Throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th century Irish men, women and children ventured out around the globe in search of an opportunity for a better life. The descendants of those emigrants, from far flung corners of the world, seeking to reconnect with the origins of their Irish ancestors, make Irish genealogy a very popular pursuit. Today, it is not just the descendants of our emigrant ancestors who are interested in their Irish family history. Irish genealogy is just as popular at home as it is abroad.
Despite this popularity, there is plenty of misinformation about Irish genealogy still being circulated, which can make starting your Irish family tree a daunting prospect. Many people will tell you that Irish genealogy is impossible because all of our records were destroyed. This statement, frequently encountered in various guises, simply is not true. Irish genealogical research can be challenging and sometimes requires a little lateral thinking, but it is certainly not impossible.
Destruction of Irish Genealogy Records
The destruction of records is a reference to the 1922 fire in the Public Records Office. The Public Record Office was the repository for the archives pertaining to the administration of the state, which included wills and testamentary records, the registers of the established Church, the Church of Ireland and the household returns for the 1821-1851 census of Ireland. While these collections were largely destroyed in 1922, there are other genealogical sources that survived entirely. The complete records for civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in Ireland, which commence in 1864 survive and are available for research. No Roman Catholic parish registers were stored in the Public Records Office and the registers for nearly every parish in Ireland survive for some part of the 19th century. Land surveys for the purpose of taxing property and which date from the early and mid 19th century also survive.
Sources specific to a parish or county and that act as census substitutes, such as voter lists, land and tax records, parish census, have been identified by genealogists and are listed in most Irish genealogical publications. Tracing your Irish ancestors is not always easy, but it is certainly not impossible. More and more Irish sources are being digitised and published online, making it easier than ever to trace your family back to Ireland from the comfort of your own home. The advent of ancestry DNA groups has also helped to fill the gaps left by missing or destroyed records, connecting families from different parts of the world who share a common Irish ancestor.
Researching Your Irish Genealogy
If you are interested in Irish genealogy don’t be put off by misleading statements about destruction of records, instead, prepare yourself to embark on a journey that may be frustrating at times, but ultimately rewarding and certainly informative. Irish genealogy is a portal that brings us back into the lives of our ancestors and the road back is littered with history, tragedy and triumph.
If you wish to pursue your ancestors yourself, make sure you familiarise yourself with the sources available and always be careful not to adopt someone else’s ancestor. Consult our Guide to Tracing Your Irish Ancestors Online to familiarise yourself with the sources available on the internet.
If you are planning a trip to Dublin, where the majority of records are held, consult our Finding Your Irish Roots guide, which contains details on all of the relevant libraries, archives and repositories that you may need to access.
Resources for Irish genealogy are not all found in the one location, online or off. For example, Roman Catholic parish registers have been digitised online at rootsireland.ie and irishgenealogy.ie The website that you need will depend on the county you are interested in. Images of the registers, which are currently not indexed, can be accessed through the National Library of Ireland registers.nli.ie
Only the indexes for civil registration in Ireland are available online at a number of different websites including familysearch.org and irishgenealogy.ie . However, the actual birth, marriage or death registrations, where all the important information is to be found, are not online, but copies can be ordered using our Genealogy Clerk service.
The most important census substitute for the 19th century, Griffith’s Valuation, is published online at findmypast.ie and askaboutireland.ie but the Valuation Office Revision Books, which are updated versions of Griffith’s can only be accessed in person in the Valuation Office in Dublin.
Sources for Irish genealogy are spread across numerous websites and repositories, so before you sign up to a subscription for ancestry or findmypast make sure that they have the records you need and don’t expect them to point out what records they are missing! The National Archives of Ireland and the National Library of Ireland both offer free and impartial genealogy advisory services for the public and their websites also contain guides and links to useful Irish genealogy sources.
Our Irish Genealogy Services
Irish genealogy can be challenging and if you find you need help on your journey, you can hire a professional. Timeline director Nicola Morris is a member of Accredited Genealogists Ireland, the only accrediting body for professional genealogy in Ireland.
With fifteen years of experience in the field of Irish genealogy we offer plenty of services to help you find your Irish ancestors. You can order digital copies of records that are not available online using our Genealogy Clerk service. If you find that you have taken the research as far as you are able and want to get a professional to help finish your family tree, we are available for commission and we will tailor a research plan and quote to meet your requirements. Just contact us with the details of what you want us to do.
A family tree can be a very meaningful gift, especially for celebrating significant birthdays, anniversaries or marriages. Our work with the programme Who Do You Think You Are? means that we know how to delve deep into the lives of your ancestors to find the real stories of their lives. We have the expertise to research and present a substantial family history that will last for generations.
If you have a query about our services please don’t hesitate to contact us.