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Researching in Ireland Outside of Dublin and Belfast

Leitrim County Library

   For the past two weeks, I’ve discussed researching in the major repositories in Dublin and Belfast.  Although there is much to be found there, you should also plan to travel to the area where your ancestors lived.  There you will find additional local resources to extend your research.  You may not find specific documents naming your ancestor, but you’re likely to find local history records that will tell you what life was like for your ancestor during the time they lived.  

   I always recommend that you “google” the name of the parish (both civil and Roman Catholic if appropriate) and the word genealogy.  Also do this for the county.  You are likely to find a plethora of information.  Start with the county library or archive, then look for genealogical or historical societies.  You may find information on these sites that is not likely to be in any of the large databases. Local organizations post information specific to the area.  My grandmother’s family, the Mackeys and Johnstons, were Church of Ireland and the records from the Rossinver Parish Church in Kinlough, Leitrim were destroyed in the PRO fire.  Although the original (lost) records dated to 1827, the surviving records are only from 1876.  I found my great great grandfather, Matthew Mackey in Griffith’s but have no marriage or birth records for his family.  I have visited the church in Kinlough and walked the cemetery and found no information on the death and burial of my great grandparents or earlier.  I did a google search on Donegal  genealogy and discovered a site called Donegal Genealogy Archives, a part of the Irish Genealogy Project.   They had a transcription of the burials at St. Anne’s Church of Ireland Parish in Ballyshannon, and my gggrandfather, Matthew Mackey was listed.  In addition to the church in Kinlough, there was also another COI church in Bundoran, yet Matthew and I believe his wife, Isabelle, along with by great grandfather, James, are all buried at St. Anne’s in Ballyshannon.  That changed the focus of my research to attempt to find a connection in Donegal. 

   On one of my trips to the area, I contacted the Vicar for the Church of Ireland in Rossinver.  The church is part of a group, with services rotated among the various parishes.  He put me in touch with the secretary for the Rossivner church who met me and opened the church for me. Do contact the church prior to your visit.

   Make sure you join any Facebook groups that cover the area where your ancestor lived.  Members of these groups live all over the world including in the county you’re researching.  They can provide information and assistance prior to your trip, and you might just find a cousin who still lives there!  Just search Facebook for the county name and genealogy. 

Leitrim County Library (1)

   A visit to the County Library should also be on your list of places to visit (check for the location of their Local Studies Department).  On my visit to the Leitrim County Library I discovered a wall of index cards to the local newspapers.  The Library was just down the street from the Leitrim Genealogy Centre.  Typically you can’t do any research there (they offer a fee based service) but they are a fountain of local history knowledge. Most counties have a Genealogy or Heritage Centre.  Their original charter was to create indexes to the Roman Catholic church records.  Some of the Centers have closed, but most of the records are now centralized at RootsIreland. (Click the county on the map of Ireland and scroll down to find the address of the Centre.)

   Some of the counties also have an Archive.  Here you might find documents that haven’t found their way into the major archives or repositories.  For example, the Longford Archive has the original Poor Law Union books, as well as estate papers for some of the major landowners and private papers of some of the smaller landowners in the area.

   Before you leave for Ireland, make sure you check out the holdings of these local resources.

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   While you’re busy researching your family, don’t miss the opportunity to do some sightseeing in the area.  This will give you a feeling for the life of your ancestor.  Depending on where you are you might enjoy the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, Tyrone.  Similar to a Plimouth Plantation or Williamsburg, you can walk through the park and view the homes, farms, churches and towns of 18th and 19th century Ireland.  Once you reach the town, you can enter the quay where the ships leave for America and when  you leave the ship, you’re in America.  A view of life on both sides of the Atlantic from an Irish perspective.

   If you’re in the south in County Cork, don’t miss Cobh (the former Queenstown).  This might have been the place where your ancestors left for America and the museum embodies that experience.  This is also the last port of call for the Titanic, and the place where survivors and victims of the Lusitania were brought.  

   Near Castlebar in County Mayo in the National Museum of Country Life.  Part of the National Museum of Ireland, this modern museum, built on an estate at Turlough Park, it shows how people lived in Ireland during the 100 years after the Great Famine. 

   There is not enough space for me to mention all of the wonderful places to visit in Ireland.  Get a good tour book and plan to make multiple trips!  Some top  spots include: The Ring of Kerry, Giant’s Causeway,  Glendalough, Skellig Michael (for Star Wars fans), Newgrange, the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren.

   Whether researching or just visiting, enjoy the beautiful country.

   Happy Hunting!


If you plan to visit Ireland for either research or sightseeing, why not set up a consultation.  I can provide you with information on where to research and the types of records available.  You can either contact me directly, or set up an appointment through GenealogyCoach.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2017