How to Trace Your Irish Ancestry

At the outset I wish to state that much of the information contained in the first portion of this post is adapted from informatin frm

Full credits and references are at the end of the post.

You are ready to commence with your Irish genealogical research project, but you also need to ask yourself, “What exactly do I want to know? What exactly do I need to know? What exactly do I have with me to help?”

You will probably want to know more than just dates, names and places, such as personality characteristics, professions, and much, much more. Through documents such as birth certificates and marriage licenses, you can piece by piece put together an image of what your ancestor’s life and personality was like. When conducting research we need to be mindful of the fact that our ancestors, like us, were human and had human faults. While you may find out some things that you would rather not have had knowledge of, no doubt those aspects of which you will be proud will far outweight the negative.

The most important step is how to go about conducting this research. And that is what this Irish genealogy guide will explain to you. This Irish genealogy guide will set you on the right path to finding your Irish ancestors. It probably isn’t the only resource that you will need, but it will definitely get you headed in the right direction. It will explain where to begin your search, how to search, what you need to search for, how to analyze what you’ve found, and how to record what you’ve found so future generations can easily access your material.


Start with Yourself
Search within your Family
Search Internet Archives
Share it with everyone!

Where to Begin

Our search begins with oneself. Genealogy research is about self-discovery. It’s about why you are “you”. So of course the best place to start is with you. Have you ever really looked at your birth certificate? Well pull it out and have a look. There is a wealth of information on this document:

* Your full name at birth
* Your sex and whether or not you were part of a multiple birth (e.g. Twins)
* Date of birth
* Place of birth
* Residence of your mother
* Mother’s full maiden name
* Her age and race
* Her place of birth
* Number of her previous children
* Number of her living children
* Father’s full name
* His age and race
* His place of birth
* His occupation
* Kind of business he worked in
* Name of the informant
* Physician’s name (or midwife)
* Name of hospital
* Date of registration
* Certification that all information is correct

Here’s a list of other records that you should compile about yourself:

* School records
* Baptismal records
* First communion records
* Confirmation records
* Marriage licenses
* Health records
* Social security card

In addition to these official documents why don’t you pull out those old photo albums and scrapbooks? They should tell you a lot about yourself, and most likely you will remember things about your childhood that you had forgotten.

Now compile all of your records together. It would be a great idea for you to keep a journal. Even better would be to write an autobiography! An autobiography may be a daunting task, but at least keep a journal and record notes and anecdotes that come to mind during your search. Remember, your search for your ancestors is a journey of self-discovery. Its not just about finding out who your ancestors were, it’s also about finding out who you are!

The Next Step

You started with yourself, now its time to expand your search and find information about your family members. The next step is to search your home and immediate family for information.

Family stories are perhaps the greatest resource around. Every family has certain legends and stories that are told over and over again. The key word here is “told”, as in verbally. Why not write these stories down? With each verbal telling, a story seems to get somewhat distorted. Remember that game you played when you were a kid and you started off with a phrase. Everyone sat in a circle and whispered the phrase into the next person’s ear. Eventually it got back to the first person, and when the phrase was repeated it was COMPLETELY different that the original phrase? Well the same holds true for verbal stories in a family. With each generation and telling, the story gets more distorted. The important thing here would be to ask every family member to repeat the story. Especially seek out your older relatives and ask for their version of the story. Then you, the unbiased third party, would record the story, and all of its different versions. That way it gets written and documented for your family’s future generations.

Family cemeteries are another great Irish genealogy resource. Many families have a certain day or time of year that they designate for cleaning up the family graves. Other families just visit whenever they are in the area. Depending on the location of the cemetery, there may or may not be ample research material. Newer graves would of course be in better condition, and they would have dates of birth and death that you could easily see. Also, most spouses are buried beside each other, so that makes things easier also. Make sure you look around in the areas right near your family graves, because other branches of the family are often nearby. Most Irish cemeteries are beside a parish church. If this is the case, then you should be able to talk to the parish priest and obtain more research material, such as:

* Birth Certificates
* Baptismal Certificates
* First Communion Certificates
* Confirmation Certificates
* Marriage Records
* Death Records

Old family papers are another great genealogy resource. Take a trip up to the attic in your house, or in your aunt’s house, or your grandparent’s house. You may be surprised at what you find! Another place to look for these documents is the old family Bible. Look for these items in particular:

* Income Tax Returns
* Bank Statements
* Insurance Policies
* Voter Registrations
* Military Papers
* Deeds and Mortgage Papers
* Photo Albums
* Journals
* Scrapbooks

Some special things to note here are that when looking at old photo albums, look on the back of pictures. Many say the date and who is in the picture. You may find long lost great aunts or uncles. And their descendents – your relatives – would love to see those pictures, I am sure.

When you run out of “living” resources is the time at whoch you have to analyze and document what you have found so you know where you are in your study. The free pedigree software program is quite possibly the most valuable resource in this package. It is windows based, so it is very easy to navigate. You can enter almost every kind of information you want (dates of birth, marriage, death, etc%u2026) about each person in your family history. Also, you can write unlimited notes about each one. This would be a great place to document your family stories and legends. Take a lot of time to do this because remember, you are documenting information not only for yourself and your living relatives, but also for future generations. Therefore it is a good idea to do a very thorough job now, so as to make their job easier!

The Next Step

Now that you have documented your family history from as much information from living family sources, now you must broaden your search to libraries, Internet sources, and archives. Another good thing to do that goes hand in hand with this broadened search is to contact distant cousins who may be working on other branches of your family. That way you can share ideas and information, and hopefully make both of your jobs easier.

The old way to do genealogy research was to go to your local library, or a library where your family used to live, make friends with your librarian, and begin to tackle the daunting task of searching census records, periodicals, and journals. But with the Internet, genealogy research is made much, much easier. At your fingertips you have access to databases of information that in past times, you would have had a much more difficuult time of gaining access to!! The Internet is perfect for this type of research.

Credits & Sources:

The Irish diaspora consists of Irish emigrants and their descendants in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and states of the Caribbean and continental Europe


The diaspora, maximally interpreted, contains over 80 million people, which is over fourteen times the population of the island of Ireland itself (6.11 million in 2007).

The term Irish diaspora is open to many interpretations. One, preferred by the government of Ireland, is defined in legal terms: the Irish diaspora are those of Irish nationality who habitually reside outside of the island of Ireland. This includes Irish citizens who have emigrated abroad and their children, who are Irish citizens by descent under Irish law. It also includes their grandchildren in cases where they were registered as Irish citizens in the Foreign Births Register held in every Irish diplomatic mission. (Great-grandchildren and even more distant descendants of Irish emigrants may also register as Irish citizens, but only if the parent through whom they claim descent was registered before the younger descendant was born.) Under this legal definition, the Irish diaspora is considerably smaller than popular belief – some 3 million persons, of whom 1.2 million are Irish-born emigrants. This is still an extraordinarily large ratio for any nation.

However, the Irish diaspora is generally not limited by citizenship status, leading to an estimated (and fluctuating) membership of 80 million persons – the second and more emotive definition. The Irish Government acknowledged this interpretation – although it did not acknowledge any legal obligations to it – when Article 2 of Bunreacht na hÉireann (Constitution of Ireland) was amended in 1998 to read “[f]urthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.” The Irish government recognises all people with a heritage on the island of Ireland.

It should be noted, however, that the right to register as an Irish citizen terminates at the third generation (except as noted above). This contrasts with citizenship law in Italy, Israel, Japan and other countries which make no legal reference to cherishing special affinities with their diasporas but which nonetheless permit legal avenues through which members of the diaspora can register as citizens.

Credits & Sources:

More fantastic Resources:

The Family History Library ( of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City is a good place to start; there are three Family History Center branches near St. Paul and Minneapolis and more than two dozen around Minnesota.

You can find much of the information in John Grenham’s book, “Tracing Your Irish Ancestors,” online at Check (search: tracing Irish heritage) for an overview of the major records repositories in Ireland, as well as travel-planning assistance.

The Irish Family History Foundation is indexing birth and marriage records at A fee is charged if you find a record you want to view.

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland ( has good general information, including several resource guides for genealogists that are now online.

Browse the World’s Largest List of Surnames

Search the World’s Largest Pedigree-linked Database at

4 Responses to “How to Trace Your Irish Ancestry”

  1. […] How to Trace Your Irish Ancestry « Donnette E Davis Official Blog […]

  2. […] donnette added an interesting post on How to Trace Your Irish Ancestry « Donnette E Davis Official BlogHere’s a small excerptHow to Trace Your Irish Ancestry. At the outset I wish to state that much of the information contained in the first portion of this post is adapted from informatin frm … […]

  3. […] donnette added an interesting post today on How to Trace Your Irish Ancestry « Donnette E Davis Official BlogHere’s a small readingHow to Trace Your Irish Ancestry. At the outset I wish to state that much of the information contained in the first portion of this post is adapted from informatin frm … […]

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