15 invaluable resources that will help you get started tracing your Irish roots online and bring the ancestral journey full circle on a trip to Ireland.
For many of the 33 million Americans of Irish descent and the over 35 million more around the world who claim Irish heritage, the ultimate dream is to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors on the very land from which they came. It’s a feeling of connectedness that echoes across the decades or the centuries, a sense of returning home, even if you’ve never been there before.
Knowing where to start can be the hardest part of the journey, but thankfully the number of resources available to those tracing their Irish roots has vastly expanded in recent years. The following 6 resources will aid you in exploring your Irish genealogy from the comfort of your own home, whether you’re just getting started or filling in the roots on your family tree. Some also offer chances to continue the search in person at their headquarters in Ireland.
Just beginning your Irish ancestry search? This award-winning government-run website is a wonderful place to start. IrishGenealogy.ie offers tips for getting started and navigating the world of records. It also brings together civil and church records in one simple – and, most importantly, free – online database.
Beyond records, charts, and DNA, genealogy is about a sense of connection. No other organization builds upon this quite like Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO), which, among many other initiatives, helps people to connect with the current-day residents of the community from which their ancestors hailed.
In many touching cases, they’ve even helped connect people of Irish descent around the world with living relatives from the branches of their family tree that never left Ireland. Get tips from their online community or connect in-person with a local guide in your area of interest. The connections will astound you.
Interested in your Scots-Irish or Ulster roots? The Ulster Historical Foundation is the place for you. This charity has been helping people discover their ancestors for over 50 years and offers a comprehensive collection of over 200 types of records.
Can’t go in person? They have an online database and video tutorials. At the foundation, located in Belfast, they also host conferences and classes year-round and offer personalized consultation services, whether you need help tracking down a certain document or want an in-depth report on your family tree.
Looking for a little support or encouragement in your genealogy search? This is the online community for you! The Ireland Family History Facebook page is over 380,000 strong and provides an enthusiastic network for asking questions, troubleshooting, sharing discoveries, and comparing notes. They also host expert Q+As and provide tips on even more places to continue your hunt – both online and on the island of Ireland.
Did one of your ancestors serve in the Irish military from the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922 on? Or did they receive a medal or a pension for service in the Easter Rising or War of Independence? Then Ireland’s Military Archives is the place to learn more.
A wealth of the archives is hosted and searchable online, or you can make an appointment to visit the Reading Room at the Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines Tuesday through Thursday.
6) County Genealogy Centers
Have you narrowed down your search to a specific county, town, or parish? Firstly, congratulations! Secondly, a county genealogy center should be your next step. The Roots Ireland website allows you to search by county through millions of Irish birth, death, marriage, and census records, and thousands of gravestone inscriptions, Irish ship passenger lists, and more.
Interested in furthering your genealogy search in person in Ireland? The following 9 resources and attractions can help you complete the journey or gain a full appreciation of the scope of Ireland’s diaspora.
The National Archives of Ireland, located in the heart of Dublin City, is home to a comprehensive records collection of Irish life, including birth, death, and marriage certificates, census records, Griffith’s valuation, and transportation records to name just a few.
While many of their records are accessible online, an in-person visit is worth it to avail of their in-house genealogy consultation service, which offers a free, short personal consultation service by professional genealogists to those researching their family tree. This service is available from Monday to Friday, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm.
All civil Irish records past and present such as birth, death, partnership, marriage and adoption, are maintained by the General Register Office. While their official headquarters are in Roscommon, the GRO has a Research Room in Dublin that welcomes visitors and is a heaven for those exploring their Irish ancestry. A visit to the research room offers the chance to delve into the records books themselves, and photocopies of the records can be made for a small fee.
In addition to being one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful interiors in all of Dublin, the National Library is a vital resource for anyone on the genealogy trail. Need a little help getting started or zeroing in on an ancestor? The NIL offers walk-in hours Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays from June to September, in addition to talks and genealogy workshops year-round.
Haven’t had much luck with census records? The NIL collection includes Catholic parish registers you can review on microfilm as an additional mode of finding your ancestors.
This is where you’ll find the public records of Northern Ireland, including court records, church records, and estate records from the 1600s through today. PRONI also holds business records, tithe appointment books, and school records.
PRONI is conveniently located in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter and is open Monday through Friday except for public holidays, with evening hours until 8:45 pm on Thursdays in January through to November. No appointment is necessary, but you do need to register for a visitor pass in advance. The simple form can be emailed or mailed by post.
At GRONI, you will find all civil records – birth, death, adoption, marriage, and civil partnership – in Northern Ireland. You can search through them online, but for the full experience pay a visit to the GRONI Public Search Room in Belfast.
It is necessary to register in advance. Once there, a staff member will explain the rules of the Public Search Room and lead you to your dedicated work station for the day. Blessedly, the search room is an official quiet room, so concentrating on your search won’t be any problem. Research staff is on hand should any questions arise.
Glasnevin, Dublin’s most famous cemetery, is the final resting place of 1.5 million people, including some of the biggest figures from Irish history, like Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, Brendan Behan, and Maude Gonne.
The award-winning museum tells the story of Glasnevin and its 1.5 million inhabitants, and its Genealogical Research Center is a valuable resource. Thanks to the Glasnevin Trust, it holds meticulously kept records dating back to 1828.
EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, located under Dublin’s Docklands, tells the story of the 10 million journeys that resulted in the 70 million worldwide who claim Irish descent, commemorating and celebrating the story of Irish emigration.
Organized into the themes of migration, motivation, influence and connection, the exhibition is spread throughout 20 immersive galleries telling the stories of Irish communities overseas – past, present and future. Visitors learn the stories of Irish immigrants and descendants both famous (Barack Obama, Michael Flatley) and lesser known or recognized as Irish (Billy the Kid, Dr. James Barry). You’ll be brimming with pride!
Founded in 1936, the volunteer-run Irish Genealogical Research Society initially convened to attempt to recover the records lost in Dublin’s 1922 Great Fire, which destroyed the Public Records Office. They’ve been expanding their library and collections ever since, and today the society boasts one of the most comprehensive and unique Irish genealogy collections in the world.
Their main collection is located at their branch in London and the society also has a Dublin location.
If your family tree includes Presbyterian branches, this is the resource for you. From lists or Presbyterian ministers dating back to the 1700s to more recent birth, death, and marriage certificates within the Presbyterian church, this is a unique collection.
The society offers consultations and research assistance for a fee. They began the process of moving locations within Belfast in May 2018 and will be open to visitors again when the move is complete.
Are there any other Irish genealogy resources or attractions you found helpful in your search? Tell us in the comment section or on Facebook.
This post is proudly produced in partnership with Tourism Ireland. Learn more on Ireland.com