A Derry genealogy expert says a revamped digital street directory database will be a valuable tool for the city’s amateur family historians.
Brian Mitchell, the genealogist with Derry City Council, says the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland’s (PRONI) Street Directories - which have undergone a major overhaul - will be a great resource for anyone researching their family history.
“With PRONI’s Street Directories database researchers now have a free online facility to search a large number of directories for many towns in Ulster for the period 1819 to 1900 including the New Directory of 1839 and New Commercial Directory of 1840 for Derry City,” he says.
PRONI’s street directories first went online in 2009 but a number of improvements to the database have now gone live.
Director of PRONI, Aileen McClintock, said: “This application provides free access to an important 19th Century genealogical and local history resource.
“New functionality vastly improves the user experience, making it quick and easy to find relevant information. We hope that the new application will be extremely well received by both our existing customers and the wider online community.
“A wealth of valuable information is contained in Street Directories, including the names and occupations of thousands of householders.
“Useful information can be found on associations and organisations such as schools, churches, banks and railways.”
Derry genealogist Brian says the new database adds to the wealth of resources available online.for research.
“Street Directories are a very important source to family historians especially prior to 1900. They essentially act as a census substitute.
“Although census enumerations were carried out every decade from 1821, the earliest surviving complete return for all Ireland is that of 1901. At www.census.nationalarchives.ie the public can search, for free, the 1901 and 1911 census returns, which includes images of original documents, for all counties in Ireland,” he says.
Brian says further resources are available for local family historians.
“In Derry, from 1868 right through to 1949 inclusive the Derry Almanac and Directory was published annually and it contained a ‘Street Directory’ where heads of households were identified against their street address in Derry city.
“The recording of house numbers, against each householder, first appeared in the Almanac of 1897. As yet the Derry Almanac has not been digitised,” he says.
The Street Directories are available free of charge at www.proni.gov.uk .