If you’ve got Irish ancestors, you may have already experienced frustration in trying to track them down. It can be daunting enough to start a family genealogy project dealing with American ancestors. Once you start looking for kith and kin in other countries, it really gets mind-boggling! Often, other countries don’t have many well-preserved records, or the records that exist are hard to find. If you’re working on your Irish genealogical quest through email and postal mail to try to find anything, it gets even harder.
Still, the Internet is continually advancing the world of genealogy, and nations all over the world are making a concerted effort to preserve important historical documents. If you’re searching for Irish ancestors today, there are so many more resources available to you than just 10 years ago. Now, you stand a real chance of uncovering the identities and lives of your kinfolk from the Emerald Isle.
So, where do you start? The first thing you must do in ANY genealogical project, whether of Irish lines or American ones, is to find out if the work has already been done. Many family lines have been traced long ago by the genealogists of yesteryear, and this research has often been compiled and published online by modern scholars or family history enthusiasts. If you do a search online using such resources as Google, Ancestry.com, and Amazon.com, you may be surprised at what you find. If your family history has already been researched, then all you have to do is re-trace the steps of the original researcher to confirm the information is correct.
But what do you do if there isn’t a pre-existing family history? Start looking through your existing information. Check all of the documents, newspaper clippings, diaries, photos, and letters belonging to your ancestors that have been passed down through your family. Most families have at least some information of this sort. Go through it all carefully, combing it for clues as to the identities of your Irish ancestors. Look for names, birth and death dates, marriage dates, and places of birth mentioned in any document in your possession.
Once you’ve gotten some basic information to go on–or if you were unable to find anything new among your family’s artifacts–it’s time to jump into the world of online genealogy. There are plenty of websites with Irish databases available, some of which are dedicated to Irish research entirely. In these databases, you can check such things as Irish census returns, Griffith’s Valuation, parish registers, civil registration records, and more. These should offer you important clues about your ancestors, and may even introduce you to them outright. Some of the most popular and well-stocked Irish genealogy databases online today can be found at:
By making use of what you already have and combining it with new information you can find online, you’re sure to learn a lot more about your Irish ancestors than you previously knew. Once you’ve got the basics of their lives confirmed, you can start digging deeper to find out the details of who they were and how they lived by requesting copies of original records from the General Register office in Dublin. We’ll talk more about how to do that in future posts.