TWO friends who have spent years researching their Irish heritage together are the recipients of a new award marking their dedication to that work.
Long-time friends and research companions Maureen Fitzgibbon and Margaret Purcell have received the Valued Service Certificate - a new award created by the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS).
The organisation explained: “Every so often the IGRS Council hears of ways in which our members have shown selfless dedication and commitment in assisting others in their pursuit of Irish family history. Yet until now there has been no formal way for the Society to acknowledge such work in the public domain.
“With this in mind the Society has inaugurated the IGRS Valued Service Certificate which we hope will go some way towards recognising our members’ achievements, their dedication and their voluntary contributions to the work of the Society and to the wider-world of Irish genealogy.”
Maureen, from Cheshire, and Margaret, from Lancashire, have both been a fixture on the Irish genealogy circuit for many years, both in England and in Ireland, the IGRS confirmed.
“Both have contributed in so many ways to the encouragement of others in their research through their volunteering spirit not just with the IGRS, but with the Catholic Family History Society and other Lancashire-based societies with Irish research interest groups,” the organisation explained.
“Whenever the IGRS announces an event it is organising or a family history fair it is attending, Maureen and Margaret are invariably among the first to volunteer,” they add.
“And distance is never an issue for either of them. When the Society attended the ‘Back to Our Past’ family history show in Belfast in February 2018, both flew over to volunteer on the stand, providing invaluable family history advice, along with information about the IGRS.
“And this has been repeated again and again over the years, in places such as Dublin, London, Manchester and Birmingham.”
Having been informed of the award, on behalf of herself and Maureen, Margaret recalled their years involved in genealogy.
“Most of it was in the pre-internet and computer days, when we had to travel to libraries and record offices to see and copy by pencil and paper the records of interest,” she said.
“I particularly remember being part of a small team transcribing the registers of St Wilfrid’s, Preston, and later St John the Evangelist, The Willows, Kirkham. Transcribing St Wilfrid’s took four years to complete, working one day per week.”
She added: “We also manned the Catholic Family History Society (CFHS) and other Irish Group tables at family history society conferences giving advice. We found that any enquiry for the CFHS usually ended with advice on Irish ancestry. We were also sometimes invited to give talks at family history branch meetings.
“Although we keep telling people we have retired, newcomers at society branches are generally directed to us if they mention Ireland.”
Chairman of the Society’s Awards sub-committee, Paul Gorry, said: “It is a great pleasure for the IGRS to be able to recognise the contribution these two ladies – stalwarts of the Society – have made over so many years.
“They are shining examples of selfless giving of time, experience and expertise.
“We look forward to seeing them again at Society events once the Covid-19 health crisis has passed.”