Lancaster Bomber Sq. reunion (WWII) pilot. (DFC).
    Trying to find my gr, gr grandfather Patrick Geoghegan.

  3. I have been on both sites for newspaper articles and it’s fabulous to be able to access these digitized papers. It can be a bit challenging to learn the appropriate search format to yield the greatest results but it can be fruitful. Among other things I was able to find the fire in my great grandfather’s business in Dundalk that was the catalyst for his leaving for Canada. As much as I would love to see them all eventually digitized, that hasn’t been completed yet and so would the National Library be the best source for local newspapers? Are there holdings in more localized libraries? I can only trace my GGfather back as far as the 1901 census so far but all evidence points to a little dot of a townland that he grew up in and I am hoping local papers might yield something.

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