Irish Genealogy

Marie E. DalyMelanie McComb

Introduction

The beginning steps are the same for all family historians: start with the known and move toward researching the unknown. It is important to keep a wide focus when researching all ancestors, but especially Irish ones, since Irish surnames can be very common. You trace back to your immigrant ancestor, and then try to determine his or her origin in Ireland. A good place to learn about researching Irish records is with one of the general guides listed below.

Many people believe that researching Irish ancestors is impossible because of the destruction of the Public Record Office (PRO) in 1922. While many records were destroyed, other sources, such as deeds and Catholic Church records, were never located in the PRO and still exist. A lot of genealogical material has come online in recent years, and the growing list of Internet options has resulted in many more people finding their ancestors in Ireland. This subject guide aims to provide you with a list of key resources, records, and repositories to assist in your Irish research.

Sources for identifying Irish place of origin: cemetery/burial records, church records, immigration records, military records, naturalization records, vital records.

How-To Guides

Genealogist's handbook for Irish research by Marie E. Daly with Judith Lucey NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference, 5th Floor Stacks, 1st Floor International Collection, CS483.D35 2016

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide by John Grenham NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference, CS483.G73 2019

Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History by James G. Ryan NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference, CS483.R83 1997

Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors: The Essential Genealogical Guide to Early Modern Ulster, 1600–1800 by William J. Roulston, NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection, CS448.U45 R68 2018

Irish Resources at NEHGS - Live broadcast: March 25, 2014. Presented by Judy Lucey. Discover what Irish resources await you at NEHGS—both on-site and online, plus, gain a basic understanding of the concepts essential to Irish research. For online versions of "General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland" (mentioned in the lecture) visit: irishancestors.ie and leitrim-roscommon.com. For Northern Ireland place names: placenamesni.org.

Portable Genealogist: Problem Solving in Irish Research by Marie Daly NEHGS, 1st Floor Rotunda, CS9.P677 no.2

Family Search Wiki - Ireland Genealogy

Vital Records

IrishGenealogy - Operated by Ireland’s Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. This website’s collections include the historic civil registers of births (1864 to 1919), marriages (1845 to 1944), and deaths (1878 to 1969) held at the General Records Office (GRO).

FamilySearch Collections:

  • Ireland Civil Registration Indexes, 1845-1958 - An index of Ireland civil registration including 1864-1958 births, 1845-1958 marriages, and 1864-1958 deaths, but excluding index records for Northern Ireland after its creation in 1922.
  • Ireland Civil Registration, 1845-1913 - Index and images of Ireland civil registration including 1864-1913 births, 1845-1870 marriages, and 1864-1870 deaths. These are copies of the original documents and volumes held at the General Register Office and are referenced in the Ireland Civil Registration Indexes.

The General Register Office (GRO) is the central repository for births, adoptions, marriages, civil partnerships, and deaths in the republic of Ireland. GRO holds all Irish births, deaths, and marriages from 1864 and non-Catholic marriages from 1845. Vital records can be requested from the GRO via e-mail or postal mail here.

The General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) is the central repository for births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships and adoptions for northern Ireland. It was set up in 1922 following the partition of Ireland where Ireland was split into two countries, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. GRONI holds all Irish births, deaths, and marriages from 1864 and non-Catholic marriages from 1845 registered in present-day Northern Ireland. These include the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, and Tyrone. Vital records can be requested from GRONI online, by phone, or postal mail here

Church Records

IrishGenealogy - Operated by Ireland’s Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Review a complete list of church records included on this web site here.

RootsIreland – Sponsored by the Irish Family History Foundation. This is a subscription searchable database of church and civil registrations. It is free to search, but there are fees to obtain a record. To view a list of parishes included on the web site, use the lookup tool by county.

Irish Ancestors - The website of John Grenham, author of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide. Search for records by surname, place-name, or county. Includes maps of civil and Catholic parishes. There are five free page-views per day and then a subscription is required.

Catholic Records

National Library of Ireland (NLI) – Catholic Parish Registers browsable by parish, vital record event (baptism, marriage, death), and can be filtered by month and year within volumes.

Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915 (Ancestry.com) - The index to the National Library of Ireland Catholic parish registers. Images must be viewed at the NLI site.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Records, 1789-1920 – searchable database of Roman Catholic sacramental records for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Records, 1789-1920 (Image Only) - browsable database available to all guest members. Browse scanned records for Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Church of Ireland Records

The List of Church of Ireland Parish Registers Inventory

Anglican Record Project – an ongoing project to make the baptism, marriage, and burial registers from the Church of Ireland available in a digital format

Presbyterian Records

Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland has congregational church records, manuscripts, session minutes, and personal papers of Presbyterian ministers. Their guide to Congregational Church records highlights the different types of records available.

Quaker Records

Friends Historical Library Dublin contains the manuscript and printed archives of Quakers in Ireland since their establishment in the 17th century. Contains minutes of the various Quaker meetings, committees, and many other documents from 1670 to 1914 may be viewed on Findmypast.

Census Records and Census Substitutes

1821-1851, 1901, 1911 census - There are small fragments of census available for the years 1821-1851 and full census for 1901 and 1911. The records are digitized and indexed through the National Library.
Note: The 1861 and 1871 census records were destroyed shortly after they were taken.

Additional online sources for Ireland census:

Census Substitutes

Tithe Applotment Books – They were compiled between 1823 and 1837 to record the head-of-household land occupiers of over one acre to determine the tithes owed to the Church of Ireland. The Tithe Applotment Books can be viewed at the National Archives of Ireland web site as well as at the following:

Griffith’s Valuation - A mid-19th century record of approximately one million head-of-household land occupiers and their exact address between 1848 and 1864. The record includes the address, the size of the land holding, the landlord, and the location on corresponding maps. You can access Griffith’s Valuation at the following sites:

  • Ask About Ireland - Hosted by a consortium of Irish libraries and museums, the Ask About Ireland website has a free, searchable database of the actual images of Griffith’s Primary Valuation, with links to the later valuation maps.
  • Ireland, Griffith’s Valuation, 1847-1864 - Ancestry
  • Find My Past - subscription required
  • Failte Romhat - Failte Romhat allows you to bring up an alphabetical listing of everyone in a parish, which is useful for determining variant spellings of a surname. This site also has other records, such as the Flax Growers List 1796 and 17th century Hearth Money Rolls.

Ireland, Dog Licence Registrations, 1810-1926 (Ancestry.com) - includes the owner’s name, residence, the date license issued, in addition to details about the dog(s) owned.

Immigration Records

Irish passenger lists, 1847-1871 : lists of passengers sailing from Londonderry to America on ships of the J. & J. Cooke Line and the McCorkell Line, compiled under the direction of Brian Mitchell. NEHGS, 7TH Floor Reference, E184.I6 M57 1988. Also located at Ancestry.

UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 (Ancestry.com) While UK and Irish port outbound passenger lists before 1890 were destroyed by the Board of Trade in 1900, this collection includes the decades of peak emigration.

UK and Ireland, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 (Ancestry.com) An index to the Board of Trade’s passenger lists of ships arriving in the United Kingdom and Ireland from foreign ports outside of Europe and the Mediterranean.

Irish immigrants of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank by Kevin J. Rich NEHGS, 5th Floor, F128.9.I6 R525 2001.

New York, Emigrant Savings Bank Records, 1850-1883 (Ancestry.com) The Emigrant Savings Bank was established in 1850 by members of the Irish Emigrant Society. The bank ended up serving thousands of Irish immigrants who fled to America following the infamous Potato Famine. The bank kept many volumes of records including an Index Book; a Test Book; a Transfer, Signature, and Test Book; and a Deposit-Account Ledger. Records often include where in Ireland the immigrant came from as well as the ship they sailed on.

United States Famine Irish Passenger Index, 1846-1851 (FamilySearch)

Military Records

Defense Forces Ireland Military Archive - If your relative served in the Defence [sic] Forces in Ireland from 1922 onwards or received a medal or pension for service during the Easter Rising or War of Independence, there may to be reference to them within these collections.

Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Militia Attestation Papers, 1800-1915 (Ancestry.com) This collection comprises attestation papers for recruits into the militia from 1800-1915. Attestation forms were filled in at the time of recruitment and records often include information about physical appearance and details of previous service.

Land Records

Ireland, Valuation Office Books, 1831-1856 (FamilySearch) - Original notebooks used by the Valuation Office. Arranged alphabetically by county, then by barony, parish or townland.

A Guide to the 18th Century Land Records in the Irish Registry of Deeds by Brian Nugent. NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference, CS483.N84 2012

Revision Books

Updates to the tenants, size of property, name of lessor are updated in revision books (also called cancelled books). The valuation records were handwritten, with amendments made with colored pencils. The colors used help distinguish the year of the changes.

Northern Ireland Revision Books (PRONI) - Valuation revision books for counties Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, and Tyrone between the years 1864 and 1933.

Republic of Ireland Revision Books – the cancelled books are being digitized by the Valuation Office. Contact the Valuation Office for photocopies.

FamilySearch has also microfilmed several of the valuation revision books. Note: These are filmed in black and white.

Landed Estate Files

These records include details on the tenants and landlords that owned estates in Ireland.

Ireland Landed Estate Court Files, 1850-1885 (FamilySearch) - Records include maps, tenant lists, and details on estates that went bankrupt post-Famine.

Land Owners in Ireland, 1876 (Fáilte Romhat) - Name and address of every land owner in Ireland in 1876

Landed Estates Database (National University of Ireland Galway) - Online database of landed estates in Connacht and Munster, 1700-1914.

The Big Houses and Landed Estates of Ireland: A Research Guide by Terence Dooley. NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection, DA905.D572 2007

Maps, Atlases, and Gazetteers

A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland by Brian Mitchell. NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference and 4th Floor Microtext, G1831.F7 M5 2002.

Irish Place Names by Deirdre Flanagan and Laurence Flanagan. NEHGS, 1st Floor International Collection, DA979 .F53 2002

Ireland: An Hibernian Atlas, 1798 - The atlas shows Ireland and its provinces, counties, and baronies as well as a number of cities, boroughs, and villages. Geographic features such as mountains, lakes, rivers, and roads are also included. In addition to the descriptions of each area, there are seventy-eight full color images to accompany them. NEHGS, Rare Books Collection, G1830.S23 1798.

Ireland Topographical Dictionary, 1837 (Ancestry.com), by Samuel Lewis

Irish Ancestors - The web site of John Grenham, author of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide. Search for records by surname, place-name, or county. Includes maps of civil and Catholic parishes. There are five free page-views per day and then a subscription is required.

Ordnance Survey Maps - The Ordnance Survey Office of Ireland has 19th century, historic black-and-white and color ordnance survey maps and the corresponding 2005-2012 satellite images.

Valuation Maps: Valuation maps that correspond with Griffith’s Valuation and show the exact location of an ancestor’s house. Find My Past, available by subscription, has the original black-and-white valuation maps that match the valuation. On the free Ask About Ireland website, color valuation maps are from late 19th century, and the lot numbers may not match if renumbering took place.

Directories

Ireland, City and Regional Directories, 1836-1947 (Ancestry.com)

Directory Database (SWilson.info) - over 1,000 links to historic directories of Ireland on free and subscription web sites

Genealogies

Riobard O’Dwyer Collection - Contains handwritten genealogies, extracted genealogical data from parish and cemetery records, data on occupations, and notes produced and collected between 1963 and 2011 by Riobard O'Dwyer, a genealogist and social historian who studied the families of the Beara Peninsula in County Cork, Ireland; NEHGS, Manuscripts, Mss 1097 (this manuscript is open to the public). An American Ancestors database is indexed for Volumes 1 and 2. Volume 3 is currently browse-only.

Newspapers and Periodicals

NEHGS has a collection of Irish county historical journals that contain primary sources such as estate records, rental rolls, gravestone inscriptions, parish registers, and wills. Many also include genealogies. These are just some of the journals at NEHGS:

Irish Newspapers Archives - searchable Irish newspaper web site. Available to NEHGS paid members.

Boston Pilot: Irish Immigrant Advertisements (Search for Missing Friends), 1831-1920 - Beginning in 1831 and over the course of the next eighty-five years, the nationally distributed Boston Pilot newspaper printed some 45,000 “Missing Friends” advertisements placed by friends and relatives. These advertisements typically referred to the exact place of origin of the seeker and/or the sought. Many of the ads also describe the process and route of immigration, and even the name of the passenger ship. Many advertisements refer to women, for whom determining exact origin is even more difficult, due to the lack of naturalization records.

Websites

Ask About Ireland

National Archives of Ireland

National Library of Ireland

IrishGenealogy - Operated by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. This websites collections include the historic civil registers of births (1864 to 1919), marriages (1845 to 1944), and deaths (1878 to 1969) held at the General Records Office (GRO); searchable volume of pre 20th Century Church records of baptism, marriage and burial that in many instances pre-date the civil registration.

Family Search Catalog for Irish Research

Irish Ancestors - The website of John Grenham, author of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide. Search for records by surname, place-name, or county. Includes maps of civil and Catholic parishes. There are five free page-views per day and then a subscription is required.

PRONI - The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland has several searchable databases on its website, including freeholders' lists, an historical map viewer, valuation revision books, will calendars, street directories, and 18th century census substitutes.

RootsIreland – A subscription-based website that provides over 22 million records, primarily church records, for 34 counties of Ireland.

Need help?

Want to maximize your research? The experts at NEHGS can help! We offer a number of services that can help you break down brick walls and expand your research.

Chat live with our experts!

Do you have a genealogy or local history question? Consider our free, online live chat service! The service is available to all, Monday—Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

Sample questions:
  • I recently heard that the Wales Family Association collection was donated to NEHGS. Are these papers available online?
  • What is the 19th century definition of a homesteader?
  • How or where would I be able to locate volume 4 of the Newport, RI Probate Records Index?
  • What resources could I use to find more about local Massachusetts regiments from the Civil War?
  • I discovered that my ancestor was christened 45-50 miles away from where he was born in Norway. Could you tell why my ancestors would have traveled so far?

Visit AmericanAncestors.org/chat and type your question in the window in the lower right corner.

Meet one-on-one with our genealogists

Want hands-on research guidance from a professional genealogist? Take your experience to the next level with an extended research session with our Personal Genealogist for the Day service. In-person and online sessions are offered as half-day (three-hour) or full day (five-hour) options.

  • Find elusive ancestors—Whether you are searching in the U.S. or abroad, in the 17th or 20th century, our genealogists have the knowledge to assist you.
  • Locate and use records—Vital records, military records, deeds, probate, and more—if you’re wondering where to look for them, how to read them, or what data you can find in them, we can guide you.
  • Get more out of technology—Feel like you could be making better use of your genealogy software? Curious about websites and databases that might be relevant to your research? Let us help!

Schedule your session today or contact research@nehgs.org.

Hire our experts in Research Services

Whether you are just beginning your family research or have been researching for years, NEHGS Research Services is here to assist you. Our team of experts can:

  • Conduct hourly research
  • Break down “brick walls”
  • Retrieve manuscript materials
  • Obtain probate records
  • Research and prepare your lineage society application
  • Organize your materials and files
  • Write narrative biographies about your ancestors
  • Create customized family charts

Hire Research Services today or contact research@nehgs.org, 617-536-5740.