During the late 1980s and early 1990s, local centres in Ireland began a project to index records making them available, for a fee, through county Heritage Centres. This was a time of high unemployment in Ireland, and young people were trained on computers by having them transcribe these records. Initially each county was to have a Heritage Centres and the records were “owned” locally. Each centre operated independently and the quality of the work varied. Some of these centres were not financially viable and closed at which point their records became unavailable. Much of the research was commissioned long distance and if you visited a centre, you could not conduct your own research.
The Irish Family History Foundation and their website at rootsireland.ie, is a non-profit organization that now oversees the creation of these databases and provides a central repository for records created by its member organizations. Their databases include church records of various denominations, civil registration, gravestone inscriptions, Griffith’s Valuation and Tithe records, some census returns and ship passenger lists. Records vary greatly by county depending on what has been indexed by the local centre and some counties do not participate in this service. You do have to register in order to use the site, but once registered, the search is free.It costs €5 (about $7.50) to view the actual transcription of the record. (You can purchase credits using your credit card that are valid for one year. I usually keep a balance as I frequently purchase transcriptions.) You won’t know until after you’ve paid whether or not you have found the correct record, but this does give you immediate feedback. In one case I was lucky enough to find an 1825 baptism on an individual in Dublin. Once I paid my €5, the transcription gave me the parents’ names and confirmed I had the correct record. IFHF currently has over 18 million records online.
To begin, go to the IFHF website and look at what counties have records available online. Then go the List of Sourcesand search on your county for a list of the specific records indexed for the county and the timeframes. If you’ve checked one of the reference books to determine if parish records survive for the time and place of your ancestors, and found that they do not, you’re not going to find the records on this website!
If you have an uncommon surname (like Moughty) you can search the entire database, however in most cases you’ll want to limit your search to a county and a specific timeframe. For common surnames there are likely to be thousands of records. If you don’t specify a year, you will see the first 10 entries. If you do specify a year, you can request records ± 0 - 20 years. You can also specify a father’s given name which may help to narrow down your search for all of the children of an individual. For example, a search for Daly, born 1886±5 years in Mayo with a father John, returns 18 records. If you know the name of the siblings, you might be able to narrow down your choices.
IFHF has added an advanced search feature which allows you to add the mother’s name (given and maiden name) to the search. The result of this type of a search is only a number of records and you are required to purchase all of the records, albeit at a reduced price. One thing to remember is that you are getting a transcription of the record, not the original...there are no images. The quality of the originals is not great, so the the possibility of error does exist. The transcription does provide the information regarding the original source, so if your visiting Ireland you can likely view the original at one of the repositories.