Curious to learn more about your Irish family ancestry and history? Let’s talk about how to best learn about your Irish roots!
Most people already know a good place to start is through DNA testing (via companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe) to help sort out specific details like what percentage Irish you are.
You might even be surprised to learn you’re a little something else you didn’t even know about.
Or maybe you knew about your Irish ancestry, but are shocked at how much of a percent that it actually is.
It can all be fascinating, but it can also make us think back about the engaging way in which you came to be here and who came before you.
Table of Contents
- Learning About Your Irish Heritage
- Start by Thinking About Who You Want to Research
- Take a Look at Irish Records and Databases
- Free Databases for Irish Family Ancestry and Research
- List of Online Irish Family Research Resources
- Do Your Research in Ireland
- Consider Hiring a Genealogist or Genealogical Researcher
- Other Ideas for Irish Roots Research
Learning About Your Irish Heritage
So, are you wanting to learn more about your Irish heritage? If you’re not sure where to start with your genealogical research, or maybe you’ve hit a brick wall, you’ve come to the right place!
Ideally, this helpful guide will be a good starting point for learning more about your family story.
Start by Thinking About Who You Want to Research
A genealogy website like Ancestry.com can often be the best place to start your Irish family tree. It will tell you exactly what percentage of Irish you are. Still, they are also great at helping you develop a family tree through their computer algorithm.
What if you only know your parents’ names or your grandparents’ Irish surnames? The best part is that their program’s algorithm is robust. It will work behind the scenes to find documents specifically meant to help you learn more about who they are and their parents.
This can often be found in census records, listing the names of who they lived with and their occupation. If they can find a census record dating far back enough, you can learn who likely raised them and who else was in their household (siblings). Therefore, in turn, you will probably find out the name of your other ancestors as well.
Sometimes ancestry can even offer passenger lists from the ships your ancestors traveled on to get to where your family is now. Even though knowing details like a ship’s name do not seem that important, it’s simply fantastic information.
There’s no doubt that a site like this will provide helpful information, but it isn’t the only route you can go either.
Take a Look at Irish Records and Databases
Often, if you’re searching for the Irish immigrants in your family that traveled to the United States, you will hit a paywall. You may find them, but you will need to subscribe when you wish to search back even further to their homeland.
The company wants you to pay even more to access international records. You may be able to pay for that, but not everyone can afford that. So what then?
Free Databases for Irish Family Ancestry and Research
Good news! There are some solutions to help you out of this bind, and luckily there are other online resources you can check out.
The most relevant information sources for anyone searching for their Irish ancestors are civil records, census records, church registers and tax surveys. Here are some places to find this information, and the good news is that many of the resources listed below are free.
It was not until the 19th century that births, marriages and deaths in Ireland were recorded centrally by the British Governement. The civil registration of non-Catholic marriages in Ireland commenced in the year 1845. Births, marriages, deaths and Catholic marriages began to be registered in 1864.
From the early 1900’s, mothers’ maiden names started to be recorded on birth certificates and other civil registration records, which is helpful for those wishing to move back a genearation in their family tree.
Church of Ireland registers, and Roman Catholic parish registers can hold important information relating to baptismal certificates, marriage registrations and burial records.
Before 1922, the island of Ireland was not divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Data is available for the whole of the island in some data bases, and some records available in Northern Ireland are specific to that region only.
List of Online Irish Family Research Resources
If you want to .find more information about Irish genealogy, check out The Irish Genealogical Project (IGP) as a great starting point.
The Irish Family History Foundation (FHF) offers something similar to the IGP, but on a county-wide level.
The National Archives of Ireland is another treasure trove of information. Their collections include some business records, and information from some of Ireland’s landed estates, where many of our ancestors lived as tenant farmers. Their collections are especially informative for anyone interested in the political, social and economic development of the country from around the 18th century. They have been applauded for first digitizing the census returns for 1901 and 1911.
The National Library of Ireland holds extensive catalogues including private collections of papers, photographs, and digitized materials.
The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht hosts an indepth resource site called at irishgenealogy.ie. This website includes digitized images of some original birth, marriage and death registers. They have a more extensive collection of records from Dublin.
The Irish Geneaology Toolkit is an excellent free resource and Irish genealogy website.
Griffith’s Valuation (1847-1864) is the result of a survey carried out to assess rates, which were the local taxes paid in Ireland. Copies of the Irish census from the 19th century were destroyed during the Irish Civil War. Griffith’s Valuation is the best substitute for Census data before 1901. It is available on the Ask About Ireland website. The information is categorized based on parishes and townlands. Addresses and locations were identified as townlands in rural Ireland.
Catholic Parish Registries are also available online through the National Library of Ireland.
The website Family Search is hosted by the Mormons, and has an extensive collection of records to be explored.
Find My Past helps you trace your ancestry and build a family tree by offering extensive birth records, census data, and obituaries as part of their records. They offer a free trial, but after a certain period a subscription is necessary.
Roots Ireland hosts an online library of Irish church records.
The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is the official archive for Northern Ireland and they have a wonderful collection of microfilm public records for the nine counties of Ulster. They have produced a useful Guide to Church Records to help family researchers.
The Irish War Memorials websites hosts an expanding database of war memorials found all over the island of Ireland. Here you can explore to find if your Irish ancestors were killed while serving in the army. Memorials to those who served in the first or second world war are included.
John Grenham is an Irish geneaologist who has published books on the topic of Irish family research. His website, Irish Ancestors, is a fantastic resource.
The Tithe Applotment Books are a vital source for genealogical research for the pre-Famine period in Ireland. These records date back to the years between 1823 and 1837. Anyone renting more than one acre of land was required to pay tithes to the Church of Ireland (the Protestant and official church of the country at that time. A manuscript book for nearly all of the civil parishes of the the Church of Ireland was kept. Only rural areas are included in these books, and the records only include the names of each head of a family, and not their spouses or children.
The Irish Genealogical Society International is organized by the Minnesota Gelealogical Society, whose research collection is housed in the Hoffman Research Librafy in Minnesota. They host one of the most extensive collections of Irish genealogy and history books in the USA,
And don’t forget you may wish to start your search in North America for emigrants who arrived from Ireland after the Great Irish Famine. Over twelve million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. The Ellis Island Passenger Database can be a wonderful starting point for family research.
There are millions of records available, ranging from census records, land records, marriage records, death records, and even military records/documents out there just waiting to be explored!
Remember that many of these sites do not includ variant surname spellings. Many Irish immigrants last names were spelled differently when they landed and registered in the US. A little ingenuity may be required.
Do Your Research in Ireland
Now this one’s definitely going to cost you. You may just have to actually travel to the ’emerald isle’ as some call it (Ireland) for some information. If you’re really invested in learning more about Irish culture and Irish history, this isn’t a bad idea. You can just tack this on your to-do list if you’re already going for pleasure.
If you know the town or county of origin from your DNA test, then you can also look up and visit the church, cemetery, and town hall in that area. Sometimes you can even request that a local volunteer help look around for information for you. Local museums and libraries are also extremely helpful in providing so much information about an area.
Many Irish towns also have their own genealogy websites where you can search for your ancestors’ names. These sites also provide significant historical context and details on daily life in old Ireland.
As you can see, the information is out there. Still, you definitely need to at least know the town in which your ancestors are from before they migrated elsewhere (if they did).
Consider Hiring a Genealogist or Genealogical Researcher
If you can afford it, hiring a professional will help guide you. Consider hiring a professional if you don’t have the time or patience to sift through online resources. It’s also helpful if you can’t immediately travel to Ireland to do your own local research.
Genealogy experts have the expertise that can help you get records faster. They may have access to even better resources plus access to vital records that you otherwise would have an impossible time getting your hands on. After all, historical records can be hard to find. Still, it’s not always impossible—and genealogists know how to get there better than anyone!
Other Ideas for Irish Roots Research
- Consider asking questions on relevant online message boards. You never know what questions you might find answers to or what answer or post will lead you to other helpful solutions.
- Talk to family members! You may not have that option, so you’re here. If that’s the case, I’m definitely sorry to hear that, and I hope you find all the answers you could ever want. Those who do have some relatives they might be able to talk to, asking questions about family lore can possibly help you learn more about your roots too!
- Speaking of family, do you have another family member, whether it’s a cousin or sibling, who can help you with family history research? It can be fun doing genealogy research only on our own, but you can cover twice as much ground with more hands-on deck! It’s a great way to get some bonding time in too! And maybe you already have family historians in your family you don’t even know about yet. If you start asking around, you might find someone as curious as you are who has already started this kind of research!
- Do you have any other tips or tricks about your experience with Irish research that you feel might better help others? I’d love to learn more about it. Share your personal journey in the comments below!
As you can see, there are various ways you can start your research and find the answers you’re looking for.
There is no one best way, but I hope you find all of the Irish genealogy records you’re looking for! Good luck!
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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