Report by Fintan Mullan

The Foundation does not tend to travel light. When undertaking a lecture anywhere, be it Bundoran, County Donegal, or Comber, County Down, the staff member concerned will likely be loaded down with books and pamphlets both to share and to sell. During the lecture tours in USA and Canada there are supply dumps located across the continent, not unlike Scott’s trek to the Antarctic (hopefully without the dire consequences). To add to the many impromptu supply depots, established through the generosity of friends at home and overseas, included in that is a box of materials in my daughter’s spare room in Manchester – the legacy of a successful full-day programme delivered on Saturday, 6 February 2016 in Manchester Central Library and hosted by the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society (M&LFHS).

Manchester 3

As the M&LFHS publicity stated, ‘a recent survey suggests that one in four Britons claim to have Irish Ancestry – If true, that amounts to 14 million people. Perhaps you are one of them?’ In the case of the city of Manchester a lot of them have been there for quite a long time.

Frederick Engels writing in The Condition of the Working Class in England, published in 1845, commented on the dire condition of the foul and squalor-infested tenements of Manchester, where so many Irish were to be found – barely existing. He wondered what would bring them to live in such a place. Where could be worse? Across St George’s Channel in Ireland itself he opined – a finding that would begin a life-long obsession for Engels, and Marx, with the island. Important to note this study was written during his stay in 1842–44 and thus predates the horrifying consequences of the Famine. In the entrepôt of Liverpool, the number of Irish would swell as the impact of the Famine struck home. Liverpool became the pre-eminent port for transatlantic travel and a key gateway point for the Irish into Britain. Many settled in Lancashire and the surrounding English counties and never left.

Consequently the representatives of the M&LFHS felt their catchment area would be fertile ground for an Irish research programme, and so it proved. The event sold out within two weeks of going on sale in November 2015. The programme was the brainchild of Leslie Turner, one of the delegates at the Foundation’s October 2015 family history conference. Leslie was born and grew up in the USA but has lived most of her adult life in England. Following the October conference she floated the idea of a joint programme with the Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society and together with John Marsden, Chairman (M&LFHS), and their committee, they agreed to go forward with the project.

Manchester Family History Workshop 2016 7

Gillian Hunt and I delivered this one day event in Manchester city centre, in the impressive central library building where the presentations covered topics such as: civil records, the censuses, census substitutes and land division records in Ireland, how to trace farming families in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries through landed estate records and the records relating to the different churches in Ireland. A hugely enjoyable event, due to a very appreciative, interested and interesting audience, who showed their appreciation by purchasing a lot of books, the programme is a model of what could be achieved with other societies across Great Britain, and indeed Ireland.