For the purposes of review, I have chosen a tool called 'Ainm.ie'. It is an online database which consists of approximately 1700 biographies for individuals who have made a significant contribution to the Irish language over the past 5 centuries. My goal is to use it as a resource for my dissertation (" 'Sun Tzu Is Ainm Dom': Ireland's Language and Its Military Diaspora"). To that end, I have been searching Ainm.ie for figures connected to both the Irish language and military history. So far, I have searched for individuals based on the following criteria:
1: Each candidate must have a connection to Irish military history (a field which is at times difficult to separate from overall military history).
2: Definition of a connection: a person of Irish descent who has engaged in military service on behalf of a foreign power in an army, marine (in the case of Britain or the US), naval or air capacity.
3: If an individual is related to a figure who has engaged in such activities, this is also acceptable.
4: Also counted amongst my choices are individuals who have aided war efforts in civilian capacities, e.g. propaganda campaigns, recruitment drives, diplomacy or intelligence work.
5: They must also have made a positive contribution to the Irish language, or have used it to some extent during wartime.
6: The (surprisingly large) number of people with no Irish connection but who have served in military conflicts will not be included for the purposes of this particular study.
7: Those who may have served in the Irish army are not mentioned as I do not count them as part of the military diaspora.
Based upon said qualifications, I have chosen 90 people (so far). In order to understand my choice of Ainm.ie as a research tool, it is first necessary to understand my reasons for choosing my research topic. I want (insofar as it's possible) to tell the story of Irish speakers at war, because it's something which I feel has been neglected. Because this is a very much a niche topic, it has proven impossible for me to rely solely on conventional digital tools. Simply typing the phrase 'Irish (or Gaelic) speakers in the British (or American/French/, etc.) army' into Google, Google Scholar or DuckDuckGo does not guarantee a result. It has even been necessary for much of the time to consult non-digital resources. Since my goal has been to create a digital artifact using any and all means at my disposal, I have had to content myself with a lack of digital tools at my disposal.
Ainm.ie has, however, been an exception due to the sheer volume of information it contains. Here is a breakdown of how the site's functions relevant to my work:
This is the most basic function on the sight and it has the standard function of any website search engine. Beneath it, there is another search button for more specialized searches involving 'keywords' and 'phrases'. I have used this many times for military terms such as 'soldier(s)', 'war(s)', 'military', 'regiment(s)', 'brigade(s)', etc. The site is mostly in Irish. Changes in spelling and grammar are important when deciding what phrase to search for. Take for example if one searches for the phrase briogáid (the Irish for 'brigade' in the nominative case), the same results will usually be yielded if he/she uses bhriogáid (the dative case equivalent).
This enables the user to search for individuals by the first letter of their surname. Highly useful, but a distinction must be made between "Ó" and "O' " at the start of some names, and also between names rendered wholly in Irish or English.
Searches can be carried under the following headings: placenames, works, the Gaelic League, educational institutions, professions and political parties. In my view, this section has its drawbacks because the part dealing with placenames is limited insofar as one cannot search for South Africa, even though references are made to the Boer War. The 'professions' search is also problematic, because although one can find 'SMYTHE, William James' under the title 'soldier', because he is tagged as such in his entry's information box (see next entry), having spent a good deal of his life in the Royal Artillery. Ó FLAITHEARTA, Liam cannot be found under same, because even though he fought in the Irish Guards during the First World War, he is not tagged as a soldier. The reasons for such distinctions are not made clear. Ó Flaithearta left the army after the war. Ó CATHÁIN, Seán (1889–1948) was in the US army at the same time, and left the army after the war, but he is tagged with Smythe.
Each individual biographical entry contains a box on the left-hand corner containing basic details such as place of birth, gender, school, higher education and writer. The place of birth section because it provides a link to 'logainm.ie', a website which provides information in both English and Irish regarding Irish placenames. Some entries also contain a profession section, where those with similar professions are usually tagged together, but with some exceptions (see previous entry)
In spite of the few disadvantages outlined above, I have found 'Ainm.ie' to be the best digital for my subject matter so far. As it is my intention to create a digital artifact on the links between the Irish language and military history, it has been an invaluable aid for biographical details.