A Horrible Murder

A Horrible Murder.

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Poor Palatines in Ireland

Researching an Irish family called Switzer I came across the ‘poor Palatines.’  In 1708 the bitterly cold winter in the Rhineland, oppressive taxes and ruined vineyards drove the Lutheran people of the Palatinate to mass exodus.  Many were wncouraged to go to Britain – Queen Anne believed that German protestants would be of great political value and offered them support.  They were also seen as a valuable group to settle in the British colonies of Northern America.

Around three thousand of these refugees were dispatched to Ireland to reinforce the Protestant faith.  However, their settlement was not wholly successful and in the following years many  left Ireland for England, North America or to return to Germany.

Sir Thomas Southwell was one of the few Irish landlords who successfully managed to persuade their allotment of Palatine immigrants to remain in rural Ireland. He championed the Palatines to secure government support for the settlement venture and had helped them at considerable personal expense, being reimbursed only just before his death in 1720. In 1711, Southwell had retained only 10 families but by 1714 he had settled about 130 families on his lands, and the region around lands has still the largest concentration of Irish Palatine residents to this day in Killeheen, Ballington, and Courtmatrix.

There are a number of names in Ireland that originate in the Palatine settlers – they include Fizelle, Bethel, Binner and Switzer.  Switzer is a name associated with one of the great 19th century Dublin department stores – Switzers in Grafton Street.

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Irish Census

Ireland National  Archives have now added additional census material onto their site.  The only full surviving census for the whole of Ireland are 1901 and 1911. However Fragments survive for 1821 – 1851 for some counties namely Antrim, 1851; Belfast city (one ward only), 1851; Cavan, 1821 and 1841; Cork, 1841;Dublin city (index to heads of household only), 1851; Fermanagh, 1821, 1841 and 1851; Galway, 1813 (numerical returns for Longford barony) and 1821; King’s County (Offaly), 1821; Londonderry (Derry), 1831 – 34; Meath, 1821; Waterford, 1841.  These are now freely searchable and of real value to anyone researching their Irish families


The drop down list gives earlier dates.


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Lucille Hollingdale

Lucille HollingdaleAmongst some old, family photographs I came across this one. On the reverse is written ‘Lucille Hollingdale, nee a Belndecques …6 June 1939 a Housplines Nord.’  Behind this damaged photograph lies a story.

Lucille is a French national married to an Englishman who was probably working as a gardener for the War Graves Commission  in France and may have been an ex-serviceman.  When Germany invaded France the couple helped Allied airmen shot down over enemy territory to escape, it is possible that Douglas Bader was among the airman they assisted.  In August 1943 they were arrested by the Germans,  her husband was killed under interrogation by the Gestapo and she was interned in a number of different concentration camps including Belsen, Buchenwald and Waldheim; she survived and  was released in 1945. . She had served with the French Resistance between 1940-1943 (‘Voix du Nord Group’) when she worked on an escape line in France until her capture.  Her prison number was 526. Some archives relating to her are in the Imperial War Museum.

My parents befriended her and visited her in France where she lived alone, in poverty, never remarrying.  She had been driven to seek  the assistance of The Royal British Legion and the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society in her attempt to obtain a pension from Britain, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embury had also been involved. As a French national married to a British subject, the issue of her pension was probably never fully resolved.  She was awarded a British Empire Medal in 1947 for her courage; she was a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur.  She probably died in 1995.  These stories are so easily lost in the fragility of memory, they are often never written down – as family historians we should guard them.

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Ireland’s Memorial Records

Ireland has been generous in making historic records freely available on the internet.  In Northern Ireland the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has a range of records , including Belfast Street Directories up to 1900 and the signatories of the 1912 Ulster Covenant; Belfast City Council has searchable burial records for a number of the public cemeteries in Belfast.  The Republic of Ireland has the two surviving all-Ireland census for 1901 and 1911, these are an important resource that are free and fully searchable.  A further resource has just become available, Ireland’s Memorial Records of World War I.   These are digital records of individual Irish soldiers and soldiers serving in Irish regiments, searchable and available online following collaboration between Google and the In Flanders Fields museum.

At the launch in Dublin Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson said

“This work will allow the stories of the fallen to be recorded for the benefit of future generations and will allow us to express our thanks and acknowledge the sacrifice of men who died helping to preserve our freedom.”

Martin McGuinness added

“Over 200,000 Irishmen fought in the war and over 49,000 were killed, which shows the human impact of the war on the island of Ireland. It is important all their personal stories are told and this innovative project ensures the memory of those Irish soldiers killed will continue.”

Eamon Gilmore, Irish Tánaiste, who formally launched the archive, noted the great value of the project

“While the digitisation and online access to this record will be a rich resource for genealogy, most significant is its value in facilitating the simple and important act of remembering the individuals, Irish men and women, who lost their lives in the First World War.”


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An Irish Woman Doctor

I have just put up an extensive page on Isobel Addey Tate, a relatively early woman doctor who died in the First World War.  Doctors are as likely, even more likely, to be women as men in the modern world, but this was not always the case.  Women fought hard to be accepted within the profession. Isobel was not the first, but she certainly was among the earlier women to achieve professional status as a doctor.  Her life and career must have been fairly difficult.  There are stories within this story – the often heroic activities of medical women in the First World War, the risks they took and the price they sometimes paid.  We should be aware of their struggle and celebrate their success!  Go to my page amd have a look.



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Irish Resources

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have been (relatively) generous to family historians.  The Republic of Ireland has a number of excellent free resources available through their National Archives site.  These include, most importantly, the two surving Irish Census – for 1901 and 1911 covering the whole of Ireland.  They are extremely useful in providing information about the religion of individuals (vital in researching Irish family history), literacy status, knowledge of the Irish language, and, in the case of the 1911 Census, the number of children a woman had given birth to and the number surving.  They also provide addresses, including (where relevant) townland.   Disability is also included in a question asking if an individual were ‘deaf, dumb, blind, idiot, imbecile or lunatic.’  The original form is included along with the House and Building Return, a good indication of the kind of building and the general living environment of the household.


A useful new addition to official Irish resources is the Calender of Wills and Administrations 1858-1922.  Not the most user-friendly search, but a very valuable resource which includes information about the executors and the primary beneficiary.


In Northern Ireland, the Public Record of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has excellent resources on a reasonably user-friendly site.  Will Calenders for Ulster from 1858-1943 are mainly available, some entries include images of the original will so a vast amount of information can be accessed .  The Street Directories for Belfast and Ulster up to 1900 are available and offer an accessible search facility.  Other ‘goodies’ include the Ulster Covenant of 1912, signed by Unionists.  There is a Declaration  signed by women, who at that time were not able to vote.  The signature folders provide an image file of the original signature – maybe the only occasion where a searcher will find an example of their ancestor’s hand writing and evidence of the form of name they used. The site  also has a selection of images which include the archive collection of the Allison Photographic Studios, Armagh that resources photographs of life in County Armagh from 1900 to 1950.


Free, searchable, authoratative resources for family historians not always available, but when official resources are made available to us we should be grateful.  Some of this material is also available through Ancestry links – so if you use Ancestry you will be able to search without leaving the site.

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