History of the Society
The North of Ireland Family History Society (NIFHS) was founded in 1979 and now has worldwide Membership and many Branches and an excellent Research Centre. The Society is symbolised by this tree, with foliage representing the map of the North of Ireland, designed by Caryl Sibbett.
The Society had its beginnings in a family history group formed in Bangor in 1979 with 51 Members and chaired by (John) Aiken McClelland (the Librarian/Archivist at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum; he died in 1981), who was followed by (George) Brendan Adams (a dialectologist at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum; he died in 1982) and then David Honneyman (a lecturer at Stranmillis College). Over the years, as the interest in genealogy has grown at home and abroad, the group has expanded by creating a dozen or so other Branches in the North of Ireland to form the Society, which now has well over a thousand members including many overseas.
While each Branch organises its own events, the Council of the Society has introduced a number of services for its local Branch Members and for its distant Associate Members – these include the development of an excellent Research Centre with free look up facilities for Members who cannot visit the premises, the publication of the Journal and E-Newsletter to keep Members in touch with developments and with one another, and the publication of useful research guides and the development of courses to assist Members with their research. In addition many Branch Members have transcribed a large range of records for the benefit of all Members – with the development of crowd sourcing techniques many Associate Members can now help with these transcription projects. The Society provides speakers and stalls at many events, both local and national.
The Society is a charity recognised by HM Revenue & Customs (Reference No. XR22524) and is a voluntary, non profit making organisation, depending on the financial support of amateurs interested in Family History and volunteer effort in running the Society. The Society is not a Research Agency, although we like to put people in contact with one another.
The Society has had a series of premises for its Office and Research Centre and in 2012 it moved from 45 Park Avenue, Belfast to spacious accommodation at Unit C4, Valley Business Centre, Church Road, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, BT36 7LS.
Many members have worked hard to develop the Society under the leadership of a succession of dedicated Presidents:
- Dr David Honneyman (1982-1983 and 1992-1994)
- The late Rev Dr Hugh Hezlett (1983-1984)
- The late Mr Samuel Bracegirdle (1994-1997)
- Mr John Bassett (1997-2002)
- The late Mr Randal Gill (1984-1992 and 2002-2012)
- Ms Rosemary Sibbett (2012-2016)
- Ms Ann Robinson (2016- )