If you’re searching for your Irish genealogy records, you’re in for a journey of discovery about an ancient country rich in history and culture.
Once you know more, you’ll be excited to learn just what part of Olden Eire was your ancestors’ home.
The oldest known settlements in Ireland date back to 8000 B.C. The island was connected to Europe by a neck of land back then, and nomadic tribesman crossed over and settled.
Early Irish Population
All we know of the earliest Irish population dates back to the time of Christ and shortly after. The Romans returned from their travels with stories about the mysterious, wild Celts, a people who worshiped many gods. The Celts were forbidden to communicate about their religion, so our only stories came from conquerors who feared the Celts and therefore made them sound more sinister than they really were.
A Thousand Years Ago
Little more is known until about the ninth century, when Vikings invaded the isle and Christianity became the dominant religion. But it was not until the Norman invasion of 1169 that the country was divided into 32 counties. These 32 counties still exist today, and they will form the basis for your Irish genealogy search for records.
The 20th Century
Around 1920, the counties were separated into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. Six counties in the northeastern part of the country made up Northern Ireland, and the rest were allocated to Southern Ireland. Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom, but the 26 counties of Southern Ireland became the independent country of Ireland.
If your Irish genealogy research yields results, what cultural and ethnic markings did your ancestors likely have? The Vikings who conquered the earliest inhabitants no doubt contributed their characteristics.
The Normans were Viking descendants previously settled in what we now call France, but ruled by the English king. The Vikings were tall and fair; the English were of course similar but a little shorter and less fair. The famous Irish red hair reportedly came from the Picts, an aggressive Celtic group described by the Romans as actually hailing from areas now part of Scotland.
You search for your Irish genealogy roots should include a look at:
- Databases of the county seats in the 26 various counties, or 32 if you’re including Northern Ireland.
- Church registers
- Baptismal records
- Marriage records
- Headstone inscriptions in graveyards
- Census returns, which date as far back as 1663
- Griffith’s Valuation (a land boundary record from the 1800s rich in names)
- Tithe applotments (surveys of titheable land from the 1800s)
For starters, visit the Irish Family History Foundation (IFHF, at www.irish-roots.ie), a comprehensive umbrella for records from many of the Irish counties, including the Northern ones.
You can search for a record for free, but you must pay to view it.
Some more websites worth visiting can be found in the 5 Good Websites for Irish Ancestry Research, where you can learn about Huguenots, soldier regiments, and more.
You will also find a link to the National Archives of Ireland, where records from virtually all counties are kept from the 1911 census.
Go back further via Griffith’s Valuation records at…
You can begin with a search by name and county, but there is an option to narrow things down if you know whether your ancestors hailed from a Barony, a Union, or a Parish. The Baronies were land divisions established by the Normans. The Parishes initially were church land divisions that eventually became civil divisions. The Unions were ways to divide up land in equal portions. You can also search by place name rather than family name.
Good luck on your search of Irish genealogy records!
You are bound to find many more resources along the way, possibly the Blarney stone, and maybe a pot or two of gold at the end of a rainbow.