Irish Record Holocaust: 30 June 1922

The Tenison Groves Irish Manuscripts by Harry Hollingsworth, R.G.

Last Friday, three volunteers and myself began processing the Harry Hollingsworth Collection at my Genealogy Library Center. What a treat! Among the first files we examined was his assessment of the Arthur Tenison Groves’ Irish manuscripts. And I decided to give you the whole article as Hollingsworth wrote it. There are BIG genealogy lessons here:

Arthur Tenison Groves was a professional genealogist who worked diligently for many clients for many years. He lived just outside of Dublin and worked in various repositories in that city, luckily for us. He was already at work making regular reports at the turn of the century and was still at it in the early 1930’s. I am sorry that I have almost no biographical data on the man, except he was most assuredly a Protestant. I found the notes he took on the back of some stationery headed by the Loyal Orange Lodge in Dublin. (Benjamin Pielow, probably a distant cousin of this writer, was then the Grand Secretary. My ancestor, John Holligsworth of Ballinakill, County Wexford (1714-1791), had a daughter Ellinor who married in 1769, one Thomas Pielow. The surname is quite rare.) I am not sure when Groves died, but he knew the invaluable nature of all his years of effort in the Old Four Courts Public Record Ofice (hereafter PROI) before the holocaust of 30 June 1922. All his manuscripts apparently were donated or sold to public repositories.

I began working with the Groves Manuscripts over 30 years ago, having been sent xerox copies of certain portions of them by the Public Record Office in Belfast (hereafter PRONI). I later found that the Genealogical Society of Utah had microfilmed that portion. The designatiion in the PRONI is T-808 and contains many boxes running in the tens of thousands of pages. But some of the pages are simply stamped numbers of larger items like whole lined notebooks full of data running to many pages in themselves. For example, SLC film 258519 contains part of T-808, Box 18, and the pages there are 15,273 to 15,590! In the year 1991, I read over all the films we have at the Los Angeles Family History Center from this collection, ordered most of the rest of them, and took copious notes. Here is a brief acount of what you might find of interest.

Parochial Returns: These are the Irish Church (Protestant) equivalent of the Bishops’s Transcripts used in England. For years, due to the different designation,  Irish consultants in Salt Lake thought Irish BT’s had somehow survived because a few of these Parochial Returns had failed to find their way to the PROI. Not so. Groves worked in the PRs often for any client whose ancestry warranted it, but you should note that he usually only copied out the surnames of use to the client: Film 258472 at page 747 had a few PRs for Lismore, County Tipperary, 1738-1788, surname Bagnall.

And alphabetical (loosely) collection of main surname searches is the backbone of the series. For example, the above cited film has these surname searches, with other many thousands of ancillary surnames mentioned among them–Aungier, Atkinson, Begnall, Bailey (Bayley, Baillie), Baird (Beard), Bavarid, Birde, Ball, Brown(e). There are Smith wills at page 1253 and Beard marriage licence bonds from the Diocese of Ossory-Ferns-Leighlin collection at page 966, and Clogher Diocese at pp. 1184-85.

I was very happy that Groves worked in Ferns Diocesan records. That is one of the worst devasted collections of all–and it covered County Wexford, where my families mostly resided. He saved all the Ferns Diocesan wills under the peculiar name Godkin in the great hiatus period of 1801-27. There was no other hint that any such wills had ever been filed because that period of the will index, the original wills, and the copy book of wills had all perished in 1922. Unfortunately four of my sibling ancestors, the Hollingsworths of Ballycanew, died from 1805-1827 and may have written wills too. But alas, nobody hired Arthur Tenison Groves to look up my folks!

There is a huge list of names in Volume 10 of the Rebellion Papers formerly in the State Paper Office, now in the National Archives, Dublin, of documents filed after the 1798 War, nearly all which were burned in 1922. Groves copied out those of the Godkins and thereby preserved the name of my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Esther Earl. She was the supposed mother of Ann Hollingsworth, wife of Samuel Hollingsworth, my ancestor (died 1815). Groves copied out the Petition for public assistance filed by William Godkin, after the 1798 Rebellion. His wife Esther was a daughter of the aforementioned Esther Earl, who was the widow of Edward Earl of Knowckduff, County Wexford (died 1795). This discovery, made about 20 years ago, sharpened my appreciation for the work of Mr. Groves.

Groves would consult any document he could use to help his clients. He very often worked in the Registry of Deeds, Kings Inn, Dublin. And much of his results are in these films, but the Registry never was touched in 1922, so I will skip that portion of the reocrds. He did, however, also take in the census whenever he could, wherever he could find it. I found excerpts from the 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851 census returns for various counties, cities, and surnames. As far as I know, he never copied entire sections as he did with earlier records like materials in County Armagh and County Antrim in the 1600s. There are hundreds of excerpts from the very detailed 1821 Irish Returns. What a man! His charges for his work were so low that I wonder how he earned a living. He may have had a Government stipend or drawn an annuity from some real estate.

Some of these notebooks and loose papers are written in his agonizingly difficult, scribbledy handwriting. With such documents as he would transmit to his clients, however, he had the habit of typing them off and keeping a carbon copy in the manuscripts. Some of these carbons are also difficult to read. Many date back 90 years.

To conclude this assessment of a great man’s work, I will give you a few detailed examples of what I found which most interested me:

Box 4 T-808 PRONI page 6l3l is an Irish Yeomanry Muster for County Tyrone. Originally, as Groves notes, it was in Bundle B3-4-25 in the PROI, Dublin. It lists a complete muster of 91 names including Robert McKelvey in whom I was interested. All the Irish Yeomanry (a supplemental militia) records between 1790s and 1822 perished in 1922 except the commissioned officers registers, which by the way, Groves also copied, although these are printed in the back of the Army Lists, usually. Names of Privates of course, are what most folks are seeking!

Box 4, p. 6321 has wills and other documents of the very large Hamilton family.

Film 258497, Box 9, p. 14,750 has an ancient Chancery Bill for one William Furlong of Horestown, County Wexford, dated 25 Jan 1631/32. All these bills are totally lost. Page 14,889 has a Subsidy Roll for a part of County Antrim in the 1660s.

Film 258481, Box 4, has these surname files: Gillespie, Ginnis, Glen, Goddard, Goff, Gowan, Gordon, Greenham, Greenell, Greer, Griffith, Grove.

Working on the surname Dubourdieu in 1904, Groves copied down some of the Parochial Returns for Drumballyroney Parish County Down. Though they perished later, he shows they dated from 1783-6, 1790-1, 1816-17, 1827-31, and 1836-48. (I like to know what was there, even if it is mostly lost forever. The official PROI catalogs were not in this detail.

For a Dunbar client in 1908, Groves copied Dunbars from the Dublin 1821 Census. The 1821 census was apparently delivered to the PROI first. The later censuses were used for Old Age Pension searchs before 1910 and some thousands of references, mostly for what is now Northern Ireland, survive in very rough pencilled notes, also on film in Salt Lake. Some of them are here at the Los Angeles Family History Center.

At page 4620, film 258479 we find Cloyne Diocesan marriage licence bonds in surname Creagh.

Page 4642 has Parochial Returns for St. Mary’s Protestant Church, Dublin, extracts 1755-1780, and 1782 under surname Fitzpatrick.

Film 258492, Box 8 p. 11692-A Groves copied a Freeholder’s register for County Meath, 1796-1822 under the names Nelson and Neilson. Also County Westmeath, 1746-1795. Page 11696 contains excerpts of the 1841 census of Kells.

Film 258616, pp. 29-30 has Diocesan Surveys of early County Armagh churches. One report reads, in part “…we find that Mr John Jones under present salary is the Preaching Minister of that parish (Seagoe Parish, County Armagh) and he was also the former incumbent thereof for many years together until he was outed by the late rebellion (of 1641, HH) Symon Hornby, schoolmaster at Portadown at present.” This seems to be dated 18 Nov 1657. (I was interested here because an early Hollingsworth family, not mine, lived near Portadown from at least 1630.)

Box 7, p. 11227 has Groves report on the County Antrim Hearth Money (tax) Roll as it stood before destruction: “Searched whole roll of 35 1/2 skins, roll is almost perfect–it contains nearly 5,000 names. In a few the ink has faded…only divided by parishes.” At page 11228, he describes the roll for 1669″…contains 60 skins and about 10,000 names…” (No such detailed description of what used to exist was ever kept by the PROI, to my knowledge. Some of this record survives in typescript.

At page 11218 he extracted a few Clogher Diocesan marriage licence bonds: 11 July 1729, by Francis Johnston of Drumsluce (Drumwsluice, HH) County Fermanagh, and John Crozier of Magheradunbar, for marriage of said Francis Johnston of Derryvolan (Derryvullan, HH) Parish, with Katheran Crozier of Devenish Parish, all in the County of Fermanagh. 8 Feb 1740 is a licence for James Johnston of Derryvollan Parish with Eleanor Ball (alias Crozier) of Devonish Parish. Is it signed by John Crozier of Magheredunbar and James Johnston of Drumsluke. (Townland names are always a big worrysome subject.)

Film 258491, Box 7, page 11368 contains McClure names in the Freeholder Registers for County Donegal in 1768 and the Hearth Money Roll of 1665.

There are other large collections similar to these of Arthur Tenison Groves, but as far as I know, he was the only full-time professional record searcher and agent. Other collections you should consult when you have your legal pad and plenty of time to search thousands of frames of film, are those of Gertrude Thrift, W.P.W. Phillimore, Thomas Ulick Sadlier, and Phillip Crossle.

I believe you now get the picture–a very long browse of collections like these may be the only thing you have left in a very difficult search. Don’t give up until you do it. Hiring a professional to do this could, as you can well imagine, cost much more than an arm and a leg.

The Groves collection, mentioned as on microfilm at the Family History Library, has 54 full rolls of film. The family files are arranged in pages as HH describes above. Other rolls contain muster rolls, householders lists, depositions, and 4 rolls of “misc. old documents.” And many are listed in the FHL Catalog entry as “extracts” for specific counties. Do you begin on page 1 and read all the way through to page 14749?

Tune in on Friday, 10 November for the BIG genealogy lessons demonstrated in HH’s description AND the indexes that have been compiled by genealogists as part of the Indexing the World we already talked about. If you have some time and an interest in Irish records–you, too, can participate in the indexing of these valuable collections so we can all access them.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

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