Bringing history together for everyone

Rosemary Sibbett, President of North of Ireland Family History Society with Mayor Victor Robinson at the opening of the new Research Centre at Valley Business Centre. INNT 37-014-FP
Rosemary Sibbett, President of North of Ireland Family History Society with Mayor Victor Robinson at the opening of the new Research Centre at Valley Business Centre. INNT 37-014-FP

A FASCINATING historical research facility opened its doors in Newtownabbey this week.

The North of Ireland Family History Society (NIFHS) research facility in the Valley Business Centre was officially opened by the Mayor, alderman Victor Robinson.

The society’s President, Rosemary Sibbett, welcomed the mayor and guests to the new Research Centre and Randall Gill Library in the Church Road premises.

The society, which is a charitable organisation, began in 1979 as a group of people interested in family history and now has branches across the whole of Ulster and a large associate membership scattered around the world.

Rosemary told the Times: “We are only as strong as our membership. People can feel intimidated at first, thinking they may not know much about research, but we are always learning from each other and new members always add something of value to the society.

“People use various different approaches to researching their histories and we all can learn from those methods to help with our own research.

“It is always very interesting and you do get some very interesting surprises along the way.”

She added: “One of the things we are most proud of is our all-inclusive approach, there is no division in our society - no matter your background you will always be made welcome - and that helps with our approach to studying family histories. People do uncover a lot about their families that they might never have even suspected about their backgrounds.

“Ultimately, we want to bring people together to share information. It is about networking and linking in histories to ultimately increase our knowledge.”

The research centre in Unit C4 in the Valley Business Centre holds a wide range of material of use to the family historian, including direct genealogical information, background historical information and “How to....” books.

The centre is open three days a week, manned by volunteers, and at other times by arrangement.

The Randal Gill Library is named after the society’s late President and Librarian, who was very active in acquiring and building the extensive material, which is continually growing in size.

As well as Irish history books and CDs the society has an ever-expanding collection of indexed transcriptions of parish records and gravestones.

Read more in this week’s Times...