Heritage from your Armchair - Searching for the Past with Online Resources (Part 2)

Welcome back to part 2 of Searching for the Past with Online Records. Part 1 can be found here. So far, I have been describing the process I used when looking for one of my own ancestors as a method of exploring and demonstrating resources, archives and maps that can be used together to build a bigger picture of someone in the past and how they lived.


Last time we were on the search for James Rea of Russell Place in Newtownards but had hit a dead end. I had found him mentioned in street directories, family history websites and Griffith's Valuation but I still couldn't pinpoint Russell Place in Newtownards, despite that I have lived in the town for several years and know the area pretty well. The investigation was going nowhere until...


I had the idea of recreating my journey with this search for this blog post. Coming back to the mystery after a year's break unveiled some new information to me. I roped in a very clever friend to the search and she was able to point me in the direction of Griffith’s Valuation Revision Books available on PRONI. These periodically update the information in Griffith's Valuation until the 1920s. I hadn’t known they existed and I jumped straight in. I found Russell Place noted again a year or so later but this time it said it was off Upper Movilla Street. So hang on…not only is this street not on a map, it seems to move around too? Luckily my clever friend suggested that it probably doesn’t move, but is in fact an L-Shaped street. I went back to the original Griffith’s Valuation and flicked forward a page to see the other streets, and there it was again. Russell Place, off Upper Movilla Street. It was in fact L-Shaped. I couldn’t see an un-named L-Shaped street on the map.



Map showing my intial guess at the location of Russell Place and second possible location after information retrieved from Griffith's Valuation Revisions.


The afore-mentioned clever friend noticed that in the first edition of the Griffith's Valuation Revisions it noted that there is an insection of Little Francis Street, Charles Street and Zion Place (how she spotted this in a faded ink on an unrelated page I will never know!). This would shift my estimation of where Russell Place was slightly north. I started to get some butterflies of excitement, maybe the map was wrong and Russell Place was where Zion Place was marked on the map, this would be where the pub is today. Maybe this was just wishful thinking. So I decided to try and use another on-line resource to rule it out. I searched on British Newspaper Archive. There is a cost to this so maybe this is cheating a little bit as I have tried to use mostly free resources so far. in normal times the newspaper archives can be accessed for free at PRONI and in some Libraries, and of course the physical Newspaper Archive at Central Library is fantastic to visit in person.





















Newspaper advertisement from 1884 by the new owner of the pub in Russell Place. James had died in 1868 but it is nice to see he is remembered for making it successful.



I did a search for Russell Place, Newtownards and initially got back some indescifrable nonsense, so I tried a few different approaches. Then I remembered that the Petty Session in Newtownards Court dealt with licensing and these were reported in the paper, so I began to look for transfers of licenses for a bar in Russell Place, several results came up and I was able to cross reference these with street directories and see how it had changed hands over the years. Then I thought I should try and test my hypothesis that it was the existing bar and approach the search from the other end, working backwards. I remembered seeing a photograph in a book that said it had been called the Tyrone Bar in the past, so I did a search for that and several posts came back. I found out that it got a telephone installed in 1933! (Interesting, but not useful in my search). Then I came across an advert for the Tyrone Bar for sale in 1929. It had its address posted. 2 Russell Place!!!! It was it! Another search confirmed that James did have his pub in Russell Place and didn’t just live there. Looking at Griffith's Valuation again in this light, I now notice that every time Russell Place is mentioned it is in parenthesis, perhaps to indicate that it was named sub-division of another street. That makes sense now, but it seems to be a relativey rare occurrence and a quick search doesn't give an official explanation for this.



Notification in 1929 confirming that the Tyrone Bar was situated in 2 Russell Place. The Tyrone Bar was later named The Tudor and is still trading today in Zion Place, Newtownards.


I am quite confident that the pub that is now addressed in Zion Place is the same pub as my 4x Great Grandfather ran in the 1850s and 1860s. It took a gravestone, street directories, Griffith’s Valuation and Revised Valuations, PRONI’s interactive maps, newspaper archives and a very clever friend to be able to work it all out, but so many of these resources are on-line and can be accessed at the moment, and the majority are free so I would encourage anyone to have a little bit of an explore.


It was a lot of work to get to this point, for a relatively small bit of information about a man who died 160 years ago. However, this was an important journey for me to complete. It wasn't only about James but it was about knowing my own Grandfather better by acknowledging the information he thought was important to pass on. When he told me ‘We used to have money, you know? Our family was well thought of in Ards.’ I smiled to myself and thought it was just a story; wishful thinking. Nonetheless, I started the search. No one was more surprised than I was to find it was true. I wish I could have told him what I found out, that my children went to nursery school a few doors up from where his ancestor lived, that the first house I bought in Ards was minutes away from Russell Place, that he had buried my Grandmother in the same graveyard as James, that the place had called us home. 


My cousins and I have been promising a get-together since my Granda’s funeral. I’m suggesting the pub at Russell Place.




Lisa Rea Currie

Heritage Officer


I wouldn't have been able to complete this journey without the help of Allie Nickell, a heritage genius in my estimation.

Also a big thank you to my cousins for keeping safe the photographs of our family while I look after the stories. 


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