Researching Down Ancestors: A Practical Guide for the Family and Local Historian

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Ulster Historical Foundation, 2004 - History - 343 pages
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Of all the nine counties of Ulster, none can claim a more cosmopolitan and fascinating history than Down. In ancient times it formed part of the ancient kingdom of the Ulaid; the Dal Fiatach, the most important of the groupings of tribes of Ulaid, came to dominate the east of the county with their capital at Downpatrick. Vikings came to raid and then settled along the coast. Later the Normans seized control of the Dal Fiatach kingdom constructing castles, monasteries and abbeys before becoming 'hibernicised'. In the seventeenth century, thousands of Scottish and English settlers poured into Down, establishing themselves in the north and east of the county. Meanwhile the native Irish were able to preserve their way of life in south Down where their close-knit communities were sufficiently well organised under their traditional leaders to co-exist with the newcomers. The distribution of surnames in the couty provides lasting evidence of its complex history. The purpose of this book is to provide a practical guide for the family historian searching for ancestors in County Down. It is true that many records have been lost, including those in the destruction of the Public Record Office in Dublin in 1922. However, much has survived to aid the dedicated family or local historian. Moreover, it has become increasingly accessible in the detailed catalogues and user-friendly searching aids in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Because of the breadth of the material covered, this book will appeal both to the experienced researcher and to the novice. Of particular value are the detailed listings of the records of landed estates, churches and schools, as well as the appendices listing townlands and unofficial place-names for the county.

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This is easy and interesting to read even if you don't come from Co.Down. Its a great story and puts the development of this part of Ireland in context.Lots of examples of sources and where they can be located.


The peoples of Down by W H Crawford
Civil registration
Gravestone inscriptions
Early censuses census substitutes etc
Administrative Divisions
Map of Civil Parishes
Map of Roman Catholic Parishes
List of Unofficial Placenames
Tithe applotment books and Griffiths Valuation at PRONI

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2004)

Ian Maxwell is a graduate of Queen's University, Belfast, where he completed his Ph.D. on Sir Wilfred Spender in 1991. He was a Records Officer at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, 1991-96, and during this time as head of the Public Search Room he pioneered a series of leaflets on genealogy which are now available on the internet. Ian now works in Policy and Communications, Roads Service. He has written two books: Tracing your Ancestors in Northern Ireland and Researching Armagh Ancestors.

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