Finding Your Ancestors in Ireland

There are many times more Irish people living outside Ireland than on the Emerald Isle itself with a diaspora of millions spread across much of the English speaking world and beyond. 46 million Americans alone claim Irish descent (compared to Ireland North and South’s combined population of about six million).

Your genealogical adventure in Ireland will primarily involve scouring church records (Anglican and Presbyterian data goes back much further than Catholic records as the church was outlawed until the mid-1800s) while government census data is incomplete due to poor record keeping in the early years of the Irish Free State and an archival fire which destroyed a wealth of information on the country’s past in 1922.

Nevertheless, there might still be a lot of information to discover on your roots.

Before arriving in Ireland, it’s helpful to know the following:

Your ancestor’s name.
The names of his/her parents and spouse.
The date or even a rough period in which he/she was born, married, died.
County and church parish of birth.
Religious denomination.

The primary sources of information once you arrive in Ireland will be:

Republic of Ireland

General Registrar Office – Here you’ll find civil records from as far back as 1865 while records for Anglican marriages go back to 1845.

National Archives – Here you can access census records and receive free genealogy consultations. The archives have also made most census data available online. Click here to visit the National Archives online.

National Library of Ireland – A research consultant will impart advice free of charge here and you can check out most of the country’s parish records on microfilm. Click here for more.

Northern Ireland

Mellon Centre for Migration Studies – This resource at the Ulster American Folk Park provides details on Northern Ireland’s genealogy.

Public Record Office – Marriage, birth, and death certificates for Northern Ireland are all stored here.

If you’d rather not spend your holiday in dusty record offices the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland can research your family history for you and provide you with a ‘package of discovery’ when you visit.