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I was lucky enough to visit the Genealogy Advisory Service at the National Library of Ireland on a recent trip to Dublin. The Genealogy Advisory Service is a place where family historians can ask questions and get assistance with their research. The Advisory Service contains an array of books about Irish genealogy as well as directories, property records, heraldic records and Irish newspapers.
There are two rooms in the Genealogy Advisory Service. The first room contains the help desks where specialised staff assist clients with their family history research. The second room is where clients use PCs to access Ancestry Library, Find My Past and primarily to look at the library’s unique collection of catholic parish registers. These parish registers have been digitised as part of a mass digitisation project being undertaken by the National Library of Ireland.
On the mornings I visited the Genealogy Advisory Service was a hive of activity with clients industriously researching their family histories. Staff told me the service is busiest during the summer months when people fly in from all over the world to do their Irish family history while on holidays. I was given a tour of the library including the iconic Main Reading Room with its teal coloured ceiling which invites a sense of awe and a quiet reverence. I was also able to see the Manuscripts Reading Room. This houses an impressive collection, everything from the papers of W. B. Yeats to letters of Oscar Wilde. Much like at the State Library of New South Wales, genealogy researchers use the Manuscripts Reading Room to examine diaries, letters and personal papers that add layers of intrigue to their family histories.
Staff at the National Library of Ireland helped me to see that family history is social history. Looking at names on a census, for instance, can tell you about gender relations in the nineteenth century so family histories are always part of a much wider social context. If you have Irish heritage, or even just an interest in family history, the National Library of Ireland is a must see for any traveller.