“Travellers” or “Tinkers” are nomadic Irish who exist as a sub-culture within both Ireland and the UK. If you have spent time in Ireland or Northern Ireland, you have probably seen them. You may have even heard the locals speak in no-so-nice terms about Travellers in their community. I certainly have!
While they speak English, they also speak a Pidgin English known as Cant, Shelta or Gammon. It is known to insiders and meant to mislead outsiders. The Travellers are not Romani Gypsie (Roma) as on the Continent. They are Irish.
Large immigrant communities are concentrated in Murphy Village, South Carolina; White Settlement, Texas; and the London boroughs of Harrow and Brent. It is possible you will trace back into a Traveller family.
Their origins are debated. Some believe origins lie in families made homeless during the conquest of William of Orange in the 1600s and then later in the 1840s by the Potato Famine. As disposed tenants with nowhere to go, they became inter-locking families who travelled and intermarried. Recent genetic tests show at least some Travellers have a much longer history.
I have personally seen the word “Traveller” in the christening records of the Roman Catholic and the Church of Ireland. While traditionally Catholic – don’t limit your search. With indexes to church records now readily available, documenting them across the island is easier than ever!
The University of Limerick has a “Traveller and Roma Collection”:
www3.ul.ie/~library/travellers and for genealogical purposes the “Romany and Traveller Family History Society”: www.rtfhs.org.ukis a must! There is no shortage of websites on the Travellers. The “Navan Travellers Workshop” is but one example of quality presentations: http://www.travellerheritage.ie/default.asp