Traveller family histories give visibility to Traveller culture at National Library

Pavee Point is proud today to donate family history materials that are part of Pavee Point’s ‘Pavee Roads Home’ project to the archives at the National Library of Ireland.  This donation marks an important addition to the archive because it is material generated by Travellers themselves and gives visibility to the role Travellers have played in Irish society.  

Michael Collins (L), Men’s Health Worker Pavee Point presents his family tree to National Library Director Dr Sandra Collins. Martin Reilly (R) also researched and presented his family history. PHOTO: Mark Stedman

These family histories – which detail the ancestry of 3 Travellers living in Finglas and Coolock – provide insights into Traveller history and identity.  They show the parts of the country the families came from, the various connections and also reveal Irish Traveller contribution to Irish military history.

“In conducting this research into our own family histories, we discovered strong connections to the Connacht Rangers.  This is something we never knew and reveals a lot about Travellers contribution to society and it really makes me proud,” said Michael Collins, Men’s Health Worker at Pavee Point.

Sheila Reilly (front) examines the family history donated to the National Library along with Michael Collins and Nancy Collins (back) PHOTO: Mark Stedman

“The history and culture of Travellers isn’t written about and in many ways is being forgotten.  It was great for a group of Traveller men to lead out on researching and documenting important historical information relating to Travellers and to be able to share and celebrate it with Travellers and settled people,” said Michael Collins “Now this information will be safe and available for the future in the National Library.”   

The Pavee Roads Home project visited the National Library in July 2019 and met with genealogist Tony Hennessy.  The research team worked closely with Tony to develop their family trees.  This involved collecting and researching information from older family members via the Pavee Point Primary Health Care Project.

“Having the National Library support our work was significant.  Not only was the technical assistance vital it also affirmed to us that the work is important and that Traveller history is important,” said Martin Reilly of Pavee Roads Home.

“A lot of young Travellers today are struggling with their identity and a lot of Travellers feel they need to hide their Traveller identity to get on in life.  This project is about Travellers becoming proud,” said Martin Collins who also worked on the project.  It is hoped the project can be continued and inspire other institutions to give more visibility to Traveller culture and history.

The Director of the Nation Library, Dr Sandra Collins, said “We are honoured to receive this donation to the national collections and delighted to have worked with the Pavee Roads Home project and Dublin City Council Culture Company on this initiative.      /2

“It is important that the national collections include the diversity of Irish experience, and Traveller heritage is a welcome addition to our collections which tell the story of Ireland.”

The project was supported by The National Neighbourhood which consists of Dublin City Council Culture Company in partnership with Dublin City Council (Dublin City Libraries, local area offices, Arts Office, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane) and National Cultural Institutions (Abbey Theatre, Chester Beatty, Irish Museum of Modern Art, National Archives, National Concert Hall, National Gallery of Ireland, National Library of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland).