Basic Irish Research Guide
Getting Started With Irish Research
This article provides a brief introduction to the procedures and records commonly used by Irish family history researchers. For more information and resources you can consult our Research Resources on our IGHS website.
Beginning the Search
Your research will begin with you and your immediate family. Ask questions of family members whom you think might know a little bit about your family history. Begin recording information by remembering facts about each member in your family that will identify that person. Each person can be identified by personal information, such as the following:
Consult old photographs on which names and dates may be noted. Be sure to write the names you know on the back of the photos. Visit family gravestones and gather any documentation in which family information is recorded. As you do this, try to establish approximate dates (of birth, marriage and death) as well as names (forenames and related family names) and places of residence. This information will point the way to relevant records. Of course, religious denomination is also important in determining which records are relevant to your research. Get forms or computer programs you can use to record your family information. They make the task of recording and organizing easier. If you prefer writing information on paper, download or print these two forms:
<![if !supportLists]>§ <![endif]> Pedigree Chart A pedigree chart lets you list your pedigree (your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and so on).
<![if !supportLists]>§ <![endif]>Family Group Record A family group record lets you list an entire family and their information. You will need several copies.
If you prefer using a computer, you can download free programs such as Legacy (www.legacyfamilytree.com) or Personal Ancestral File, (www.familysearch.org) or install any other family history program of your choice. Record the information you remember about your family on the forms or in a family history program.
Look for sources in your home that might contain the missing or incomplete family information.
Add this information to your pedigree charts and family group records. Record the sources of the information (use the Notes or Sources section on the forms or in your family history program). This helps you and others know where the information came from.
Background Information Sources
about the geography and history of
To gain necessary background information, do the following:
After surveying previous research, you will be ready to search original documents. Many of these documents have been copied on microfilm or microfiche. Original documents can provide dependable, firsthand information recorded at or near the time of an event. To do thorough research in original documents, you should search records of:
Most Irish researchers, however, begin with the following types of records:
The Records in
The principal sources used for genealogical research in
- Civil Records
The civil or State registration of
marriages, other than Catholic marriages, commenced in
- Church Records
Microfilm copies - usually up to the year 1880 - of most surviving Catholic parish registers are available for consultation in the National Library of Ireland. For the start-dates of relevant registers - and microfilm numbers - consult the List of Parish Registers. (Copies of the list may be consulted in the Catalogue Room in the Genealogy Service, and on the Librarys Website at www.nli.ie). Most registers may be freely consulted. However, in the case of two dioceses - Cashel and Emly and Kerry - letters of authorization must be obtained prior to consultation of the microfilms.
The situation regarding
Enquiries regarding Presbyterian records can be addressed to the Presbyterian Historical Society.
Prior to the 1810s, records of Methodist births, marriages
and deaths are found in
For Quaker records, contact the Library of the Religious Society of Friends. For information on Jewish records, contact the Irish Jewish Museum.
- Census Records
Surviving census records are in the custody of the National Archives. The earliest complete surviving Census is that of 1901. There are a number of records which may be used as Census Substitutes, many of which are held here in the National Library. There is a useful chapter on Census Substitutes in D.F. Begley (ed.) Irish Genealogy: a Record Finder. County by county listings of Census Substitutes can be found in John Grenhams Tracing your Irish ancestors and in James Ryans Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History.
- Land and Property Records
Under this general heading can be found two important Census
Substitutes - the Tithe Applotment Books (1824-1838)
and the Primary Valuation of
Suggestions for Searching the Records
Follow these principles as you search the records for your ancestor:
Evaluate the Information You Find
Carefully evaluate whether the information you find is complete and accurate. Ask yourself the following questions:
If the answer to any of these questions is no, be cautious in accepting the information's accuracy. You may want to verify the information by doing further research. As you evaluate and verify, look for new information such as places, events, dates, and names which may suggest other records to search.
Record Your Searches and Findings
Copy the information you find and keep detailed notes about each record you search. Include in your notes the record's author, title, location, call numbers, and description as well as the objective and result of your search in that record.