Monthly Archives: February 2011

Using Your Vote

Today in Ireland we are voting in a general election to elect  people we wish to represent us in the  Dáil.  Voting is something we take for granted.  As citizens of our country,  we are entitled to vote in our parliamentary elections.

That was not always so.  Many readers may be surprised to discover that they were probably personally acquainted with people who did not have the vote in this country, for it was only in 1922 that all citizens over the age of 21 were enfranchised.

From the early 1700’s voting  rights depended on the value of a person’s property holdings and their religion. Certain Protestant property holders with a freehold of 40 shillings (40 shillings = £2 )   were allowed to vote. In 1793 Catholics with a freehold of 40 shillings were included. Then in 1829 all freeholders with a freehold of less than  £10 lost the right to vote. Various reform acts were introduced that extended the eligibility to vote, but it was not until 1918 that  men aged over 21 years  were given the vote in the UK.  (Ireland was a part of the U.K at this time).  Some women over 30 were also given the right to vote at this time, and among those who availed of this franchise was Anna Haslam.  Anna was a Cork born  Quaker and a veteran suffragette aged 89 who, some  40 years earlier had started a women’s suffrage movement. Anna cast her first vote in the 1918 elections.

In 1922 , the Irish Free State constitution extended  the franchise to all citizens over  the age of 21.

As recently as 1967 in Northern Ireland, there were still calls for universal suffrage as the right to vote was still vested in property  ownership, which automatically excluded many poorer people, the majority of whom were catholics.

So  today, when you enter  your Number 1  and perhaps your Number 2  and 3 and 4 and 5 and so on, on  your ballot paper, you might pause to think that a couple of generations ago, you may not have had the privilege.  Your franchise has been hard-won, so use  it well !

You may read more about the amazing  Anna Haslam at this site.

For further reading see :

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Filed under Elections, Right to Vote, Suffrage

Irish Family History

It is  estimated that there are about 80 million people who make up the Irish Diaspora.  If even a tiny fraction of these are asking ‘Who am I ? ‘ it would be a significant number. But oh! the frustrations, as there is a dearth of  Irish records available for them to dig into!

Our Census records for 1831, 1841, 1851 went up in flames in the Four Courts in 1922; the 1861 & 1871 records were officially destroyed; the 1881 and 1891 records were ‘pulped’.  We are left with the 1901 and 1911 census records. These are the only family specific records available to people trying to trace their roots, their specific earlier generations.  The census records enable us to open the door,  peer into their kitchens ,and see who was sitting round their  hearth on a particular  evening  and who was missing.

There was no census in Ireland in 1921 because of the War of Independence. The next census undertaken was in 1926.   In Ireland we have a ‘hundred year rule’ that prohibits the release of information until a century has elapsed.

The  period from 1911 to 1926 saw seismic changes to society, socially  and politically.  Emigration,  First World War,  Independence, Civil War… these  occured in this period.  The 1926 census is an invaluable resource for tracking the changes and  identifying the ravages on families and districts as a result of those turbulent times. It is not however,  due for official  release until 2027.

There are various campaigns underway pressing for the earlier release of these precious records.  The  rising tide of interest in Family History among people at home and those scattered across the globe should be good reason to focus the attention of the decision makers. Perhaps they will become tourists as a result of what they find!

Stephen C Smyrl had a very eloquent and informative article on this very topic in the Irish Times in January last.  I urge you to take a few moments to read it …just click  here.

There is also an online petition addressed to An Taoiseach (which presumably will be  updated after polling on Friday), urging the early release of these records  which you can see here.

UPDATE: Today I saw on the Irish Family History Blog – that Fine Gael has stated in their manifesto : ‘Fine Gael will examine the feasibility of releasing the 1926 census to stimulate genealogy tourism.’


Filed under Ancestry, Census 1901, Census 1911, Census 1926, Family History, Genealogy, Ireland, National Archives, Who do you think you are ?

Who are you?

Donegal Harvest

Stooked Corn in Donegal

I have put some basic  information on my LOOKING INTO THE PAST page which may be of interest to people who are thinking of exploring who they are.  It is possible to do a lot of research without incurring any cost whatsoever.

The National Archives digitization of the 1901 and 1911 census papers has been a revolution and an astonishing  development for those of us who have questions to ask about ourselves.  It is absolutely free to view and search and it is possible to look at the original documents that have been scanned to a very high quality.

In my family, my father and his siblings did not know the former surname of their paternal grandmother.  By searching through the 1901 and 1911 census records I found her forename and because it was relatively unusual, it was possible to find a  marriage certificate (albeit in Latin) which showed that the bride and groom were actually 1st cousins!

It certainly can be frustrating for us here in Ireland, as the majority of our census records  prior to 1901 were either pulped or lost in the social unrest of 1922; burial records largely do not exist, graves were often unmarked,  birth and marriage records may not be available if the local clergy was not particular about  preserving them.

If you are considering looking up your ancestors, I urge you to do it!  It will be a great journey and you  will enjoy discovering who you are !

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Filed under Family History, Genealogy, Ireland, National Archives, Oral History

The American Revolution – 1997

A few years ago, on a visit to the USA I was bemused  to occasionally see groups of women wearing red hats –  perhaps in a shopping centre, at a cinema or in a restaurant.  Intrigued by this odd phenomenon, I inquired  about who they were  and why they were wearing red hats. I was informed that they  were ‘Red Hatters’.

On reading the poem ‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph (see it here) Sue Ellen Cooper was impressed by the lines:

‘When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me…..’

As her friend was celebrating a birthday in November 1997, Sue Ellen presented her with a copy of the poem and an old red hat that she had bought second-hand some years earlier.  Her friend was thrilled to bits with this unusual gift, so  Sue Ellen  repeated the gesture  for several more friends.  They eventually decided to go out for tea  as a group, wearing their red hats and in purple dresses.  And so the Red Hat Society was born.   Their strange attire attracted coverage from newspapers, magazines and television  and by 2002, just 5 years later,   they had 40,000 chapters worldwide.  In 2005, the Red Hat Society even featured on The Simpsons, when Marge Simpson joined up!  They had truly ‘arrived’!

In 2010  the original red hat  and a purple boa given by Sue Ellen to her birthday friend were donated to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. where they are now on display.

Donated by Founder of Red Hat Society.

The Red Hat Society  is now one of the largest women’s social groups in the world, offering friendship and fun while  celebrating life and the role of mature women.  They have managed to change the way society views women of a certain age and they promote a positive outlook on life and mental and physical well-being among their members.

They are ‘Over Fifty and Fabulous’ indeed!

Visit the website of the Red Hat Society


Filed under Older Generation, Seniors, Social Change, Social Networking