Monday 7th September 2015: As Limerick prepares for its European Capital of Culture 2020 bid a lot of work is being done behind the scenes to develop stronger links with our European and global Diaspora. One particular centre is helping those around the world with Limerick connections to play their part in the Limerick of the future.
Publish Date: Monday 7th September 2015
Written by Nigel Dugdale on behalf of Limerick 2020
As Limerick prepares for its European Capital of Culture 2020 bid a lot of work is being done behind the scenes to develop stronger links with our European and global Diaspora. One particular centre is helping those around the world with Limerick connections to play their part in the Limerick of the future.
The Irish Ancestry Research Centre (IARC) is located at 58 O’Connell Street, Limerick City, Ireland. It welcomes walk-in visitors and groups from all over the world to conduct guided personal research, genealogy workshops and educational programmes, many of which are also offered as online services. The centre uses advances in web technology and partnerships with industry to provide access to a wider range of sources and a more textured experience for the genealogical researcher.
John King is CEO of the IARC. “We started in 2011 in the University of Limerick. The origins of the Centre came from an academic context”, he says. “We focus on education in family history research where we run a certificate with the University of Limerick and a diploma in University College Cork”, he says.
“We also provide research commissions where we help those researching their family history to fill in the gaps and to prepare family trees. We are very much focussed on family history, local history and the culture of Irish life”.
Connecting our Global Limerick Diaspora
Most of the business of the IARC comes through online customers with a particularly strong client base in the United States and Canada and also the United Kingdom. The centre also has a very strong walk-in clientele mostly be from the Limerick region.
Over the past two years the centre has been engaging closely with Limerick City and County Council on the Global Limerick project.
“Global Limerick is all about helping Limerick to engage and connect with its Diaspora”, John King says. “This is not just about bloodline. It is about connecting with anyone who has any links with Limerick in the broadest sense. Those who have studied here, have worked here or have any connections to the city and county are considered part of the Global Limerick family”.
The principle mission of Global Limerick is to find the Limerick Diaspora. Global Limerick are creating a pool of people who can now be communicated with.
“We estimate the Limerick Diaspora globally to be in the region of 2.5m or 3million people”, King notes. “Capturing as many of these people as possible is part of our mission. We aim to make these people not only aware of Global Limerick but aware of each other and as a result create a strong international Limerick community who are closely connected. Disseminating the good news coming from Limerick is the next part of the jigsaw – opportunities for education, work, travel and doing business”.
A recent survey conducted through Global Limerick suggested a strong desire from the Limerick Diaspora to continue to hear good news coming from Limerick. The survey showed they want to hear timely information about what is going on. In terms of culture they want to know what events are happening around the city and county and highlighted a particular interest in the field of genealogy and local history.
John King says the upcoming centenary of the 1916 rising has also ignited a fresh interest in Limerick and the many connections we have to that key event in Irish history.
“The area of local history and family research is a key part of the culture of our Diaspora and we try to facilitate anyone who has an interest in discovering more about who they are. Identifying their heritage and knowing their sense of home place is something close to the hearts of so many of our Diaspora around the globe”, he adds.
The identification of who the Limerick Diaspora are is very interesting. There are many well documented historical sources showing the trials and tribulations of the Limerick community. The famous Wild Geese and the period after the Treaty of Limerick, where thousands of people with connections to Sarsfield left Limerick, started a migration into Europe.
“We scattered across countries such as France, Austria, Italy and Spain”, King notes. “There are many Limerick names associated with the various histories of European countries as a result. In the late 1700’s you start to see a shift in the sense that our communities started moved west into the United States and Canada. Then you had the post-Famine era where the migration became even more significant”.
The Limerick Wild Geese monument - remembering the many Limerick people across Europe
The area of Genealogy has had a new lease of life over recent years. Television programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are have reignited an interest in tracing family history.
“People get very excited about the idea of tracing something extremely noble in their family tree or, equally, discovering something salacious”, John King says. “It must be stressed that not everybody is so lucky in their searches. Often the family history turns out to be quite run of the mill. However, no matter what, there is always something juicy that crops up in nearly every family history”.
King also notes that the availability of records online has also played a big part in enabling those with an interest in family history to whet their appetites. The various census’ now available at the click of a button allows people to start the journey of creating a family tree.
“The process can take some time but once started can really be a journey of discovery, enlightenment and pleasure”, he says. “The Irish Ancestry Research Centre plays a part in helping researchers to authenticate the records they come across during the search”.
King believes the Limerick bid for the European Capital of Culture 2020 is an important step forward for Limerick. “We are now no longer thinking of ourselves as purely a local community. We are acknowledging the huge Diaspora we have across Europe and further afield and we want to connect with them”, he stresses.
“The Limerick bid is an excellent way of focussing our minds and allowing us to evaluate and develop Limerick as a true European city. The role Genealogy and Diaspora engagement plays in this regard is so important. Groups across Europe, the United States and Canada with connections to Limerick are keen to play their part in the future development of our city and county. The Limerick European Capital of Culture Bid can help us develop these important links and open up a whole new channel of communication with the global Limerick community”.
Pictured at the Global Limerick DNA event which took place recently in Mary Immaculate College as part of Heritage Week were: Dr. Cathy Swift, project collaborator; Minister Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Diaspora Affairs; Prof Michael A Hayes, president of MIC; Brian Hodkinson of the Limerick Museum and John King of the Irish Ancestry Research Centre (IARC). Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22