Ulster Historical Foundation is a not-for-profit educational charity, founded in 1956, with the simple yet important mission to tell the story of the people of the nine counties of Ulster.

The Foundation seeks to disseminate heritage and cultural knowledge and to generate and provide the research and educational resources necessary to support individuals, families, groups, educators and global diasporas in understanding the history of Ulster.

The Foundation also uses history, not to accentuate difference but to emphasise and reinforce how much of our history is shared and interconnected. This in turn can facilitate community cohesion, which is particularly important in Northern Ireland.

Through its charitable activities the Foundation seeks to sustain interest in local and family history, to celebrate the diversity of the cultural heritage in Ulster and to equip the interested, amateur researcher with practical resources and hands-on archival research experience that will enable them to pursue their own research interests.

The Foundation makes a valuable contribution to civil society in Northern Ireland (which it has developed over many years) particularly with regard to social and educational outreach projects with local groups and individuals.

These educational programmes are designed to facilitate personal development and fulfilment, and build capacity amongst local groups and individuals, and to build bridges between the different sections of the local community. They help to demonstrate the Foundation’s public benefit and value by giving local people access to information and expertise on historical research and publishing.

The core aims of the Ulster Historical Foundation are as follows:

  • to encourage an interest in the history of the province of Ulster;
  • promote a positive image of Northern Ireland overseas;
  • strengthen the links between Ireland and those of Ulster descent;
  • broaden access to historical documents and records for Irish and Scots-Irish genealogy;
  • and to inspire pride in Irish and Ulster heritage and culture.

Core Aims and Current Objectives

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The Foundation has a long history working with local community groups and various support centres. Most, if not all, current Foundation staff members have worked closely with volunteers from many different social and economic backgrounds and with different needs and requirements.

Many of our volunteers come from deprived communities across Belfast and beyond. Others have suffered a life-changing event or major health setback prior to volunteering and other individuals struggle with various mental health issues or disorders and have had difficulty finding employment. However, all our volunteers are ambitious, keen to develop personally and form friendships and relationships outside their immediate family.

Since 2003 the Foundation has worked with organisations such as New Horizons, Mencap and theCedar Foundation providing volunteering opportunities for individuals across Belfast and Northern Ireland. Most of the people who take part in our programmes have a range of disabilities or have suffered a debilitating illness or degenerative disease.

In addition, in 2018 the Foundation established a partnership with the NOW Group providing young interns placements to improve their IT skills and office experience to enhance their employment opportunities and professional development.

The Foundation also offers placements/volunteer positions to students and individuals from local community groups, especially those from socially deprived areas, who wish to learn more about Northern Ireland’s shared history and their own family history as well as improve their own employability and critical thinking and research skills.

Our volunteers contribute in a meaningful way to the activities and work of the Foundation. Through analysing and documenting useful information from primary sources and compiling genealogical databases, much of the work that our group works on helps bring to light genealogical records and obscure historical documents that have immense value to family historians across the world. In addition, given the global audience for genealogy and Irish/Scots-Irish heritage this work also helps contribute to a greater awareness of, and respect for, Northern Ireland’s shared history and strengthens connections with this place through people’s heritage and their ancestors.

Legal Status

The Foundation is established for exclusively charitable purposes and is registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC100280. It is presently governed by a trust deed dated 7 October 1998, and a scheme of incorporation dated 10 May 1999, which establishes the Trustees as a body corporate. The trust deed states the objects of the Foundation as follows:

  • to promote and encourage the public study of family history, genealogy, heraldry and local and Irish history with particular reference to Ulster;
  • to promote the preservation and publication of the resultant data; and
  • to undertake such other activities as shall be charitable at law.

The principal activities of the Foundation include publications, lecture tours, summer and autumn schools (activity holidays), a genealogical research and consultancy service, maintenance of a membership association known as the Ulster Genealogical and Historical Guild, and pay-to-view and member-only online databases.

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