Irish Genealogy Resources in the Library and Online—by Heather Zbinden, Roberts Library Outreach Coordinator

Performers of an Irish Dance at Mitchell Playground, (Leona Tyra, Mary Ann Ball, Frances Simms, and Bernadine Kenney), July 16, 1939.

We have entered a brave new world. This Saturday we planned to co-host an Irish genealogy workshop with the Arkansas Genealogical Society. But in the new reality of social distancing and self-quarantine in response to COVID-19, the Central Arkansas Library System decided to postpone/cancel all public events through March 31 and close all locations to the public until at least March 23. I began this post last week before our new reality was a reality, so I realize that obtaining many of the resources listed below requires patrons to come into the library. If you’re interested, add the items to your For Future Reading shelf or bookmark the pages. Once CALS is reopened, we will be here to help you with all your genealogy needs, Irish or otherwise.

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day so I thought I’d take a peek into our catalog and collections to see what things related to the Irish population of Arkansas we have to offer. My first stop for any research project is, of course, the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas. A quick word search for Irish returned our entry on Irish and an entry on the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas. A keyword search for Scot-Irish (or rather Scotch-Irish) included an entry on Ozark English. The information on the Scot-Irish in Arkansas is included in the Irish entry.

Now to the Central Arkansas Library System catalog. A search of the term “Irish Genealogy” produces 75 book titles. Most of those available are at the CALS Roberts Library’s 2nd floor Research Room and are for in-library use only. But a few are available for patrons to check out. Tracing Your Irish & British Roots and Tracing Your Irish Ancestors are great books for anyone looking to explore their Irish roots. And Ancestry.com Library Edition is available for patrons to use at all 15 CALS libraries. We’ve also created an Irish Genealogy Guide in the CALS Catalog. This list includes a number of great resources to further your Irish genealogy research, including The Famine Immigrants: Lists of Irish Immigrants Arriving at the Port of New York, 1846-1851.

CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies has collections of family papers related to Irish immigration to Arkansas. The Jared C. Martin Family Papers is one example. Jared Carswell Martin, the son of Irish immigrants John and Elizabeth Allen Martin, was born on October 11, 1806, in Georgia. He spent the majority of his childhood in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, before relocating to Little Rock, Arkansas Territory, around 1821. Jared operated a ferry on the Arkansas River with his brother, James Hutcherson Martin, and spent two years carrying mail between Little Rock and the Arkansas Post. Jared served as Pulaski County treasurer from 1840 to 1842, as a Pulaski County representative in the Arkansas legislature from 1842 to 1844, and as state treasurer from 1843 to 1845. This collection is digitized so you can explore it online.

Another collection is the Foy Family Collection. The Foys were an Irish Catholic family that lived in Little Rock from at least 1880. The father and mother, Patrick and Ella Foy, were both born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States at different times between 1850 and 1860. The 1880 census shows the family living in Little Rock and consisting of the parents and four children: Lizzie, Mary, Mick (Michael), and Ellen. In 1883, Jennie was born, and in 1886, Edward. By 1893, Mary, then about 20 years old, had begun to work as a milliner, or lady’s hat-maker, working for two different millinery shops in town and eventually opening her own shop, Foy’s Millinery, at 322 Main Street in Little Rock. The father, Patrick, died in 1898. The family lived first at 1700 State Street, then at 320 W. 20th Street. Mary ran the millinery shop while Jenny worked as its bookkeeper. Michael worked at various positions including as a travel agent. The 1940 census shows Jennie, still a bookkeeper but now with a public utility, and her mother still living at 320 W 20th with Michael. Check out the finding aid online.

We’d love to hear about your Irish genealogy projects. Please share with us in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.

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