Ireland Ancestry Records – Archival Sources of Ireland Ancestry Records

Locating Ireland Ancestry Records can involve a worldwide search of a vast array of documentation. The adventurous spirit of the Irish has inspired millions of them to roam the world over the centuries.  From the early seventh century monks who journeyed to Europe in their evangelising attempts to re-Christianize the populace to the adventurous sea farers who left for South America and Newfoundland, the Irish have travelled everywhere, and so their Ireland ancestry records with them. While many national documents were destroyed in the Irish Civil War in 1922, many records do remain intact. Let’s take a look at some of the most important sources of Ireland ancestry records.

Beginning a Search for Ireland Ancestry Records

It is sad to note that almost the entire collection of archives commissioned by the Public Record Office prior to 1922 were destroyed by fire and explosion at the beginning of the Irish Civil War in that year. This can make it difficult to locate your relative in Ireland ancestry records, and you may have to cast a wider net than usual; researching Immigration and Naturalization papers of other countries, or Ship Passenger Lists of vessels departing Ireland. But some documentation can still be found in the Irish National Archives, and though most dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, some documents exist from as early as the 13th century. You can also use abstracts and transcripts of original Ireland ancestry records to supplement your research.

Before you even begin searching in archives for Ireland ancestry records, it is important to collect as much information as possible about the family that you are researching. To have a reasonable chance of success, there are three main things that it is good to know, they are:

  • The Name of the Family;
  • The Parish or Townland where they lived;
  • The Approximate Date at which they lived there.

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If you are fortunate enough to have a name, place and date for your ancestor, there are particular Ireland ancestry records in which to begin your search. They are:

  • For a person living in during the period 1901 – 1911, the Census Returns
  • For a person living in the 1840s, 1850s, or 1860s, the Primary Valuation
  • For a person living in the 1820s or 1830s, the Tithe Applotment Books.

If you happen to have a date of birth, marriage or death, you can search further for your relative in Wills and Administrations papers, Wills Books, Grant Books, and the Probate Office’s collection of Schedules of Assets. Parochial records held by the Church of Ireland may also posses Ireland ancestry records which may identify your relative. These are more commonly known as Parish Registers, but are of course only of use if you have an address for your ancestor. If you don’t know the parish or townland where your family lived, the following Ireland ancestry records may be of value:

  1. Indexes of Surnames – Found in the Primary Valuation and the Tithe Applotment Books held in the National Archives of Ireland.
  2. Testamentary Card Index and other Wills and Administrations – Located in the Reading Room of the national Archives.
  3. Indexes to Marriage Licence Bonds and Indexes to Genealogical Abstracts – Can also be found in the Reading Room of the Irish National Archives.

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Searches of this particular nature are generally of more value if the name you seek in Ireland ancestry records is a fairly rare or unusual one. Otherwise, these indexes are likely to yield only a lengthy listing of people with the same surname with no way of knowing which, if any, might be your ancestor. Hopefully you will be able to trace your ancestors through the major sources of Census Reports, the Tithe Applotments, or Griffith's Valuation. Read our other articles about Ireland ancestry records to gain a little more insight as to what these sources contain and some advice on how to use them.

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