The object of the Society is to promote the knowledge of, and advance public education in, the history of the churches of the Presbyterian order in Ireland. This is achieved by various means, including the collection and preservation of historic materials and records of these churches. When the Society was formed in 1907, it was made up of the three churches which held the Presbyterian Order in Ireland. These are the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland. This is still the position today.
The name chosen - the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland - indicates four main things about the Society:
- Our particular interest is Presbyterian history. However, in our library and archive we also have materials which are of wider ecclesiastical, social and political interest.
- Our main concern is historical. We interpret this in the broadest sense in that we are glad to preserve anything relating to our history which we can accommodate.
- We are a society which welcomes members of our churches to join. Non-Presbyterians may also join on the recommendation of a member of the Society's Council. We emphasise that all those with an interest in Presbyterian history are welcome.
- Ireland is the main area of our concern, involving the three streams of the Presbyterian tradition. The stream flowing from the first presbytery in Ireland in 1642 is the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (although some Presbyterians are known to have been in Ireland around 1600). It was formed in 1840 by the union of the Synod of Ulster and the Secession Synod. The latter was itself the result of the union in 1818 of two Secession streams, the Burgher and Anti-Burgher Synods. The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland was the result of division within the Synod of Ulster in 1725 and a later secession from the Synod in 1829; together with the later accession of the Synod of Munster. The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland was constituted in 1763 with its first presbytery.
The President of the Society is the Moderator of the General Assembly. The Chairman is the Very Rev Dr Donald Patton, who is assisted by Joint Honorary Secretaries the Very Rev Dr Godfrey Brown and Mr James Moffett and Honorary Treasurer, Mr Derek Alexander. All can be contacted through the Librarian, Valerie Adams, at 26 College Green, Belfast BT7 1LN.
The President, Vice Presidents and office bearers are ex officio members of the Society's Council. It is responsible for the planning and carrying out of the various activities of the Society. The Council reports on its work to the Historical Society Committee of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. The activities include:
- the collection and preservation of manuscripts, portraits and other objects of historical interest connected with the churches of the Presbyterian Order in Ireland;
- the arranging of the Society's meetings at which papers on subjects bearing on the Society's work are delivered and discussed. Field trips and visits to places of historical interest are also arranged from time to time;
- the printing of books, pamphlets and reports relating to the Society's work and also of certain papers delivered at the meetings of the Society;
- the on-going publicity of the Society's activities in the press, religious and otherwise;
- raising interest and increasing membership of the Society.
The Presbyterian Historical Society cannot carry out general genealogical research.
If you require research carried out and cannot do it in person you should contact a commercial genealogical organisation. Details on organisations offering this service can be found on the website of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (www.proni.gov.uk).