"Finding that Elusive Ancestor"
All major Irish record sources are linked to various administrative or
eclesiastical divisions: counties, baronies, dioceses, civil parishes,
catholic parishes, poor law unions, probate districts, towns and townlands.
In all of Ireland there are 32 counties. Historically there have been, on
average, 13 probate districts, 33 dioceses, 160 Poor Law Unions,
2,500 civil parishes, and 65,000 townlands.
The fire at the Four courts building in Dublin in 1922 destroyed a large
number of census, probate, civil, parish and other records valuable to the
Irish researcher. Since Irish census returns prior to the 20th century are
essentially gone, a critical aspect of starting your research is knowing
the specific place of origin of your Irish ancestor. If you already know
the county you have a good start, but you really need at least the parish
and preferably the town or townland before approaching most Irish records.
While there aren't a lot of records that survive for ALL of Ireland, there
are many that survive for smaller geographical areas. This one fact alone
is what makes knowing your ancestors townland in Ireland so important.
Also see History of Irish Records.
Bottom line, if you don't have a specific place of origin for your
ancestor in Ireland, you aren't through doing research in your own country.
Always start with your extended family for records they may have kept.
Next try printed obituaries from local newspapers, as well as other death
and burial records. Biographical sketches in local county or town
histories may also be good sources to locate the place of origin of your
Other possibilities include histories of related families or
collateral lines, family Bible records, tombstone inscriptions, the first
deed of land purchased in the new country, or perhaps local county
histories of other Irishmen living near your ancestor. For further hints
review the Ireland Research Outline at Family Search, and for County Kilkenny, see Kilkenny Genealogical Records.
Once you've located the origin of your ancestor, some of the more valuable
Irish records to review include parish and civil registers, as well as the
Tithe Applotment/Griffiths Valuation. For less common surnames the latter
sources might be used to help pinpoint the place of origin within a
particular county or civil parish.
Where to look?
- Local governmental, church or genealogical bodies which have access
to vital records, histories, land records, death certificates, marriage
certificates, etc. For example,
U.S. Vital Records Information.
Newspapers - Obituaries, stories, etc.
- County Histories - check local libraries. In the U.S. also refer to the
Consolidated Bibliography of County Histories in Fifty States in 1961.
Consolidated 1935-1961. (1980). Z/1250/P47/1980 by Clarence S. Peterson
- Naturalization Records.
- Family History Library (online).
For example, the IGI is an index of close to 90 million names from the Family History
Library's database generally covering data from 1500 - 1875.
Family History Library Indices - Surname, and Parish & Vital
Family History Library Catalogues - Locality, Subject, Author/Title.
- There are a variety of Irish census substitutes which are locally
specific to a particular county, parish or town which may be helpful. For
Kilkenny Census Substitues.
- Records of all Births and Deaths registered in the whole of Ireland from January 1, 1864 to December 31, 1921 should be on record in the:
General Register Office
8/11 Lombard Street East
Births and Deaths after December 31, 1921 are available at the General Register Office (GRO) for the Republic of Ireland, while Northern Ireland records from that date are maintained by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).
Also on record at the GRO are all Marriages occurring from April 1, 1845 to December 31, 1863, except those celebrated by the Roman Catholic clergy. Records of all Marriages registered in the whole of Ireland from January 1, 1864 to December 31, 1921 are also available. Marriages from December 31, 1921 are available at the GRO for the Republic of Ireland, while Northern Ireland marriage records from that date are maintained by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).
- For the period before 1864, parish registers provide the only record of most births, marriages and deaths. Catholic parish registers are normally still held by the parish priest, but there are microfilms of most of them for the period up to 1880 in the:
National Library of Ireland
In some cases, the written permission of the parish priest must be obtained before the microfilms can be seen. The National Archives of Ireland has a copy of the National Library's list of the registers.
- For County Kilkenny, many of the parish registers for the period before 1864 have been computerized by the:
Kilkenny Archaeological Society
16 Parliament Street
Kilkenny City, Ireland
For other counties see Irish Family History Foundation.
- Church of Ireland parish registers for the period up to 1870 are public records. Registers are available for about one-third of the parishes. Most are still held by the local clergy, although some are in the National Archives and others are in the:
Representative Church Body Library
These are also available at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast. There are microfilms or other copies in the National Archives of some of the registers held by the clergy. A list of all surviving registers is available in the
National Archives of Ireland. The names and addresses of the clergy are given in the Church of Ireland Directory. A list and a card index of registers in the National Archives can also be consulted.
- Tithe Applotment Books - 1823-1838.
- Griffith's Valuation - 1848-1864.
- Irish Land Records
- Irish Probate Records and Wills
- 17th, 18th and 19th Century Census Substitutes of Ireland
- Pender's 'Census' of 1659 available at the Nat'l Library or through LDS
Family History Centers.
- Ireland Registry of Deeds established in 1708
- Ordnance Survey Ireland (mapping)
- Elphin Diocesan Census 1749 - arranged by townland and parish
- The Religious Survey of 1766 - Church of Ireland (including some Catholics)
- National School Records - 1831-1921 (now held by local schools and churches)
Where do I find some of this stuff?
Fortunately, there are a number of Internet resources which describe what
these records are and how to find and use them. Plus a few web sites and
Research organizations to assist in your search.
Guides to Information
Sources of Information
Who can help get information
Other Helpful Resources
We Welcome Comments, Corrections and Additions to this List.
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