As I was reviewing our library’s recent copy (August/September 2015, Volume 10, Number 3) of Internet Genealogy I came across a very wonderful article authored by Joe Grandinetti titled “National Folklore Collection of Ireland: Schools’ Collection”.
Back in the late 1930s in Ireland, the Irish Folklore Commission gave an assignment to schoolchildren. About 50,000 students among 5,000 primary schools were given the task of collecting and documenting local stories from their parents, grandparents and older community members. This was done in the days before television and computers as we know it today. Families actually sat around together and interacted. Stories were bountiful of current and past family history. Many of the stories went back deep in family history time.
Over an 18 month period these stories were collected from the students. It appears that part of the assignment was a handwriting exercise. Students had to not only capture the stories but write them down in their best handwriting. Topics that might have been captured were:
• My Home District
• Local Happenings
• Place Names
• Old Houses
The project collected 740,000 pages of information that are currently being digitized and indexed. The data is available free of charge with no registration required at:
www.Duchas.ie (Scroll down a little then click on “The Schools’ Collection”)
At the home page you can select to search by “People”, “Places” and “Surnames”. Take a look at these. The “Places” map is very detailed and shows that most of the data came from the West coast of Ireland in addition to pockets of data from Dublin and Waterford. You can click your cursor over a spot on the map to see what town it is and who the teacher was and what was captured.
You can look at a list of the counties for which data is being processed. It appears you can obtain information from County Dublin, Kildare, Kerry, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Waterford and Sligo. There is a goal to have a “significant” part of the data available online by the end of 2016. It is a work in progress as more and more data images will be added as well as the text being indexed. The documents from each school are notes as being what percent completed for images and indexing. You can select those that are 100% completed or even those that are partially completed. The documents are also noted as to who the “informant” was that wrote the material.
The material is searchable by “place”, “School”, and “person”. Make sure you click on “More Details” for the area to see the details of the names of individuals that have been identified. Click on the name and it will take you to the location in the writing where the name appears.
There is much to explore at the site both geographically and within the various categories of data you might find. I did find this fascinating to explore. The handwriting for the most part is absolutely beautiful and neat and more importantly, readable!! And genealogists certainly need to encounter clear and readable handwriting once in a while! Be aware that you may encounter documents that are not in English but in Irish which might be challenging for you to understand. When you click on the link at the site for “More Details” about a particular set of writings you will see a Table of Information that distinguishes documents in English versus those in Irish. You can select to view just those English written documents.
In the big picture of data this data is small in quantity. However, I thought the project as expressed by the author of the article was so interesting you might ask yourself why this hasn’t been done routinely in schools throughout the world and especially here at home in the US??
This was a fascinating article about a very fascinating kind of data! Definitely check out the site even if you are not researching Irish ancestry just to see what could be done as a school assignment that could lead to some fascinating genealogical discoveries if you are lucky. And if you have Irish ancestry you will want to look at this site and see if data currently on the site connects to your own geographic areas of Irish research.
A big “thank you” to Joe Grandinetti for having written up the article for publication in Internet Genealogy that made us aware of this wonderful project!
We have this journal in our collection. You can find this genealogy magazine on the 2nd floor of our library on the magazine shelves. You may want to look at the full article to view the pictures and more importantly examples of some of the handwritten pages included in the article.
Schaumburg Township District Library