Resources for Your Irish Research
This is the second of a two-part series that offers historical insight and valuable resource tips for those interested in discovering their Irish roots. Read part one.
Once you start poking around for information on your Irish ancestry, it won’t take you long to discover that in 1922 many records were lost as a result of an explosion at the Four Courts building in Dublin during a civil conflict in the country. While this unfortunate event can occasionally make researching your Irish ancestry more difficult, there are many helpful online records available today that were not destroyed in the explosion.
Some of these websites offer information for free, and others are subscription based. Both offer unique, valuable information. As you’re deciding where to conduct your research, take time to consider cost, completeness of data, and the geographic area covered by each website. RootsTech presenter Richard Sayre also mentioned keeping in mind that many records were “created before the division of Ireland in 1922. The creation of the Irish Republic and the partition of Northern Ireland resulted in the physical division of some record collections, and some of that division is reflected in online offerings.”
Before you start researching your Irish ancestors, see if you can answer the following questions.
- Was my ancestor from what is now Northern Ireland?
- Was my ancestor born at a time during which he or she would appear in the civil registration records?
- Was my ancestor in Ireland during a time when he or she could have been included in Griffith’s Valuation of property, or when the 1901 or 1911 censuses were taken?
For ancestors who emigrated from Ireland, Sayre recommended beginning your online search with the date of arrival in the new country. “This data indicates the time of departure from Ireland, and maybe a place of origin is provided. Tools include sites such as the Castle Garden website (1820–1892), the Ellis Island database (1892–1924), and Ancestry’s Emigrant Savings Bank.”
If your ancestor left earlier than the time frame covered by these databases, then search databases with church records, especially RootsIreland. The data on this website contains primarily church records, but you will also find civil birth, death, and marriage records, gravestone inscriptions, and much more. RootsIreland is a subscription-based website.
Here are a few places you can look to start building a good foundation for your research:
- FamilySearch Wiki, https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Ireland_Online_Genealogy_Records
- Santry’s Irish Genealogy Toolkit, http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/
- Published guides such as Grenham’s Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, Ryan’s Irish Records, Ouimette’s Finding Your Irish Ancestors, and the Flyleaf Press series of county genealogy guides (see http://www.flyleaf.ie)
Knowing your key resources and what they offer will make all the difference in your research. According to Sayre, “In terms of size and diversity of sources, Ancestry and Findmypast are the major players. They compete and we benefit from the rapid addition of Irish and worldwide resources. Both offer free databases, usually from the work of government agencies or FamilySearch. Sometimes they collaborate as in the case of indexing the Catholic parish records.”
Sayre shared with RootsTech conference attendees what he’s learned about the following resources and their database offerings. Familiarizing yourself with these online resources will certainly open up doors and help you find precious details about your Irish ancestors. Best of luck!
Findmypast Ireland is new on the scene but has grown a great deal over the last five years. “They offer access to over 120 million Irish records (and a lot of U.S. and Canadian records). The website is a result of a partnership of Eneclann and the British website Findmypast. … Many of these records are very useful in filling the gap from the destruction of records in 1922 … [and include] vital records, census records, land records, courts and prisons, and extensive newspaper coverage.” Findmypast is a subscription-based website, though some records are available to view for free.
- Griffith’s Valuation 1847–64 (This is available on other sites for free, but the Findmypast collection is the most complete and has the original valuation maps, except for those from Northern Ireland.)
- Landed Estates Court Rentals 1850–1885
- Petty Sessions Court Registers 1671–1941 (free)
- Nineteenth-Century Directories of Ireland
- Irish Prison Registers 1790–1924
Ancestry has a large collection of vital records, military records, census and voter lists, immigration records, directories, and other records.
- New York, Emigrant Savings Bank Records, 1850–1883
- Tithe Applotment Books 1823–1837 (includes Northern Ireland)
- Lawrence Collection of Photographs, 1870–1910
- Griffith’s Valuation 1847–1864
- Ireland, Ordnance Survey, 1824–1846
The following are additional resources mentioned by Sayre and include databases offered.
- Civil Registration Indexes, 1845–1958
- Tithe Applotment Books, 1814–1855 (dates differ from generally accepted dates of 1823–1837)
National Archives of Ireland
- Prerogative and Diocesan Copies of Some Wills and Indexes to Others 1596–1858
- Diocesan and Prerogative Marriage License Bonds Indexes, 1623–1866
- Catholic Qualification & Convert Rolls, 1700–1845
- Valuation Office House, Field, Tenure and Quarto books 1824–1856
- Shipping Agreements and Crew Lists, 1863–1921
- Will Registers 1858–1900
Catholic parish registers (These cover the whole island from the 1740s until 1800 and contain 370,000 microfilm images. Some of these records may be in Latin. The records have been indexed. Check the transcribed original registers found on RootsIreland.)
Extensive online catalog (Many items relating to historic photographs and other historical items have been digitized. The catalog offers a fantastic collection of early Irish manuscripts.)
The public records office of Northern Ireland, or PRONI, holds the records of the six counties of Northern Ireland. “The online 'Your family tree series' of information leaflets is very useful. These 28 leaflets describe PRONI held records and give suggestions on family history research.”
- Freeholder Records, pre-1840
- Valuation Revision Books 1864–1933
- Will Calendars, 1858–1965