Finding Your Irish Roots

Finding Your Irish Roots 

Having worked in the Genealogy Advisory Services for the National Archives and the National Library of Ireland, I have met many visitors who have arrived in Dublin hoping to trace their Irish roots. Lack of awareness of which libraries and archives hold the records they require as well as the information and paperwork they need to bring with them, has frustrated many visitors hoping to undertake research while in Dublin.

This guide has been designed to help make your research time in Dublin enjoyable and productive.

Start Researching Your Irish Roots in Dublin

Genealogical records for the entire country, including Northern Ireland prior to 1922, are largely available in Dublin City (with a few exceptions).  For those visiting Ireland to search for their Irish roots, it is necessary to spend some time in Dublin checking records that may not be accessible in the county where your family originated.  However, these records are found in a number of different repositories, archives and libraries. 

This guide has been designed to help you establish where you need to go and what you need to have with you to make sure you have the best chance of locating your Irish roots during your stay in Dublin.

Finding Your Irish Roots: Before You Leave Home

Before you depart for Dublin you should make some preparations that will help to make researching your Irish roots as productive as possible. Here is a checklist of some of the things you should consider before setting off.

Before You Leave Home

1. Collect your Information

Gather together the information and documents that you have collected on the ancestor that you are hoping to research. Make digital copies or photocopies of death and marriage certificates, census returns and newspaper obituaries, anything that you think records vital information on your ancestor.   You may need to refer to information contained in these documents while you are consulting research material in Dublin. You don’t want to have to wait until you get home to confirm the address that was recorded on a death certificate!

2. Use the Sources in your Own Country First

Research in Ireland can be challenging because of gaps in records, particularly for the early 19th  century, it is possible that the information that identifies where your ancestor came from is recorded in the country in which they settled. If you have time, try to gather as much information as you can from the sources in the country where your ancestor settled. For example, US death certificates, gravestone inscriptions and newspaper death notices can contain details about the parents and place of birth of the deceased. If you have this information before you arrive in Ireland, your search may be much easier. Check census returns and vital records in your home country before setting off. The more information that you can gather, such as a place of birth or the names of parents or siblings, from sources in your own country, the better your chance of success in Ireland.  For more information see the Irish Emigrants section of our Guide to Tracing your Irish Ancestors Online.

3. Organise your Material

Organise your material so that you are not carrying around a heavy folder of documents. Whittle your collection down to the most essential items or photograph and scan your material and store it on a tablet or laptop.   However, not all repositories in Dublin have free or any wifi access, so make sure you can access any digital material without an internet connection. This means that if you have everything on an account, you may not be able to view the relevant material at a crucial time.  Try not to bring any original documents, as they may get damaged, bring photographs or photocopies instead.

4. Make a Wish List

Make a list of what you hope to achieve and any sources that you think might be relevant to your search. Try to familiarise yourself with the main sources that are available for genealogical research in Ireland so that you understand what research is possible and likely to be successful when you get to Dublin. Our Guide to Tracing Your Irish Ancestors on the Internet offers a good introduction to the type of sources you may wish to consult when you get to Dublin – not everything you need is available online and not everything online is entirely accurate.

5. Bring Identification and Proof of Address

Some repositories require you to provide identification before they will issue you with a reader’s ticket or admission to the archive.  This means that you should carry photo identification, such as a passport or drivers license in addition to proof of address, such as a utility bill. I have met visitors from all over the world who have been refused entry to some of our national repositories because they lacked the necessary paper work.

6. Bring a Digital Camera

Bring a digital camera, many repositories will now allow you to photograph documents that you are researching. This means that you don’t have to pay for and carry photocopies and prints and the images can be reviewed and digested when you get home.  You are free to photograph the books in the Valuation Office without asking for permission.  However, you will have to seek permission to photograph items in the National Library and National Archives.  The National Library has a dedicated room where you can take photographs of items and the National Archives will ask you to fill in a photographic request form.  You are not allowed to photograph index books in the General Register Office nor are you allowed to photograph parish registers in the Representative Church Body Library or any material in the Registry of Deeds.

Now that you have gathered your family information together, exploited all of the sources available in your home country and packed your identification and digital camera, you are ready to plan your research in Dublin.

Finding Your Irish Roots – In Dublin City

Researching Your Irish Roots: Not Sure Where to Start?

Genealogy Advisory Service

If you are looking for advice from a professional genealogist when you get to Dublin, look no further than the Genealogy Advisory Service in the National Archives of Ireland. Staffed by professional genealogists who are members of Accredited Genealogists Ireland, this is the best place to go for advice on finding your Irish roots. The service is available Monday to Friday from 10am – 1.30pm and is entirely free.   The Genealogist on duty will help you to identify the best place to start your search, introduce you to the records you should be searching, where to find them and what to expect. They will also look up references for you and check available online sources.


National Archives of Ireland, Bishop Street, Dublin 2

Opening Hours:

9.15am-5pm – the advisory service is only available from 10am-1.30pm

Entry Requirements:

In order to enter the National Archives of Ireland you will need to apply for a reader’s ticket. You can make your application when you arrive or you can download the application form here and fill it in in advance.  You will also need to produce a form of photo identification, such as a passport or driver’s license, as well as proof of address, such as a utility bill that is no more than 6 months old.  This is very important, you will not be able to enter the archives if you cannot produce the necessary paperwork. Your reader’s ticket will be valid for 3 years and is free.  If you are planning to renew an out of date reader’s ticket you will still need to provide the documentation listed above.


Arrive early, there can often be a queue of visitors waiting for a reader’s ticket and for a consultation with the genealogist on duty.