Researching Irish ancestry poses many challenges, but none that are insurmountable. Catholic parish records in many instances do not exist pre 1820 with many parish registers only containing records from later years.
Civil registration of births deaths and marriages began in 1845 with the registration of non-Catholic marriages, the registration of all births, deaths and marriages commencing from 1864.
Almost all Irish census records from 1821 up to 1891 were destroyed by fire during the Civil War in 1922, along with large collections of Church of Ireland records and wills although the 1901 and 1911 census records are available. Land records are another very important source for genealogical investigations and include estate records, Tithe Applotment books and Griffiths Valuation records. From these it is possible to identify the existence of a family in a particular area over generations.
Prior to the Great Famine the population of Ireland was estimated at 8 million and dropped to approximately 4.5 million by the early 1920s. In the years following the famine, large scale emigration ensued with many Irish travelling to friends, acquaintances and neighbours abroad in the quest for a better life and to escape difficult times in their home country. Emigration records to the US and Canada exist in the form of ship manifests which along with US and Canadian census records allow for the tracking of Irish emigrants as they moved on with their lives in their adopted countries. Although no passenger lists are available in relation to emigration from Ireland to the UK , census records for the UK can be used to identify those Irish who emigrated to England, Scotland and Wales.
Many records are now available on line but the complexities of Irish genealogy research can often make it difficult to interpret such records without expert assistance.. Apart from online sources, Irish Clann Connections can access records held in various repositories such as the National Archives, National Library of Ireland and other public and private record repositories in the course of genealogy research.
If you are embarking on your own family history journey here are a few tips to get you started:
- First and foremost, talk to your oldest living relatives in the immediate and extended family and record the information they have on the family connections. I cannot emphasise this point enough having heard so many people say “ If only I had talked to granny” ! This information will disappear once family members pass away. In my own case, a chance conversation with my father’s elderly cousin allowed me to break down a brick wall in my own family research.
- Keep a diary and record all of the information you find, however irrelevant it seems and gather all of those old family photos and memorial cards which are a great means to starting conversations on family history.
- When researching and recording your family history start with yourself and work back in time. I have encountered many who attempted to start their research with a distant ancestor and tried to work forward, getting hopelessly lost along the way and gathering some other family’s ancestors who had no connection whatsoever to their own family!
- Research the local history of the area where your ancestors came from. This will give you an understanding of their world and how they lived in times past. If your family came from a rural Irish background, it is possible that they were related to half the parish as they never travelled too far to find a spouse! Also as land tenure was so important to the Irish many marriages were arranged in order to keep the holding within the wider family network.
- If your ancestors emigrated, it is most likely that they travelled to link up with relatives or neighbours who had ‘taken the boat’ before them. Chain migration, where family members who had previously emigrated sent home the fare for other relatives to follow them, was particularly common. So, if you find that one of your ancestors emigrated it is likely that there were more from the same and previous generations who made the same journey
The growing interest in family history research, particularly since the advent of genetic genealogy through DNA testing and also TV programmes such as “Who do You Think You Are”, has encouraged many individuals to embark on their own family research journey. Irish Clann Connections provides tutorials focusing on the basics of genealogy research to assist those starting on their journey of discovery. Tutorials can be delivered in a group setting or on a one to one basis. In relation to ancestry DNA many have invested in such tests without having carried out initial family research and as a result find that that they are unable to understand the results of genealogy DNA tests. Assistance in the interpretation of genealogy DNA results can be provided by Irish Clann Connections to help you make the most of your results.
Please check out our services tab on the home page to find out how Irish Clann Connections can help you with your family research.