Irish Research
    "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 ancestor.

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?



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

Professional Assistance

Other Helpful Resources

Further Links



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