Cork University Summer School


27 June, 2015

Greetings from Cork.I am finally here and have just checked in to my student digs that are freshly painted and quite spacious.

I checked out of my lovely hotel in London, the Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt where I can honestly say the staff were the most friendly and helpful that I have ever experienced anywhere. I was even especially cooked the most dkelicious pancakes for breakfast today. What a treat!

Heathrow has recently had a major upgrade and I was shocked at how much bigger and how different it is. There are even escalators from where you present your boarding pass to where you actually board your plane. No just waking through the door, along the aerobridge and on to the plane!

The flight from London to Cork took just over an hour and I struck up a conversation with another lovely lady seated beside me from San Francisco and when I started talking about coming to Ireland to study genealogy, the lady beside her joined in as she is an Archivist from London! What a small world it is.

Well, tomorrow the hard work starts in earnest so standby for all the latest.

Exciting announcement.

I have been invited, along with only one other delegate from New Zealand to accompany Lorna Maloney to the ceremony to release the Church records in Dublin. This is huge and I will keep you informed every step of the way!

28 June, 2015

It is amazing how easy it is to start a conversation with these lovely Irish people who always seem interested in hearing why you are visiting Ireland and never in too much of a hurry to continue on their way. This morning after Mass at the lovely Sacred Heart church, I took a river walk through the beautiful dog walkers park and met a lady whose black Labrador  wanted me to throw it her ball. We stopped to chat and once she identified my accent as Australian, she wanted me to know that her son worked in Gattan just outside of Brisbane. Her name was Mary and she had gone for a walk to leave the family to work out the finer details of her daughter’s wedding in a couple of weeks. It appears that the daughter is turning into a Bridezilla! I told her of my family connection with Ireland and she was fascinated with the Prendergast family history story. She wanted to know if John Prendergast’s son baby John survived after his mother Catherine died/disappeared and I was able to tell her that he certainly did as I am a direct descendant of both Johns. She seemed visably relieved. imageThis afternoon we were greeted at the Aula Maxima, the magnificent University Hall, by the lovely Lorna Moloney who although tiny in stature is a passionate Genealogist. We were welcomed by the ACE Director Dr. seamus OTuama. After an interesting and often Hilarious talk by Eileen O’Duill we got to mingle with the other participants in the course. There are 40 delegates, mainly from USA but there are three from Australia. When the welcome finished we left the Aula Maxima and all got a giggle from what we saw in the grounds of the UCC. I wiil let you be the  judge but the rather embarrassed “cat burgler” assured us that “this is not what it looks like, I have lost my keys” imageHis friend decided to paint his face so that he would look the part of a “cat burgler” Ah, the folly of youth Well it is off to bed for me now as I have a huge day ahead as my Ancestral Connections course begins in earnest tomorrow.


29 June,2015

Today has been a very full but rewarding day. We started the day with Eileen O’Duill who gave us three lectures for the morning. Her emphasis was on always being organised and keeping good records in an orderly manner so that you are not constantly re-visiting old ground. Another hint or two involved not adopting a possible relative until you have proof that they are because as she said “Divorcing them can be painful once you find out they are not related” Also a primary document is the most desirable piece of paper as it holds so much accurate information. That being said Eileen also warned us not to count on the ages of the husband and wife in the census because men often lied about their age so that they could get a pension and women lied up to 10 years to make themselves appear younger! This afternoon Sean O’Duill gave us a very interesting series of talks on Matchmakers & Marriage customs in 19th century Ireland that appeared to me to involve having “Kissed the Blarney” for eloquence and lashings of Irish Whisky. He also gave us a sometimes hilarious and sometimes sad talk about the various death and burial customs. For instance the body of the dearly lies “on board” (on the kitchen table) for two days and two nights. Following the death the window is opened and remains so for two days so the soul can fly up to heaven. Candles are lit and liberal lashings of holy water are sprinkled on the body. Sean came from Mayo and referred to an article by Sarah Prendergast, a nun in Mayo in the 1960’s who was daughter of a Jim Prendergast. This may prove a valuable souce for me as one branch of the Prendergast family settled in Mayo. I received a lovely reply to a letter I wrote to Kate Grenville. Some of you might recognise her name as she is the award winning author of “Secret River”. A story about the convicts and rebels who settled on the Hawkesbury river. Her book has just been made into a telemovie and televised on the ABC channel. She was most encouraging and made a few suggestions to me to help in the quest to find out more about my Irish Prendergast family. She seemed like a really lovely lady who was most generous with her time and I am truly grateful. This evening we visited the beautiful Seaside town of Kinsale. The weather was not conducive to enjoying the walking tour of the town.We drove around to the points of interest and then enjoyed a delicious dinner at the stunning Trident Hotel. Some of the brave did enjoy a brief sightseeing tour on foot but I chose to stay in the warmth of the hotel and enjoy an Irish coffee, for purely medicinal purposes, as I seem to be developing a cold.

30 June, 2015.

imageBecause we were so late arriving back from Kinsale last night, our Lecturers took pity on us and allowed us a late start of 9.30am. We worked through until 7.30pm with a brief stop for morning tea and shortened lunch break.

Today we learned all about how to use on line historical maps and current maps to help find our family. We learned about the various repositeries around Ireland and for me that meant that most of them are in Dublin where I am headed next week.image

We learned all about using “Find my past” and that they are soon to provide details of Valuation office Field and House books, Prerogative and Diocesan will & Marriage Records, Marriage indexes, Merchant Marine Records, Wills, School pupil Rolls, Catholic Qualification Roll and many more records. got equal billing and we learned all about the latest services that they provide as well.

We met all the top Archivists from the Dublin Repositeries who gave us an introduction into what to expect on our Dublin Archives trip. We covered all the subjects in our schedule and I will be able to explain in depth the finer details when I see you next.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn from the expert at the Dublin Registery of Deeds, that if my 5x Grandfather left a will before he was transported to Australia in 1800 and that it has been memorialized, that it will still be held in the Registery of deeds in Dublin and that I can get a copy! How exciting.

This evening we enjoyed a cultural evening of Irish dancing and music at the University.


01 July, 2015

Knowing we had the field trip to Youghal (pronounced Yorl) this afternoon, our timetable had to be strictly adhered to this morning.

Lorna Moloney commenced the day with a talk on the importance of the Tithe applotments. A tax placed on all land owners. A tax of 10 percent paid in “Living tax”. That means that if you had a Cattle farm, annually you paid with 10 percent of your Cows for example. The tax was not paid in currency.

A.M. Coughlan then talked about the use of historical street directories and the wealth of information in these books. Anne Marie also talked later on Irish Wills.

Aiden Feerick dissected Griffiths Valuations to give us a clearer understanding of how to read the book.

Steven Smyrl a legal Genealogist with a Television program in Britain called “Heir Hunting” gave us a very interesting talk drawing on his own experience about the making of this popular T.V. Programme and how Irish Law effects who the beneficeries of a contested will can be.

After lunch we took a bus to Yougal, a very pretty village that has a very unique history.

Youghal St Mary
Youghal St Mary”s Church

The church that we visited, St Mary’s is the oldest Church in continuous worship in Ireland. The Port of Yougal was the principal trade Port in the South from the early Medieval era. it has strong links with West of England and South Wales. Some surnames are unique to the town. We looked but could find no Prendergast’s on the data base. The area was given by Queen Elizabeth to Walter Raleigh as a reward for Services to the crown. There was a significent Quaker settlement in 17th Century.

After our strenuous grave yard walk where John Nagle and Dr. Jane Lyons showed us how to read Headstones with Mirrors and Torches we enjoyed a Cream Tea in the town.

Reading headstone with the use of a mirror - Youghal Cemetry
Reading headstone with the use of a mirror – Youghal Cemetry

Later that evening before enjoying a delicious dinner at the Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel, we listened to Regina Sexton a popular T.V personality present a paper on the food patterns of Yougal in the late Medieval & Early Modern Period called “What our Ancestors ate”.

02 July, 2015

Today we had a slight change to the programme because a number of Deligates are leaving tomorrow.

Certificate Presentation
Certificate Presentation

At 10 am we were awarded our Certificates by Ken Nicholls, an eminent historian especially for the Wexford district. He dropped anther famous Prendergast name. This time Simon Prendergast who was highly regarded in the 1600’s as a soldier. One of our Genealogists Anne Marie Coghlin, who specilises in how to get the most out of  Street Directories, was telling me about a document called the “Pender Census” conducted by a Prendergast during the time of Cromwell. This  document is kept in the Trinity Library and considered a masterpiece for the detail and beautiful Maps included. it is another lead I will need to follow up.

Throughout the rest of the day, we followed the schedule and each of the presenters enlightened us with their knowledge and expertise.

When I was speaking to Brian Donovan, founder of because in his introduction we were told that he came from Wexford, I asked him if he knew anything about the Weaver’s Guild Records. He casually said “Oh yes, the last time that I saw them they were stored in a blue trunk at the Dublin Museum. He called Kyle J. Betit of over to confirm that they were still there and he casually agreed that they were. How amazing! This is a vital piece of information for me as John Prendergast was a Dublin Weaver.

I have learned so much by attending the Ancestral Connections: Irish Summer School. By being in the right place at the right time I am being included in ground breaking developments, I am mixing with like minded, generous people who are prepared to share their findings and I have the opportunity to be instructed by the top experts in their field. For all of you who have struggled, I feel confident that on my return I should be able to help you with any brick walls that you may be encountering.


03 July, 2015

I can’t believe that today was our last official day at UCC. The time has gone so quickly. Tomorrow we do a trip to Cobh but I will tell you more about that later.

Dr. Paul MacCotter, like every other genealogist, is extatic about the forthcoming release of the church records at 1pm next Wednesday July 8th at the NLI. He presented the first paper today entitled “Church records and Genealogy”. Paul explained how hard it was in the past to get church records. How you had to get the permission of the Bishop before you could approach the parish church and that it was really up to the parish priest as to what information was given out. I didn’t like to tell him how kind our parish church of St. Nicholas of Myra in Dublin was and how compassionate they were in ensuring that we received my 5x Grandfather’s Baptism certificate just before my darling dad passed into the next world.

I can’t believe that I have been invited to attend the function at the NLI to launch the release of church records! This is so exciting. But, I digress. What I am intending to tell you about is today’s program.

I know nothing about Quakers so it was eye opening learning about their place in Irish History. We studied the Irish history timeline and later compared Ireland to the wider world. Hilary McDonagh gave a paper on where to find children in Genealogy which also helps when tracing the siblings of your ancestors.

The great famine of the 1850’s played a huge roll in emigration. Although we traced Irish soldiers in the great war, I learned about several sites where you can get Australian ANZAC records as well.

Finding out where your Ancestors lived and how often their land changed hands became easier with the paper given by Maeve Mullin of the Valuation office Dublin.


A highlight this afternoon was a historical and Art/Architecture walk we took around UCC. James Cronin, School of History and Adult Education very generously gave his time to take us on a walk around the University and enthusiastically related historical events that shaped the formation of UCC.


I loved the church with it’s stunning Mosaic floor and intensly coloured stained glass windows.

We re-visited the Aula Maxima Hall where the Orchestra was setting up to practise this evening in preparation for the concert in the Quad tomorrow night.image


The entrance to the Hall is stunning with the stone Pillars that are thousands of years old.


Tomorrow we are visiting Cobh, the very place where my 5x Grandfather departed for Australia in 1799. We visit Spike Island where his ship was moored for all those months and also the Heritage centre there. I know it will be a very emotional day for me – walking in the footsteps of my 5x Grandfather John Prendergast and his wife Catherine who as a free settler was brave enough to accompany him on such a long voyage to Australia.

04 July, 2015

We departed Cork at 9.30am on the bus for Cobh (Cove).

City of Cobh
City of Cobh

The day was bright and sunny but windy. We arrived at morning tea time and enjoyed freshly baked Scones and tea. yum!


imageWe were guided through the Heritage centre by the local expert Christie who was very knowledgeable and entertaining.

Cobh Heritage Centre
Cobh Heritage Centre
Cobh Heritage Centre
Cobh Heritage Centre

Cobh is noted for being the last stop for the fatal voyage of the Titanic,

Cobh Heritage Centre
Cobh Heritage Centre

it’s history with the

Cobh Heritage Centre
Cobh Heritage Centre

Lucitania and very importantly for me the port where my 5x Grandfather John Prendergast departed Ireland for the final time as an Irish Rebel transported to Australia for his involvement in the 1798 Rebellion.

Following our visit to the Heritage centre we visited the large and impressive Cobh Cathedral where a wedding was due to take place later today.

We took a Ferry to Spike Island.

Cobh from ferry
Cobh Cathedral from ferry

It took 45 Minutes to cross the St. George Channel to the island. It was quite a steep walk up the hill to the Fort, once upon a time entered via draw bridge, that is no longer there.

Spike Island
Spike Island

It was a strange feeling standing outside the barracks on Spike island and knowing that John had been imprisoned there. So many questions came to mind. Did he know that once he left Ireland that he would never return? Were the Barracks isolated from wherever his wife Catherine was being housed? Was she already carrying their child? Were they in love and happy envisioning a new life in Australia or in fear and dread of having to leave the old? Perhaps we will never know.

After cruising back to Cobh we drove to

Midleton Viullage
Midleton Village

Midleton and some of our party enjoyed a Whisky tasting at Jamieson’s Whisky distillery. The rest of the party chose to visit the local historical church built in the 13th Century and still in use today.

Well this is my last blog from Cork. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed writing it to you. Please leave a comment. The next blog will come to you from Dublin where I travel to by train tomorrow.


  1. Hi Jenny, just found out how to use this contraption, whatever happened to postal services?? Only joking!
    It all sounds exciting and you are learning heaps, I love reading about your travels and encounters. Will try and keep an eye on the Antiques Roadshow. You know I have turned 50 shades of green (isn’t that the Irish colour?) reading about all your adventures, I look forward to the day we ca travel together.
    Keep well and safe xxx


      • Jen, Have you checked for a birth certificate in Ireland for John Jnr.? The magazine “Timespan”, No.78,2000 writes :’…There is evidence that his [John’s] wife, Catherine and son John were in the same fleet but on another ship which was separated by a storm and arrived later’. You probably have if not it is worth a shot.
        Lorna P.


      • Hi Mum,
        It seems that everything that happens to our Prendergast family holds historical significance. Tomorrow, while I am at the NLI as an invited guest (a rare priveledge) at the function to launch the release the catholic church records, the very first on line Baptism I will check for baby John Prendergast. Also Mum you will be thrilled to be the first to hear that I have been invited to visit Sarah at St Nicholas of Myra on Thursday. It will be a very emotional moment for me as you can imagine.Love you Jen.


      • Hi Jen.
        I sometimes feel as tho’ I will have to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming. After all these years of research every thing is falling into place so quickly. Please give my love to Sarah she has been such a help.
        Lorna P.


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