A letter wishing “God speed” to two young Fermanagh women who emigrated to Michigan in the 1880s will take centre stage as the second leg of a regional tour of libraries by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) rolls into Enniskillen later this week.
Coming on the back of last month’s successful visit to Derry Central Library, where a letter by renowned poet Seamus Heaney and passenger logs from emigration ships from the 1800s were put on display, PRONI will visit Enniskillen Library on Thursday, 14th December.
The innovative roadshow, which includes further visits to Larne and Lurgan libraries on 22 January and 20 February respectively, has been organised in partnership with Libraries NI.
It is part of an ongoing schedule of events to mark the centenary of PRONI which is the official archive of Northern Ireland and a division of the Department for Communities.
Documents of local interest available to view at Enniskillen Library include:
- A very large parchment pedigree from 1635 entitled 'Genealogy of the right worshipful and worthy Captain Sir William Cole of the Castle of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, in the kingdom of Ireland' (digital version only).
- A 1772 map of the town of Enniskillen with land reference (digital version only).
- A register of female pupils attending Enniskillen Model National School, 1888-1918 (digital copy available).
- A register of cases of successful vaccination against Smallpox in Enniskillen between January 1889 and July 1889 (digital copy available).
- An index to an Outdoor Relief Register covering parts of Counties Fermanagh, Cavan and Tyrone between 1847-1848 and 1865-1899 (prepared by Dr D. R. Elliott, c. 2009).
- A letter written by the Rev. A. Williamson, rector of Magheraculmoney, Ardress, Kesh, County Fermanagh, on 12th August 1885, vouching for the character of Isabella and Anne Weir, two young women who emigrated to Michigan in the United States, in the late-1880s.
Isabella and Anne are described as “daughters of a most respectable family of my parishioners... well-disposed and high principled young persons... most sincerely do I wish them God speed, and every blessing in the distant land they are going to.”
- A letter from Lizzie Lucas in Corunna, Shiawassee County in Michigan, passing on family and social news to her cousin Isabella Weir in Michigan.
In her 1885 letter, Lizzie writes: 'We have got a big, splendid teacher… his name is Frank Hunt. Before School is out, he thrashes two or three every day, but he has not said anything to me yet.'
David Huddleston, Acting Director of PRONI, said:
“Following on from the success of last month’s visit to Derry Central Library, Enniskillen is the second stop on PRONI’s historical records tour with Libraries NI and we once again look forward to engaging with new audiences.
“I am particularly pleased that letters from two young women who made the long and hazardous journey from Fermanagh to the United States in the 1880s will form part of the document display. I hope they will inspire visitors to think about the archives and records that have survived, and what they tell us about the past and our shared history.
“The records and archives we hold are for everyone as they are about everyone. They tell stories about our people, their lives, and our places, so this is a wonderful opportunity to see original historical documents up close in a local library. They will contain details of names and places that will resonate with visitors or show family links.
“As PRONI celebrates its centenary, I am delighted that we are taking unique, historical records on the road to local towns where they were first created.”
PRONI officials will also be available on the day to help visitors to Enniskillen Library uncover details of their family tree, delve into the history of the local area, and answer questions about the vast array of records held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
Notes to editors:
1. Image caption 1 – A letter from the Rev. A. Williamson vouching for the character of Isabella and Anne Weir, two young Fermanagh women who emigrated to Michigan in the late-1800s; Image caption 2 – A 1635 parchment pedigree entitled 'Genealogy of the right worshipful and worthy Captain Sir William Cole of the Castle of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, in the kingdom of Ireland'. This will be available to view in digital form on the day.
2. PRONI will visit Enniskillen Library on Thursday, 14th December, 10am to 4pm.
3. The Libraries NI regional tour is just one event of a year-long programme of activities to mark the centenary of PRONI which was established on 22nd June 1923 and opened its doors to the public on 3rd March 1924.
4. PRONI is based at 2 Titanic Boulevard, Titanic Quarter, Belfast. For details on opening hours, see NI Direct or call 028 90 534800.
5. The Department for Communities funds the public library service, which since 1st April 2009 has been administered by the Northern Ireland Library Authority, known as Libraries NI.
6. Media enquiries to DFC Press Office
7. Follow the Department on X @CommunitiesNI
8. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekend and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
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