Your Irish Family Tree
The first step for anyone tracing their ancestors is to talk to your family and sketch out a rough Irish family tree. Consult everyone you can get in touch with. Different members of the family can often remember different facts and family stories. It is your job to gather all of this information together and start putting it in order.
Always make a written record of what you hear, don’t rely on remembering it. I have met plenty of people who once questioned a family member, now deceased, but neglected to write down the information. They are working from a vague memory, which makes their research considerably more challenging.
Don’t dismiss a family story that might sound outlandish. There is often a grain of truth in there somewhere. It is your job to try and find documentary evidence that confirms or disproves a family legend.
Once you feel that you have mined your family for all of the relevant information, you can start your Irish family tree and search for records of earlier generations. Make a note and copy of every record that you find and where you found it (in case you want to go back to check it at a later date). Every piece of information that you find may prove potentially useful as you work back through your family tree, so don’t discard anything at the outset.
If your ancestors emigrated, you will need to start your Irish family tree using records for the country in which they settled, before you start searching for them in Ireland.
The first Irish records that you will need to consult as you build your Irish family tree are:
Civil birth, death and marriage certificates
Church baptismal and marriage records
If your family were in Ireland in 1900, the first object of your search should be to locate them in the 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland. But before you go rushing off to check the census it is vital that you establish the names and addresses of your ancestors who were alive at the time. I have met many people who have plucked a family out of the census, without confirming that it is the correct household and spent months working on someone else’s ancestry! Genealogical research is about working methodically backwards linking one generation to the previous.