Finding Your Irish Ancestors

Here it is March, bringing to mind four leaf clovers, leprechauns and St. Patrick. Thousands of people around the world have Irish ancestry due to several waves of emigrants from Ireland who settled in the Four Corners of the World. I have spent many hours tracing my Irish Ancestors complete with all the reported challenges. Something to keep in mind as you research is the division of Ireland and Northern Ireland. These two records keeping systems parted in 1922 at the time of the Rebellion.

If you too have Irish ancestors and plan to research them, there are some basic rules to follow. The first is to track them back across the ocean to the old country. If you have not done that yet, you need to start in the US and work backward. Interview family members including aunts, uncles, cousins and elderly family friends; review any family documents, stories, old letters, etc. to gather as much information as possible. One of the most important piece of information to have is the County that they came from, then the Parish and finally the Townland. The Townland is truly the most important.

You may also want to look for church records here in the US especially those of you who are Roman Catholic or whose ancestors were Roman Catholic. Try and find out where they worshipped when they came to this country and then look there for records. The priest may have made a note regarding where they came from in Ireland in the parish records here.

Now that you have a name and/or names you need to look at alternatives to that name and head to the records in Ireland. We have all heard the stories about Irish records and THEY ARE TRUE!! But do not despair there are some alternatives.

Some of the Websites that you will want to use are: Roots Ireland ($), Irish Ancestors with John Grenham ($), PRONI, www., ($) (free) (Then click on WIKI), ($), and Of course there are many others.

As in most of the British Isles, you will need to primarily rely on Church records prior to 1845. Beginning in 1845 Civil Registration began. Civil registration of protestant marriages was required beginning in 1845 and civil registration of Roman Catholic marriages began in 1864 as did births and deaths regardless of whether they were Protestant or Catholic. As the Church of Ireland was the State church you may want to look in their records for marriages that occurred prior to Civil records regardless of your ancestors faith.

Other resources that you will find helpful and may wish to purchase are Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham – we have it at the Hall House. Consider purchasing Discover Irish Land Records by Chris Patton (this will give you a great understanding of the land divisions in Ireland that are a very important aspect of Irish Research.

I have presented a very brief summary of doing Irish Research. If you are really interested in learning how to do Irish Research, you may wish to attend the Workshop being presented on Saturday March 25th from 10:30 to 11:30. The cost is $10 for members and $20 for non-members. We will be recording it and you will be able to access it with a password on the Fenton History Center Website.

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