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Irish Genealogy:  Strategies for Starting Your Irish Research


Fair Day at Carrickmacross, County Monaghan 

Researching Irish ancestors has never been easy.  You may have heard that you can’t do Irish research because everything was lost in the1922 fire at Four Courts (which among other things, housed the Public Records Office).  Although the fire was devastating, and a hugh loss of Irish history, not everything was burned and Irish genealogists are working hard to rebuild collections and to digitize and make available records that have not been accessible in the past.  All of Ireland’s Civil Registration Records (births, deaths and marriages from 1864 and Protestant marriages from 1845 are extant.)  Unfortunately the Irish census records from 1821 - 1851 were destroyed in the fire and the later ones, from 1861-1891 were pulped by the government during World War I.  The oldest surviving census for Ireland is 1901 and because of the loss the 1911 census was released early.  There is currently an active movement to get the government to release the 1926 census (the first after the Irish Civil War).   I found an article written by Steven Smyrl in the Irish Times last week very interesting.  With the Irish economy in taters, perhaps they will finally get serious about the opportunity for genealogical tourism.  

There has been quite a bit of talk this past year about the “Certificate of Irish Heritage” to be issued by the Irish government offering discounts for travel in Ireland.  There are no details on the program, so it is unknown how it will work, what proof will be necessary or what it will cost.  In late December, an article in Irish Central indicated that the Foreign Affairs Minister hoped to launch the plan in early 2011.  Stay tuned

Having said that, and before you purchase your tickets to Dublin, it’s important to realize that you must do your homework before you plan to travel.  (You can read about my first trip to Ireland here.)The most important information you need to know in order to search in Ireland is the townland where your ancestor lived.   I hear over and over again that ancestors did not talk about their lives in Ireland.  That is not at all unusual...they were leaving very difficult conditions and were anxious to become Americans.  You must search for any records created in the United States to try and determine their origins in Ireland.  If you can’t find the information, then start researching with the same diligence, any siblings or other relatives you can identify, and if that doesn’t work, search neighbors or witnesses on marriage or baptismal records.

Next week I’ll discuss Irish Administrative Divisions to help you understand why the townland is so important.

Happy Hunting!


You can purchase a copy of the Syllabus for my lecture Strategies for Starting Your Irish Research here.



© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2013