February 19th, 2013

5 Fantastic Resources for Finding Irish Ancestors

Close to ten million Irish have immigrated to other countries since the early eighteenth century, over half of them going toAmerica. Others moved toAustralia,New Zealand, theUnited Kingdom, andCanada. Some even ventured as far south toArgentina,Brazil,Mexico, andSouth Africa. This vast movement of the Irish has led to close to 80 million people globally claiming Irish ancestry. Following is a summary of the best resources for finding Irish ancestors.

Civil Registrations 

January 1, 1864 saw civil registration introduced to Ireland. Since then all births, deaths and marriages have been recorded, at least theoretically. Some events went unrecorded, especially in the early stages of civil registration and especially with country folk who might have needed to travel long distances to register. Many vital records do exist however, and they are a valuable source of genealogical information.

Irish birth, death, and marriage certificates can be obtained from the General Registers Office in Roscommon, while records for Northern Irelandthat were created after the separation can be found at the GRO Office in Belfast. FamilySearch.org has an extensive microfilm collection of Irish civil registers which can be ordered online.

Parish Records

Parish records generally contain information about baptisms and marriages. They can provide you with the date of a person’s baptism, the maiden name of their mother, and the names of sponsors or witnesses. Sometimes the family’s address is given, or at least the name of the area they came from, but not always. Marriage entries contain the names of the bride and groom, their witnesses and the marriage date.

Some parish records have been indexed and digitalized for the convenience of family historians. The National Library of Ireland has also microfilmed the majority and has made them available to the public at their location inDublin. InNorthern Ireland the Public Record Office has copies of the Catholic registers for its counties. Because they are not public records, Irish parish registers are not available online.

Land Commission Records

The Land Commission was developed to fix fair rents and settle disputes between landlords and tenants. An estimated six million documents are in its archives and they have been arranged by county and filed in volumes. The Commission was additionally entrusted with making loans to tenants who wished to purchase the farms on which they worked and lived. As you can imagine, this vast archive has the potential to yield a wealth of genealogical information.

The collection contains wills, deeds, mortgages, witness statements and sureties, as well as other documents containing information about the land involved. They date back to the 1600’s and can be found at the keeper of Records, Land Commission, Agriculture House, Kildare St, Dublin.

Poor Law Records

The Poor Law Act was passed in 1838 and wasIreland’s first statutory social service. It was incorporated to provide for the poorest and most destitute inIreland. Its workhouse records date back to the nineteenth century and are a rich source of information about both the poor and the wealthy middle class and gentry who “supported” them.

The main problem with workhouse records is that they haven’t been well maintained and are scattered throughout Irelandand kept in a variety of locations. The workhouse records of CountyMayoare housed at the National Library in Dublin, while those of the North and South Dublin Unions are kept in the national Archives. Those concerning Northern Irelandare better organised, all of them being centralised and deposited in the Public Record Office inBelfast. For other areas ofIreland check in the county libraries, while others are kept in county courthouses.

Griffith’s Valuation

Completed in 1865,Griffith’s Valuation is most likely the richest source of genealogical information regardingIrelandin the nineteenth century. The valuation is well documented, and contains incredibly detailed information.

Griffith’s Valuation can help you to find where your ancestor lived in nineteenth century Ireland, and also shed some light on their social status and economic standing. In Northern Irelandyou may find the valuation in the Public Record Office in Belfast, while in the Republicof Irelandit can be accessed in Dublin’s National Archives.