IED Archive Guide

1. What is the background to this resource?

The concept behind IED took shape at the Ulster American Folk Park during the 1980s. In 1988 the generous sponsorship of the computer company Digital and the support of DENI allowed the project to get underway. A team of Enterprise Ulster trainees under the direction of staff in Omagh and Belfast began collecting, transcribing and digitising archive material from a variety of repositories in Belfast and material in private hands which was donated. Those who would like a more comprehensive history of the project may consult the following article by the former Project Officer - Lorraine Tennant, 'The Development of the Centre for Migration Studies' Irish Emigration Database' in Journal of the Association for History and Computing, vol.VII, no.3, (Dec. 2004), 1-17.

2. What is the range and volume of material within this resource?

There are currently in excess of 33,000 documents on IED and fresh material is being added at regular intervals. Material is divided by type into thirteen classifications. However, one can identify essentially three types of material. Documents created by private individuals including letters, diaries and journals written by migrants as well as other letters throwing light on emigration.

Newspaper material includes advertisements for emigrant shipping, reports concerning the progress of emigrant shipping and extracted reports relating to emigration in general. Births, deaths and marriages of those overseas are also to be found in newspapers. Official and government papers include material extracted from reports and enquiries, the record of parliamentary debates contained in Hansard and official statistics.

3. What historical period is covered by this resource?

Almost all the documents in IED range from 1700 and 1950 but more than three-quarters of these derive from the century of mass emigration between 1820 and 1920.

4. What is the geographical coverage of material within this resource?

From 1988 collection was based on coverage of all thirty-two Irish counties and the entire North American continent. During the last decade more material relating to migration throughout the Irish Diaspora has been added. Whilst some material relating to all the major destinations to which Irish migrants travelled may be located the great majority of documents relate primarily to trans-Atlantic emigration. Despite the all-Ireland remit, the nature of collection and donation has dictated a bias towards the province of Ulster.

5. How can I search the material within the resource?

The IED is a keyword searchable resource. Documents containing the search term are retrieved and the search term highlighted in the text of each document. A search relating to a specific place, person, ship etc. can be performed through a straightforward name search. At all times the search may be refined by the addition of two additional search terms. It is also possible to refine any search by date. Searching by theme is best undertaken by entering terms lightly to elicit relevant material.