Ireland: A Week and a Day
After returning to the hotel after the movie, we started researching how to get to the RCB, and what their hours were, and if we needed some sort of secret handshake to go visit the place. They were open the next day, and my sister figured out which bus stop we needed to get off at, and what the fare would be there and back again. Instead of going all the way to the National Library and picking up the bus from there, we found a closer stop, directly across the river from The Custom House.
We got on our first Dublin city bus, and headed toward the suburbs, holding our breath that our directions were sufficient, and that we’d recognize our stop before we passed it. We passed a large cemetery, and saw a bit of what Dublin is like away from the city center. I wondered how often it was that “tourists” got out of the heart of the city, and saw what it was like in the less famous parts. No real way to know, I guess, but, for my part, I was glad that I was one of them.
The ride wasn’t long, maybe 10-15 min, but, as we rounded the corner of a street with a private hospital, we saw the stop number we were looking for, and were able to request our stop.
Now we had another dilemma. In which direction was this fabled place of records?
We wandered along the street, pretty sure we knew where we were going, and a private school I had not seen on the map made me doubt my navigational instincts. Just a moment later, when our fears started to creep into conversation, we saw the largely nondescript building we had seen on the web site. Even more confirmation came from the handy labeling in the form of the big honking sign on the building.
We walked up to the door. It was locked. We exchanged questioning glances. A guy came up behind us, and pushed a button. A speaker chirped to life, and a voice asked him to declare himself. The man told them it was “first name I can’t can’t recall,” and the voice from the box clearly knew him, and buzzed the door open. He-whose-name-I-can’t-recall looked us over, and then, holding the door for us, invited us in.
The man who snuck us in, went straight upstairs. We noticed the lockers just inside the door, and put our bags inside, taking only our pencils and notebooks. Once all was stowed, we marched upstairs and nearly scared the staff out of their minds. Three people, appearing inside the building unannounced? Horrors.
I told them we’d come in with guy-whose-name-I-recalled-then-but-is-lost-to-me-now, and we were sorry for causing him distress.
He started breathing again.
For what seemed the millionth time, I launched into the basics of what we were hoping to look at, and the gentleman said, “Well, I’m terribly sorry, but, the Princess is in another castle.”
Actually, it wasn’t much better than that.
He told us that all the records for that parish had been lost in a fire. There was nothing left.
After having come all this way, I was not going to give up. I wondered out loud if there were maybe headstones that might’ve been moved from the church yard when the ground the church stood on had been acquired by Guinness for cheap housing, and he remembered something. There was one book. They were the only place in the world with this book, and it might help. It was a collection of transcriptions of vestry records from three Dublin churches (including St. Bride’s) that no longer exist.
Well, it was worth a shot.
We pulled up some chairs at the table, and opened the book. It was printed within the last 15 years, and it had an index, so, we looked in it for that fateful surname.
There was a single entry. It was a Barnes that was unknown to me, but, it seems that one of the members of the vestry, in 1680 and 1688, about 20 years before the baptismal record we’d gone to look at, was a Mr. Robert Barnes. Well, that could turn out to be an interesting tidbit of information. Not that we knew how or why that was interesting, but, with genealogy research, you really never know what will turn out to be important.
Having now exhausted all the resources the RCB had for us, we walked back to the bus stop. The next place to search was the Dublin City Library. The driver that picked us up, was the same one that had dropped us off an hour earlier. I think he was as surprised as we were.
We took the bus back to the area around the National Library. The city library is on the other side of Trinity from the National Library, so we started hiking that way. I figured it was just as easy to cut across campus, and, given that it was not raining today, I knew I would not have that as a navigational scapegoat. Since it was a nice day, no one was in the mood to argue, and it was an excuse to see more of the campus, and feel like college students. Or something.
This time, we didn’t miss any turns, and walked right up to the library, and followed the signs up the stairs to the research room. While the outside of the Dublin City Library isn’t much to look at, the inside has got a bit of architectural charm.
The three of us got to the research counter, and we told the librarian we were here to do research. She said, “Of course! You just need to fill out this bit of paper work, and if you have an ID, we can get you all set. ” We all set to filling out the paperwork, and within a few short minutes, I was holding my very favorite souvenir of the whole trip: A Dublin City Library Card.
I couldn’t take my eyes off this shiny bit of plastic.
It might not seem like much, but, ever since I was little, the library was one of my favorite places on earth. Whenever we moved to a new city, it was the symbol of being a resident more important to me than enrolling in school, or knowing our address, and it is one of the first tasks on my to do list when settling into a new city. And here I was, possessing that first, and most important, sign of being a member of the community of Dublin. I think that this makes me, officially, a Dubliner. Sure, they would deny it, but, I have a library card. I belong.
Really and truly, I love looking at it. I’ve shown that card more than I’ve shown pictures. And it was FREE. What a miracle.
So, now, imagine an episode of Buffy where they Scoobies spend hours in the library flipping through musty old books. Yeah. that was more interesting than what we were doing. Granted, we didn’t have to flip randomly through books without indexes, we mostly used the computers to search through old newspaper archives and indices of records, and sort through the burial records that they had, and look for property records, and well, anything that might help us figure out the parents of Brinsley Barnes. This is the not-remotely-glamorous, tedious, you’ll-never-see-it-on-“who-do-you-think-you-are” part of family history research. It’s hours of mind-numbing searching, trying another tactic, looking again, and mostly finding nothing. This is not the same as National Treasure where the clues lead to clear and obvious steps. No. This is like wading through a swamp picking up almost everything, turning it over in your hands for a while, and then setting it back into the muck, because you don’t even know what you are looking for, but it’s probably not that. Probably. Maybe make a note of it anyway.
Anyway, my sister hit gold first, having simply searched the newspaper archive for the name “Barnes.” It turned up an ad from a Belfast newspaper, put in about 1700. It was offering the services of a Robert Barnes, to residents of both Belfast and Dublin. Robert Barnes tuned pianos and taught music, both organ and piano. Perhaps this was why he was on the vestry at St. Bride’s? Could he have been their organist? It also was the first actual clue we had as to why Brinsley was listed as being simultaneously from Ulster and from Dublin. Perhaps the family had homes in both places, and spent one season in one city, and then moved south in winter. Who knows? But, it was, perhaps a clue. We also found other sources perhaps corroborating the story that Brinsley’s father was a doctor. Certainly, his name was the same as one of the three potential sets of fathers, and the date would be correct. Of course, this was information about freemen of Dublin, essentially a business directory. Naturally, they didn’t have anything useful like, Yup, James Barnes, a surgeon, has a son named Brinsley, and that kid went to the American colony, and landed in Pennsylvania, and then moved to North Carolina, and yes, this is the guy and the answer to the question you were looking for.
Nope. No such luck. We’d just have to settle for the bits we got.
We finally ran out of steam, and called it quits, having looked through the most likely information, and even a bunch of unlikely information, in the event that something would jump out and surprise us. It was time to move along. Plus, the library was going to kick everyone out soon, anyway. I wasn’t going to risk them taking away my shiny card.