Let’s trace your Irish ancestors! Irish research tips are a must-have for this historically violent little island. Senior Researcher at Legacy Tree Genealogists, Kate Eakman, shares with you four historical and geographical tips to get you off to the right start.
By Jonto at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Kate Eakman is a Senior Researcher for Legacy Tree Genealogists, a worldwide genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in breaking through genealogy brick walls. To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit the Legacy Tree Genealogists website.
Trace Your Irish Ancestors: 4 Tips
Kate Eakman from Legacy Family Tree Genealogists
Irish research can be difficult. Although the island is small–about the same size as the state of Indiana–its violent history and many divisions makes research complicated. In addition, many United States records simply report our ancestors were from Ireland with no indication of the county of their birth. However, knowing a little bit about the history and geography can provide the necessary clues. Here are four tips that can help you trace your Irish ancestors from the United States back to Ireland.
Tip 1: Understand the Island of Ireland Today
There are two distinct political entities on the island of Ireland: Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The dividing line was drawn by England in 1922. This is an important date to keep in mind when searching for more recent Irish ancestors.
The Republic of Ireland, or Eire, is an independent nation made up of the southern 26 counties of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is predominantly Catholic, with about 3% of the population identifying itself as Protestant. Indices and links to copies of the civil birth records for the years 1864 to 1915, marriages between 1882 and 1940, and death records between 1891 and 1965 are available for free from the IrishGenealogy website. (These records include those of the Northern Irish counties up to 1922.) Official copies can be ordered from the General Records Office in Dublin.
Map of the counties of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Photo courtesy https://commons.wikimedia.org.
Northern Ireland, also known as Ulster, is a part of the United Kingdom–although it is self-governing like Canada or Australia. Although the counties of Northern Ireland are not officially used today, it is comprised of the traditional counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Londonderry (also known by the more traditional name of Derry). Although most Americans believe that Northern Ireland is a Protestant nation, the reality is that today there are almost an equal number of Catholics as there are Protestants in Northern Ireland. Civil birth, marriage, and death records can be ordered from GRONI (General Records Office Northern Ireland).
Tip 2: Turn to U.S. Census Records
From the 1880 U.S. Census through the 1920 U.S. Census, Irish ancestors who immigrated to the United States, or whose parents were natives of Ireland, simply reported they were natives of Ireland. However, since the 1930 U.S. Census was taken after the creation of the Republic of Ireland in 1922, it often noted the specific country from which ancestors originated.
In this sample (below) from the 1930 U.S. census, we can see John O’Reilly was born in “North. Ireland,” as were his mother and her parents. His father, however, was from the Irish Free State, or the Republic of Ireland. This information tells us where to search for John’s birth: in one of the six counties of Northern Ireland. His mother’s birth record will also be from Northern Ireland, and probably his parents’ marriage record also, since it is more traditional to marry in the bride’s hometown than the groom’s.
There is the potential that a much larger search will be necessary for John’s father’s birth record unless the marriage record can be found and it specifies in which of the 26 Republic of Ireland counties he was born.
John J. O’Reilly and his mother in the 1930 U.S. Census report. The detail shows where John was born, then his father’s place of birth, followed by his mother’s place of birth. The second line was the same information for John’s mother. Images courtesy http://ancestry.com.
If your Irish ancestor, or the child of that ancestor, is listed in the 1930 U.S. census, pay close attention to where they reported they and their parents were born. You might find a very helpful clue in that census report.
Tip 3: Look to Religion for Clues
While many people associate Roman Catholicism with Ireland, there are many Protestants living in Northern Ireland and fewer in the Republic of Ireland. Knowing your family’s historical religious preference can provide a small hint. If your family has always been Catholic it is likely they were Catholics in Ireland. However, as we have already noted, with almost all of the Republic of Ireland expressing a preference for Catholicism and about 45% of the citizens of Northern Ireland claiming allegiance to the Catholic faith, you can see a Catholic religious heritage is not particularly unique.
However, if your family history includes the Episcopal faith, or there is something that references “the Church of Ireland” in your family’s records, then your family was most likely Protestant when they lived in Ireland. You are also more likely to find your Protestant ancestors in Northern Ireland (with the understanding that there are Protestants throughout the Republic of Ireland).
If your family is or has been Presbyterian, there is a very strong likelihood your family is actually Scots-Irish with your ancestors immigrating to Ireland from Scotland, bringing their Scottish religion with them. You will find most of these ancestors in Northern Ireland.
Tip 4: Move on to Military Records
World War I (1914-1918) was particularly brutal to the Irish. More than 30,000 of the 200,000 men who enlisted were killed in this war. Songs such as “Gallipoli” and “The Foggy Dew” mourned the loss of so many young Irish men in foreign wars, especially since the 1922 Irish War of Independence followed closely on the heels of World War I.
If one of your Irish ancestors fought and died in World War I, you can find his name and more at the website Ireland’s Memorial Records. Many (but not all) of the memorials include the county in which the soldier was born, as seen below:
Memorial for John James of County Wexford. Courtesy Ireland’s Memorial Records.
Another website, Ireland’s World War I Veterans 1914-1918, has created a PDF list, updated every three months, which contains over 35,000 names of Irishmen who fought in World War I. If you know or suspect your Irish ancestor may have served in World War I and survived the experience, this is an excellent place to find a clue about his origins.
A sample of the list of those who served as created by Ireland’s World War I Veterans 1914-1918.
Although it can be difficult to find the correct place in Ireland for your family’s origins, there are some important clues, both historical and geographical, that can help you pinpoint a place to begin your search in Ireland.
Trace Your Irish Ancestors: In Conclusion
The 1930 U.S. census can provide an important clue to trace your Irish ancestors, as can your family’s religious heritage. If an Irish ancestor served in World War I, you may be able to determine the county in which he was born. A knowledge of the differences between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well as their location and the counties within those two countries, can help you contact the proper vital records office for those all-important vital records. So, go n-éirí leat! Good luck!
The team of expert genealogists at Legacy Tree Genealogists can help bust through your brick walls. They do the research and you enjoy the discoveries!
We are bringing you Irish historical photographs from Dublin this month in celebration of Irish heritage. Search these amazing photos of your ancestral homeland. Also this week, directories from Scotland, church records of the United Kingdom, and censuses for Canada and New York State.
Ireland – Dublin – Irish Historical Photographs
The Dublin [Ireland] City Council has launched an online archive of over 43,000 Irish historical photographs and documents to their website. These amazing photographs can be searched by archive, date, or location for free. They show images of events like the Eucharistic Congress and the North Strand Bombing. There are also images of football games, bus strikes, and old Dublin streets.
These Irish historical photographs includes pictures of old documents and objects, too, with the oldest document dated to 1757!
You’ll love these two quick-guides by Donna Moughty on Irish genealogy. Guide #1 titled Preparing for Success in Irish Records Research will help you determine a birth place, differentiate between persons with the same name, and walk you through identifying helpful US records.
Guide #2 titled Irish Civil Registration and Church Records, will guide you through locating Protestant church records, civil registrations, and more. It will also walk you step-by-step through using the new online Civil Registration records.
Scotland Post Office Directories contains over 382,000 records and allows you to explore thousands of pages of directories to learn more about the life and work of your Scottish ancestors. This Findmypast collection focuses on a particular town or district although a number of national postal directories are also included. The majority comprise a description of the place along with lists of people by occupation. For example, you will find lists of magistrates, councilors, sheriffs, police officers, and merchants.
The records are do not contain transcripts, but do include a digital image. The detail you will find on each page will depend on the type and date of the directory.
In conjunction with these post office directories, there are some that are browse-image only. They have not been indexed at this time. These 598 volumes of the Scotland Post Office Directories Image Browse are an excellent source for family history and those who need to trace their ancestors on a yearly basis.
Canada – 1842 Census
The Lower Canada Census 1842 at Findmypast contains over 46,000 records. The Province of Lower Canada was a British colony on the lower Saint Lawrence River and the shores of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence between 1791 and 1841. It covered the southern portion of the modern-day Province of Quebec and the Labrador region of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Each search result will include an image of the original document and a transcript. The original returns were printed in French and English and transcripts may include occupation, language, residence, and the number of inhabitants at their dwelling. Images can provide detailed information about the local area such as number of inhabited and uninhabited buildings, the number of barley mills, tanneries, distilleries, the price of wheat since last harvest, and the price of agricultural labor per day.
United Kingdom – London – Russian Orthodox Church Records
Findmypast has added records to their collection titled Britain, Russian Orthodox Church in London. Over 13,000 records taken from volumes of birth, marriage, and death records from the Russian Orthodox Church in London in exist is this collection. The records further include correspondences, congregational records, and church documents. The majority of the volumes are written in Russian although a limited number of English-language records are available.
The Russian Orthodox Church records are available as a browse set only at this time. You will need to search the records by the document description such as Births, marriages, deaths, converts, and passports, 1888-1919 or Donations to St Petersburg Guardianship for Poor Clergymen, 1863. Then, search within the digitized volume to find your ancestor.
You will find numerous correspondences with other church leaders in London, America, Russia, and Japan, as well as documents related to religious doctrine. The facts found in each volume will depend on the type of record you are viewing. Birth, marriage, and death records will typically include the individual’s name, event date, and place, while birth and marriage records may also include the names of the individual’s parents.
United Kingdom – War Records
New records have been added to the Findmypast collection of Anglo-Boer War Records 1899-1902. This unique database of more than 470 sources may reveal the unit your ancestor served with and any medals, honors, or awards they won. The register also contains a completely revised casualty list of 59,000 casualty records.
Each record contains a transcript and may include the following information:
Service number and rank,
Unit & regiment
Medals, honors or awards received
Memorials relating to death if applicable
United Kingdom – England – Births and Christenings
By Anton Laupheimer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Though this collection from FamilySearch has been available for awhile, they have recently added more records. The England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 now totals over 68 million records. There are some important tips and known problems with this database. Before searching, be sure to read the details at the FamilySearch Wiki, here. As an example: In birth or christening records, if a surname is not listed for the child, the indexer often assigns the father’s surname to the child. This surname may not be correct. So if you are looking for a birth or christening, search by the given name of the child, adding parents’ names and as much locality information as is permitted.
United States – New York – State Census
FamilySearch has added to the New York State Census of 1865 this week. State censuses are particularly helpful to researchers because they fill in the gap between federal censuses. Unfortunately, the following counties are missing:
The population schedule includes the name, age, birthplace, and occupation of each household member as most censuses do.
However, this census also includes two military schedules with information of officers and enlisted men currently in the military and men who had served in the military. This census contains information on when and where the individual first entered the military, rank, how long they were in the service, their present health, as well as several other items.
Additionally, the census contains tables on marriages and deaths occurring during the year ending June 1, 1865. These tables contain typical marriage and death information, but can be a helpful resource for those who have been unable to find these records in traditional locations.
Lastly, a second table entitled deaths of officers and enlisted mencontains deaths of individuals which had occurred while in the military or naval service of the United States, or from wounds or disease acquired in said service since April, 1861, reported by the families to which the deceased belonged when at home. It includes the name of the deceased, age at death, if married or single, if a citizen, several items relating to military information, date of death, place of death, manner of death, survivors of the deceased, place of burial and any remarks.
Ready to start tracing your Irish genealogy? Don’t get into a fog and loose your way. Beginning Irish genealogy is a snap when you follow these step-by-step tips from expert Donna Moughty.
At the recent RootsTech 2017 conference in Salt Lake City, I had the opportunity to sit down and film a conversation with Irish genealogy expert, Donna Moughty. We discussed some of the key elements of Irish research such as developing a research plan, tracking down the necessary information in U.S. records, and the dramatic way in which Irish genealogical records research has changed in the last few years. You can watch that video below:
But this wasn’t my first conversation with Donna. Last Spring, she was a guest on Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode #134. That podcast episode is available to Genealogy Gems Premium website members. But, in honor of all those celebrating their Irish roots this month, here are some tips from the episode.
Tips for Beginning Irish Genealogy from Donna Moughty
with Donna Moughty at RootsTech 2017
1. Start with yourself and work systematically back, making sure you’ve made all the right connections. Common Irish names can easily send you off on the wrong track.
2. It’s all about location in Ireland. Not just the county but name of parish, or if possible, the townland they came from. If that information exists, it’s likely to be in the country to which they immigrated.
3. If the information exists, it’s probably not in one location. You might find it in bits and pieces in a lot of records. All records are not online, especially Roman Catholic church records in the U.S. When requesting those, write to the parish, send money, and tell them you’re looking for the locality in Ireland. The parish secretary will fill out a form, which may not have room for the locale on the form so you may not get that information unless you ask for it.
4. Scour the documents! Some Catholic priests would not marry a couple without proof of baptism, so there may be information in the marriage buy medication for gonorrhea record about the location of the parish of baptism.
5. Research everyone in the family including parents, siblings, and children. If that doesn’t pan out, start all over again with the witnesses and the sponsors from the baptismal records. Who are they? Where are they from? They were likely a family member or close friend who came from the same area in Ireland.
6. Many of us had Irish immigrants who came during the famine era or after (1840s-). They used chain migration. One relative came and worked and earned the money to bring someone else. The later the person arrived, the more information we’re likely to find on that individual. Watch later censuses for someone living in the household who was born in Ireland, maybe a cousin or niece, because they likely came from the same place. If they came after 1892, we’ll find a lot more information in the passenger list, including the place they were born, and if they naturalized after 1906, we’ll have all the information we need.
7. Once you get back to Ireland and if you know the maiden and married surnames of a couple, look in Irish records to see where those two surnames show up in the same geographic location. This overlapping of names is a good indicator that you are researching in the right place. You can research surnames using Griffith’s Valuation 1847-1864, which is an Irish tax list (search it here on Ancestry.com). The majority of the people who were occupiers of land (tenants on someone’s estate) are named here.
Bust your Irish genealogy brick walls
Genealogists with Irish roots face a number of research obstacles that only seem to produce more questions. The fire at Four Courts in 1922, as well as the government’s destruction of early census records, has left a major void for Irish family historians. Contrary to popular belief, however, not all records were destroyed. Although difficult, tracing your ancestry in Ireland is not impossible. In this hour-long webinar, Irish genealogy expert Donna Moughty will answer the most common questions faced by researchers conducting Irish research. Click here to order the instant video download now!
The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 189 is published, with an exclusive interview with stars of Relative Race and more.
The newest episode of the Genealogy Gems Podcast is published and ready for your listening pleasure! Two stars of the new BYUtv show Relative Race join host Lisa Louise Cooke to talk about their experiences criss-crossing the U.S. to meet their AncestryDNA matches.
Here are some more highlights from Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 189:
Irish research tips–and tons of new Irish records online–in honor of St. Patrick’s Day this month;
3 reasons to test your DNA for genealogy, from Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard;
an excerpt from the new Genealogy Gems Book Club interview;
emails from several listeners offering inspiration and tips;
and news from the genealogy world, including databases on runaway slaves (in the U.S. and Britain) and an updated MyHeritage search technology.
I’m a fan of “genealogy TV,” and it’s fun to hear behind-the-scenes feedback from stars of Relative Race. This show’s approach–connecting everyday couples with genetic matches–puts faces to our DNA matches in a fresh and personal way. I’m not hoping to camp on my genetic matches’ lawns anytime soon, but I do sometimes wish I could knock on the doors of some (“please respond!”). Another favorite take-away from this episode was a tip from Matt in Missouri, who wrote in with a creative approach for connecting with relatives through Find A Grave.
Remember, this and all episodes of the Genealogy Gems podcast are FREE to listen to. Click here for FAQ on podcasts and how to listen on your computer or via your favorite mobile device. Click here for a list of past episodes you may have missed. Why not “binge out” a little and catch up during your next commute, workout or down time?