Researchers may not only be interested in finding out about their own family trees but may wish to understand more about the lives and times of their ancestors. Acquiring this depth of understanding brings with it a real sense of being transported back into a different age and a sense of personal contact with ancestors that family trees by themselves cannot hope to give. A good place to start is to subscribe to the quarterly journal, Genealogica, that is published by the Ulster Historical Foundation. Extensive libraries are also maintained by the Linenhall Library in Belfast and the Ulster American Folk Park.
For serious amateur historians, insights into the prevailing circumstances that led over two centuries to mass emigration from Derry can be gleaned from a wealth of in-print Books on Ulster and books on Early Irish Abroad. Three books in particular that deserve particular mention are ‘Internal Colonialism – The Celtic Fringe in British national development 1536-1966’ by Prof. Michael Hechter of Seattle, ‘The Catholics of Ulster’ by Prof. Marianne Elliott of Liverpool and ‘Tenant Right and Agrarian Society in Ulster 1600-1870’ by Dr. Martin W. Dowling. A detailed account of everyday life in a typical parish in Ulster is also to be found at Parish Records for Aghadowey.
Details of those who sailed as free and convicted passengers on ships to the New World and the conditions they suffered can be found at Moville and Derry Sailings, Peter Mayberry, Ships List and Oz Ships. The conditions of passengers emigrating from Derry to the New World during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were often tragic as seen in a transcript from an account given by the Master of the ‘Adam Lodge’. By the time of its arrival four months later, there had been many deaths including 23 infants or babes-in-arms, caused by with-holding of rations by the Master as punishment for what he perceived as poor standards of hygiene in the passengers! Notwithstanding that Master Osborne was obliged to give an account to the English Parliament of his part in this tragedy, he was later appointed a member of the New South Wales Parliament.
Finally, more sophisticated search methods are being devised to narrow a search for an ancestral parish using the parameters:
Distinctiveness of Name to Parish
a. Unique to parish and not spread to adjoining Parish
b. Some spread to adjoining Parish
c. Mostly found between several adjoining parishes and little found
elsewhere in Ulster
d. Spread in County of Derry but some concentration
e. Spread throughout Ulster but some concentration
Frequency of Name in Parish
a. Less than 10 families
b. 10-20 families
c. More than 20 families
Predominant ethnic origin
a. ‘ Scots-Irish’ , English or Welsh
b. ‘Native Irish’, not of Planter (colonial) Stock.
Based on these parameters a greater degree of sophistication of search can involve the use of a Coefficient of Variation that will give a precise probability estimate for where a particular name can be found. The formula for this dispersion statistic is not reproduced here but it depends upon comparison of an index name with the spousal name for overlap and spread patterns throughout the County. This more sophisticated search is performed using the free Excel Griffiths spreadsheet available from Don MacFarlane from this site.