Established in 1982, the Clare Heritage and Genealogy Centre at Church Street, Corofin, Co. Clare was the brainchild of a truly remarkable and acclaimed Clareman, the late Dr. Naoise Cleary. The idea took shape in the 1970s when Naoise undertook the task of indexing the local Baptismal and Marriage records so that the Parish Priest might more conveniently cope with an increasing load of enquiries from people overseas of Corofin ancestry. It was a time when people everywhere were becoming interested in their roots and like everybody else, Clare people abroad were seeking information about their forbears. As the work progressed Dr. Cleary discovered that bound up in the musty records was a vast store of Genealogical information for which there was not only a growing demand, but a yearning even, from people whose origins were in Ireland. He quickly became struck with the idea that, if properly collated and indexed for each of the 47 parishes throughout Co. Clare, this information had the potential to be turned into a very marketable product.

With this first step and a fortuitous collaboration with ANCO, the Youth Training Organisation, began the painstaking task of transcribing approximately 500,000 individual Baptismal entries up to the year 1900, sorting them and reconstituting the various families in each parish. Next came the Marriage Records followed by gleanings from Birth, Death and Marriage notices in the Clare Journal and other newspapers. Indexes of the Tithe Applotment Land Records (1820’s), the Griffith Valuation Land Records (1855), the 1901 and 1911 Census, convict records covering all of Ireland, the gravestone inscriptions from more than 100 graveyards in Mid and North Clare, and literally every known source from which useful Genealogical data relevant to Co. Clare could be extracted.

All this work took place in St. Catherine’s Church which, after its closure in 1974, had been kindly donated by the Representative Church Body to the local community for use for cultural purposes. Again with remarkable foresight Dr. Cleary decided to use this attractive space to accommodate a thematic presentation of the material and folk aspects of Irish life in the period covered by the genealogical records. And so for the first time people of Clare ancestry throughout the world would find on their visits to the homeland, not only the written records relating to their kinsfolk, but a true-to-life presentation of the material and spiritual folk-life of the Ireland which their forbears had left behind.

The effects of this remarkable Genealogical and Heritage enterprise were instantaneous and thus began a remarkable interaction between Co. Clare and its scattered Diaspora, a dialogue which has been maintained to the present day.

The increase in demand for the Genealogical service at Corofin, with more and more visitors calling each year led to further development and in 1992 a new purpose-built centre was completed. The Interpretative Museum, however, remained in St. Catherine’s Church, the two buildings constituting a remarkable campus for those wishing to experience a truly-authentic portrayal of 18th and 19th Clare and, by extension, that of Ireland in general and its remarkable emigration story.

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