Richard Henry “Harry” McDowell worked in publishing in London before returning to Ireland to become a full-time genealogist. His early interest in the subject was encouraged by an uncle who was a member of the Royal Irish Academy. While in London, he spent many hours at the Society of Genealogists Library, which was then housed not far from where he lived with his young family in Chelsea.
Back in Ireland, Harry was delighted to find that Dr. Edward MacLysaght, former Chief Herald of Ireland, was, as always, ready to share his great knowledge of Irish families. His successor as Chief Herald, Gerard Slevin, became a friend, and kindly suggested that Harry should take his place at the XIIIth International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in London in 1976. As a result, he was invited to speak at the very first Australasian Genealogical Congress.
After returning to Ireland from London, the McDowells settled at Celbridge Lodge, once a miller’s house standing in a little park, in the historic village of Celbridge, twelve miles upstream from Dublin on the River Liffey. Soon clients began to visit Harry in his genealogical library, and for the following forty years they came. Celbridge Lodge has featured in Sybil Connolly’s In an Irish House and more recently in Living in Ireland by Barbara and Rene Stoeltie, published by Taschen.
He was a longstanding member of the UK-based Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives. In 1986, he was a founding member of Accredited Genealogists Ireland (then known as the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland). He served as the Association’s President in the years 2002-2003 and was elected only its second Fellow in 2011. A longtime member of the Irish Genealogical Research Society, he served on the editorial committee of its annual journal, The Irish Genealogist, and in 1989 he was elected a Fellow. He served as President of the Kildare Archaeological Society for five years, 2000-2004. Henry was a life member of the Society of Genealogists, and his interests also included Irish furniture, leading him to join the Irish Country Furniture Society. He was contributor to the American edition of Burke’s Irish Family Records.
He served as a consultant in the Genealogical Advisory Service at the Genealogical Office. Published by Dundalgan Press, a company founded by his grandfather, William Tempest, Harry was author (2015) of Irregular Marriages in Dublin Before 1837, a transcript of the surviving marriage registers of the Dublin-based couple-beggar, the Rev. J.G.F. Schulze; and the reprint (2016) of Directory to the Gentlemen’s Seats in Ireland, originally compiled and published by Ambrose Leet in 1814.
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