Beginning Your Research
Unfortunately Genealogical research in Ireland can be pretty difficult.
The major disadvantage being that many precious records were destroyed when on 13 April, 1922, there was a fire in Dublin's
Four Courts, a repository of Irish public records, state, domestic, manorial records, wills, and ecclesiastical records. This
loss has made research in Ireland more difficult. In addition many of the more regular records did not begin until the early
To begin a search of Irish ancestry, it is first vital to be able to trace your ancestors back to the county, and hopefully
parish, that they came from. Without this information, it is almost pointless to try looking in Ireland for your ancestors
unless they have a really unusual surname. If you are planning a research trip to Ireland, it is essential to have done as
much groundwork as possible at home.
National Archives, Records and Useful Genealogical Web Site:
National Archives of Ireland
National Library of Ireland
General Register Office
(a superb guide to genealogical sources on the net)
Ellis Island Site
(entry point of many immigrants to the USA. Search for your ancestor's entry)
Sources at Home
Oral Tradition, Relatives & Family Stories:
Anyone setting out to trace their family history should begin where possible, by consulting with relatives. Many elderly
relatives can be a goldmine of information, recalling names, places and dates that could otherwise take years to obtain. Even
vague details can help narrow searches down and save time and expense. Write down or record any details given to you for
Obtain copies of any available birth, marriage and death certificates, as well as old letters, photographs, newspaper
cuttings, deeds or memorial cards.
Find the Emigrant Ancestor(s):
It is essential to find out where the emigrant ancestor came from. This can be done in several ways. You may need to consult
census records as well as birth, marriage and death records (or in the case of church records, baptismal, marriage and burial
records) in order to find out dates, locations and names of parents. These records should somewhere yield the name of an Irish
parish or county. If it turns out to be fruitless, try finding extended cousins - they may have something passed down to them
that might be useful in tracking down any elusive common ancestors. Don't forget to look at naturalisation records and ship
lists if possible.
Church and Civil Records
Before starting researching church records, you will need to identify which church the family belonged to. The vast majority
of Irish were Roman Catholics, so it is usually these records that are searched.
Roman Catholic Records:
The original parish registers are usually held by the Parish Priest of the parish.
Please note that Donegal's records are infamous for starting late. Indeed, some parishes did not start registering baptisms
or births until the beginning of compulsory Civil Registration in 1864, and sometimes well after that.
For the genealogical researcher, there are only two complete censuses of Ireland available for research, those of 1901
The type of information that may be found from the 1901 Census covers the following:
Relationship to Head of Household
Whether they can read or write
County of Birth (or Country if not born in Ireland)
Ability to speak Irish