Grace McGrath studied under Professor John Blacking at Queen’s University, Belfast for her first degree, graduating in 1981 with a BA(Hons) in Social Anthropology. Her undergraduate research on the culture of Native American tribes, and in particular on the religious practices of the Pomo was undertaken at the University of California, Berkeley.
A spell working in the Ethnography Department of the Ulster Museum was followed by a return to Queen’s to study under Professor L.M. Cullen for her Master’s degree on the Social and Economic History of Ireland. Her research topic on that occasion focused on witchcraft in Ireland and included the burning of Brigid Cleary, a twenty-six year old woman from rural county Tipperary which led to the last witchcraft trial in Ireland in 1895. Grace graduated with an MSSc in 1990.
From 1992 until 2012 she worked as an archivist in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland researching and publishing papers on official government records. Her published work includes a history of the Northern Ireland Government from 1922 until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and histories of the Northern Ireland Cabinet and Departments of Education and Agriculture. In conjunction with the Ulster Museum and the Nerve Centre in Londonderry she helped create a variety of interactive teaching aids based on the archives and linked to the school curriculum on topics such as Life in Victorian Times and the Second World War.
In 2007 Grace collaborated with Dr Nini Rodgers of Queen’s University and with John Gray of the Linenhall Library in Belfast to curate an exhibition Hidden Connections to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. Grace wrote the booklet which accompanied the exhibition, Ulster and Slavery: the Story from the Archives detailing Ireland’s involvement in support of the slave trade.
The experience increased her interest in the subject and she is currently in the final stages of researching and writing up her PhD thesis on the contentious governorship of Jamaica, 1828-32, by the Second Earl of Belmore, a native of County Fermanagh.
Grace is married with three daughters and lives in Belfast.