Who Do We Think We Are?


Genealogy and delving into our ancestral roots is a fascinating activity.  Online sources of information such as the 1901 and 1911 censuses are an easy route into the past, but what about other sources of information? Our new Genealogy course taught by genealogist Noreen Maher will show you how to locate records to research your family history, including how to carry out effective online searching of all vital records, the census, church, land, occupational records, and newspapers. Noreen has her own genealogy service, at her website Hibernia Roots.

Noreen is an experienced qualified Genealogist, and is a member of the Irish Genealogical Research Society, the Genealogical Society of Ireland, the Irish Family History Society and the Garda Historical Society. She holds a Diploma in Family History (Genealogy) and a Certificate in Oral History. As well as carrying our research, she has written a number of articles in journals and magazines. She recently published an article in the Irish Gazette of St. Paul-Minneapolis, USA where she gives sound advice to those planning to track down their Irish ancestry.  Read the full text of Noreen’s article Tips on How to Track Down your Irish Ancestors: IrishGazette St Paul Minn_article published (1)

Millions of people across the globe claim Irish ancestry and ‘The Gathering’ in 2013 gave people in Ireland an opportunity to welcome home their relatives. There are over one million Irish-born people living abroad and over 70 million people worldwide of Irish descent according to ‘The Gathering’ online magazine.  The Gathering may have been a tourism-boosting initiative conceived by Fáilte Ireland but it sparked a massive interest in connecting with our relatives, known and unknown and with our recent and ancient past.  Uncovering the past inevitably brings up uncomfortable or sad events in our family background, given Ireland’s troubled history.

The Decade of Centenaries

‘The period from 1912 to 1922 was one of the most eventful in Ireland’s history. From the campaign for Home Rule, through World War One and the Easter Rising of 1916 to the foundation of the Free State, this was a decade of great change. Campaigns for social reforms — highlighted by the suffrage movement and the 1913 Lockout, for example — also went hand in hand with political events. The Decade of Centenaries programme aims to commemorate each step that Ireland took between 1912 and 1922 in a tolerant, inclusive and respectful way’.  Check out activities for these events below:                              http://www.decadeofcentenaries.com

Burning of the Four Courts, 1922

One of the most unfortunate events that happened in this turbulent period was the burning of the Public Records Office in the Four Courts on 30 June 1922, destroying most of the Irish National Archives, some dating from the 14th Century. However, Noreen reassures us that Irish genealogists have become very resourceful in finding alternative records in searching for one’s ancestry.

Ireland’s Ancient East

16th century Irish

With increasing urbanisation of Irish society are we at risk of being cut off from or forgetting our heritage? Knowing and getting in touch with our heritage is easier than ever: Ireland’s Ancient East is the branding of a new tourist route by Fáilte Ireland of the Eastern and Midland counties of Ireland.  Creedon’s Epic East shown recently on RTE, features John Creedon exploring this route, delving into history from epic legends such as The Táin march and Cuchulainn to Longford’s Country and Western music tradition. He also explores his family roots and shows how genealogists work.

Irish Folkore

If you’re curious about the Fianna, Cuchulainn and other Irish legends, then try out our course in Irish Folklore.  This course is taught by Dr. Tiziana Soverino who gained her Phd from UCD in Irish Folklore and now works at Dublin City University.  Tiziana is an Italian who loves Irish culture and the Irish language and in her bio below she explains her fascination with Irish culture and traditions. I was amazed that she chose to specialise in our Irish Folklore instead of the heritage of Italy and the glories of Ancient Rome or the Italian Renaissance. She has put together a lively and entertaining course using pictures, audio and film clips.

What is folklore?

What is folklore? Often confused, misunderstood, or ridiculed, folklore is an important part of Irish heritage. As is clear from the examples below—taken from the Schools’ Collection, the result of a folklore collection scheme carried out in schools across the 26 counties of the Irish Republic in 1937 and 1938—it is a mix of the ordinary and straightforward, and of the weird and extraordinary. Folklore is characterised by its way of transmission: informal, often by word of mouth or by example. It is also anonymous and collective. It is culture, but that form of culture belonging to the people, which is not usually taught or learned in school (with exceptions, of course). It fulfils many needs, such as giving expression to a world-view, trying to explain mysterious circumstances, providing escapism, and giving practical relief. Stories of the supernatural, folk cures, calendar custom, riddles and proverbs, traditional food and music, and place-lore all belong to folklore. Folklore is still alive, in cities as well as in the countryside, because of its extraordinary adaptability.

Examples of Folklore:

There is a field in Ballymun called “Green Blakey” where there is supposed to be a stray sod. This means that if you step after dark on this sod you will wander about, unable to get out’ (NFC Schools’ Collection [from now on abbreviated as S] 792: 275, Ballymun, Co. Dublin).

– ‘Headache: Drink very strong tea’ (NFC S 4: 319, Cleggan, Co. Galway).

– ‘It is customary to see some children going around on Easter Saturday collecting eggs, which they boil on Easter Sunday’ (NFC S 786: 190, Lusk, Co. Dublin).

– ‘A child said to the father: “Daddy, how is it you are my father, and I am not your son?”. Answer: It was his daughter asked him’ (NFC S 904: 6, Ballymurphy, Co. Carlow).

What will you learn in the Irish Folklore course?

In this 10 week course learners will be introduced to various genres of folklore, such as traditional music, native architecture, festivals and storytelling, which are to be found not only in the past and in archives, but also all around us. Topics to be studied are:

·         definition of folklore, examples; the National Folklore Collection and sources

Fionn McCool Comes to Aid the Fianna

·         traditional music and dance.

·         stories about places.

·         traditional food and drink.

·         festivals and calendar custom.

·         vernacular native Irish architecture.

·         proverbs and riddles.

·         folk medicine

·         stories about the supernatural.

·         stories about Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

By the end of the course, students will be able to understand that folklore is a living and ever-changing entity. They will be able to identify examples of folklore from their own experience, and that of people they know. Tiziana will also show people where to access primary folklore material from online digital sources.


Dr Tiziana Soverino
Tiziana Soverino

As a child, Tiziana was intrigued by books, learning, and ancient civilisations. Then, in her early teens, she came across Irish culture. Who knows what the main catalyst was: maybe a traditional Irish tune, or an incredible story from medieval Irish literature; perhaps a medieval brooch, or a modern legend about the banshee—more likely, a combination of all those. Be that as it may, Tiziana became more and more drawn to the stories and culture of Ireland. Still in Italy, she started taking Irish dancing classes, contributing to a magazine on Celtic traditions, and joined a group of enthusiasts. After secondary school, she took a leap of faith and moved to Dublin. Initially intending to do just a BA, she ended up spending over ten years studying Irish folklore, and earning a PhD in the subject. She gave tutorials on Celtic mythology, Irish festivals and folk medicine, and she is passionate about teaching.

Willie Clancy week
Willie Clancy School of Traditional Music, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare 2017

Why do We Care about the Past?

So what motivates people to find out about their personal history or folk history? Placing your own family in the larger historical picture or just a desire to preserve the past for future generations are popular motives.  We might be surprised at what we might find. To quote John Grenham: ‘If you manage to get back far enough, we all came from somewhere different, and someone different. Genealogy teaches that there are no pure races or tribes. Its only incontrovertible truths are we are all mongrels and all cousins’. Read John’s very informative essay on genealogy on http://www.gov.ie/en/essays/genealogy.html

If you would like to enrol for Introduction to Genealogy Monday 7.30-9.00 pm, 10 weeks, €120


Irish Folklore, Thursday 6.45-7.45 pm, 10 weeks, €90

Email: adulted@ccfe.cdetb.ie

Courses start week beginning Monday 25th September 2017. Public enrolment in Crumlin College Monday to Thursday 6.30 -8.30 pm from Monday 4th September until the start of classes.


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