The key to finding your Irish ancestors is understanding their townland. If you know their townland, you can search for them in the workhouse, union, and poverty relief loan records (with two guarantors – often extended family or friends).
Other sources that reveal an Irish place of birth include death certificates, military enlistments, tombstones, church records, and newspaper obituaries. This guide covers all of these, plus new ways to trace your ancestors using home DNA kits.
When researching your Irish ancestors, one of the most important records are births, marriages, and deaths (or BMDs). These were historically recorded in civil registration offices—many online. Finding online Irish birth records serves as a valuable resource for individuals tracing their ancestry or seeking information about their Irish heritage, offering insights into family histories and lineages.
During the 1600s and 1700s, frequent violent conflicts occurred between the native Irish and English colonizers. These clashes often destroyed public offices, including those that held vital documents, creating gaps in records. In addition, famines ravaged Ireland, killing millions of people and driving others from the country. These events also impacted how people recorded their family lines and information.
Many families used nicknames and shortened names in everyday life—and some even discarded prefixes like Mc or O to sound more Irish. Therefore, exact birth dates and locations can be tricky to pinpoint.
However, you have a general idea of when your ancestor was born and where you can search for their information on websites. In that case, the site offers access to over 100 Irish collections, including census, birth, marriage, death records, land records (including Griffith’s Valuation), and newspapers. It also has an excellent collection of church records and an agreement that allows it to duplicate its recorded images for free. You can also find many resources at your local Family History Library.
Tracing your Irish roots may feel daunting when you first begin. But despite reports of priceless records lost in a 1922 fire, many sources are still available for those who want to explore their ancestry in Ireland.
One of the most important sources is online. Their genealogy portal provides free access to the surviving census fragments from 1901/1911. It also holds other essential collections, including tithe applotment books (1823-1837), soldiers’ wills (1914-1918), diocesan and prerogative marriage license bonds indexes (1623-1866), and shipping agreements and crew lists (1775-1884).
Then there are digitized church records, both Catholic and Protestant, as well as family histories and newspaper obituaries. Taking a step back from these digital resources, start with the human ones and ask older relatives about their memories of family life in Ireland. They will likely have stories and names to share.
Once you know an ancestor’s name and approximate birth year, it’s time to dig into their lives in Ireland. The first thing to consider is which line to follow: tracing a male line from father to son is traditional, but some families follow the female line instead. This decision will determine which records you will use for the subsequent discovery.
Tracing your Irish roots can be difficult, but more resources than ever are making it more accessible. The internet and home DNA kits have opened new paths to finding your family tree, but traditional research remains necessary when tracing Irish ancestry. This step-by-step guide can help you find the correct records for your family history, no matter the challenge.
Many genealogists focus on civil birth, marriage, and death records in their search for Irish ancestors, but other documents are also important. Church records, prison registers, and tithe applotment books can all reveal clues about your Irish relatives.
For example, suppose your Irish ancestor was an emigrant from Ireland. In that case, his place of origin may be indicated by his death certificate, tombstone, or even the name of the port of arrival in his new country (or even in the cemetery where he was buried!). A tithe applotment book can reveal the location of your Irish ancestor’s farmland.
In addition, an online site can access many censuses, including the complete 1901 and 1911 census returns, every surviving scrap from earlier censuses, tithe applotment books, and calendars of Wills and Administration. There’s also a collection of Thoms Directories, which list household records for Dublin from the 1860s, and the EPIC Museum of Emigration in Dublin provides a fascinating visitor experience as well as an archive of emigrant passenger lists.
Tithe Applotment Books
Tracing your Irish roots may feel daunting, but it needn’t be. While some priceless records were lost in a 1922 fire at the Public Record Office, many other sources survive to help you uncover your family history. The site has an excellent online resource for those seeking Irish ancestors, with free access to various records, including census, church and civil birth, marriage and death records, and tithe applotment books.
Tithe applotment records are a valuable source for Irish genealogy, as they detail who lived on the land and the size of their house and barn. These are important clues about your ancestors’ lifestyle, as they provide information about their income and how they lived compared to other families within the town. They can also reveal religious affiliation, as most tithe payers were Catholic.
The tithe applotment records for the 26 counties that make up the Republic of Ireland and the other six counties of Northern Ireland can be found online. This site includes a searchable index, and downloadable scans of the tithe applotment books can be found under Browse. Some website also offers a free online version of Grenham’s book, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors (Genealogical Publishing Co; widely considered the bible for Irish genealogy), along with other helpful resources, including a county list, parish maps, step-by-step how-to advice and an extensive collection of articles on Irish heritage and genealogy.