It’s easier than you think to reveal your Irish roots. Your research begins with your family. Ask questions, collect stories, check out old photos, and search that attic chest or bottom drawer for any documents that might provide some clues. Try and narrow down where the family came from in Ireland and what religious denomination it was. Then you’ll know what records to check.
There are four categories of records. For census records you can check out the Irish National Archives website. Here you’ll find the 1901 and 1911 census, both searchable online, as well as a comprehensive list of genealogy websites. The civil registration of all births, marriages and deaths started in 1864. These civil records are held at the General Register Office in Dublin.
Church Records depend on the church. The National Library’s website is one of your best stating points with good advice on where to look for church records, many of which were destroyed by fire in the 1920’s. Land and property records are also useful, and one of the most important, Griffiths Valuation (1848-1864), can be found online here.
If you make the trip to Dublin, visit the National Library. Housed in a magnificent 18th-century mansion on Kildare Street, it’s where many of the records you need are stored. It also has a free genealogy advisory service if you visit in person. And if you can’t find the time to go, there is a list of recommended genealogists on the Library’s website who—for a fee—will take on the job of finding your Irish heritage.
The Internet is the next place you should look. There are numerous sites that can give information—some come with a fee, while others are free of charge. Here are some of the best online resources:
This should be your first online port of call when checking out the Irish branch of your family tree. The site is operated by Ireland’s Department of Arts and Heritage and many of its services are free of charge. As well as giving you access to a searchable bank of over 2 million pre-1900 church baptism, marriage and death records free of charge, it also provides information on many of the other ways you can go about tracing your family history. It even helps you make travel arrangements should you wish to visit the home of your forebears.
Roots Ireland is home to the single largest family records database in Ireland, with some 18 million-plus registers now online. It is operated by The Irish Family History Foundation (IFHF), an all-Ireland not-for-profit organization.
As well as a bank of baptismal, birth, marriage and death records, the site also features detailed records of censuses, gravestone inscriptions, passenger lists and valuation surveys. The site is split between information it provides free and at a charge. You will need to register with the site before you can view the free records, while viewing a paid individual genealogy record involves purchasing credit vouchers charged at €5 ($7.12) per record.
If you want something more comprehensive, you can commission the IFHF’s researchers to dig around for you. The charge will be more substantial and will vary depending on how many ancestors they trace.
The Irish Times, Ireland’s long-standing and well-respected ‘paper of record’, also offers genealogy searches. The website has a handy last name search that gets you started by giving details of how many households carried your names in the Primary Valuation property survey of 1847-64. Results are presented in map format so you can see which Irish counties your ancestors were concentrated in.
If you want something more detailed on a specific ancestor, you can fill in whatever information you have about them, however little, and they will produce a detailed profile plus everything you need if you want to find out more. You can get a basic preview for free, or something more detailed for a fee.
Editor’s Note: This article was taken from a past issue of International Living’s monthly magazine. To get full access to all past and future articles and to receive the magazine in the mail or online each month, you can subscribe here.