Last week I discussed Ancestry and the New York Collection. Before you can jump the pond and start using the Irish resources you need to know the location of your ancestors in Ireland. If that information exists, it is likely in some record in the United States. It’s important to understand Irish Administrative Divisions, since various records in Ireland could be referenced to different jurisdictions. For example, I learned from the obituary of Michael Daly’s half brother, that the family was from County Mayo. Michael’s passenger record indicated he was born in Irishtown and that his relative in Ireland was his mother Mary, of Crimlon. This was the townland. His Petition for Naturalization said he was from Claremorris which was the civil parish. By using all of this information together, I could pinpoint his origin in County Mayo, Claremorris, Crimlon (turns out that Irishtown was a local reference, not an official one).
Back to Ancestry. If you go to the Card Catalog and search for databases that contain the work “Ireland,” you come up with 133 databases (9 of which are free). Please read the descriptions of the database before you search! Does the database cover the locality when your ancestor lived? Are the records “selected” and if so what was the criteria for selection? Were they taken from records submitted by individuals or are they original records? Do you understand the record? (If not, go to a reference book such as Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham to read about the record.) Many of the databases are on other sites or have been shared. For example, the Civil Registration Indexes are the ones done by FamilySearch and you can also search for free from that site. These are taken from official records of births, deaths and marriages, however they are indexes only and you must order the actual certificate from the General Register Office in Ireland, or, if it is one of the records filmed by the LDS, you need to order the microfilm to your local Family History Center. According to the title, the Civil Registration Marriages Index covers from 1845 - 1958. Here’s where you need to have an understanding of the record set and read the description. Only Protestant marriages were recorded from 1845 - 1863. Beginning in 1864 you have all marriages for all of Ireland. In 1922, after the Irish Civil War, Ireland was split and so from 1922 - 1958 only marriages in the Republic of Ireland are included. Births and deaths were recorded from 1864, however they too, only cover the Republic after 1922. A search for the birth of Michael Daly about 1886 turns up 25 records. Since I know Michael was from Claremorris I can isolate my results to just two. In order to determine which is correct I would have to order both and determine from the other information on the certificate, which one was the correct one. You should be aware that the Irish were not very good with dates (which you will probably notice as you do your US census research) and if I expand the results to ±5 years, I could get hundreds of results.
There is another database titled Ireland, Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911. Don’t confuse this with the official civil records discussed above. If you read the description you find:
Volunteers extracted the birth and baptism details in this index from microfilmed copies of church, civil, and other records of births housed in various repositories throughout Ireland. These extractions have been combined with family records to create a robust collection of births and baptisms.
This database is also from the LDS, so these records may be from civil records, or church records (however there is no indication of what churches or localities were included), or from family group sheets submitted by members of the LDS church.
Ancestry also has added the 1901 and 1911 census. These are the only two surviving complete censuses available to researchers and are online (with images) at the National Archives of Ireland website.
Two of the major record sets used by genealogists, Griffith’s Valuation and the Tithe Applotment are on the Ancestry site. Griffith’s is also available on a number of other sites some of which use different indexes. The Tithe is available on the site of the National Archives as well.
If you have a subscription to Ancestry, you should explore the various Irish databases available, but always remember to check the source and description.
Do you want to continue your research in Ireland. Check out the details for the 2014 Irish Research Trips.