Not only is Cork Ireland’s largest county, but one of the most populous as well. Millions of people emigrated from Cork to the USA over the centuries, almost entirely via the port of Queenstown (now Cobh). This busy harbour was the main port for transatlantic passengers throughout the nineteenth century. A great place to start searching for your relatives boarding a ship in Queenstown is the passenger lists on Findmypast. Families would make their way to Cobh from all over the southern half of Ireland to get the ship that they hoped would transform their lives in the new world. And this leads to my first tip.

  1. When migrants arrived in US ports, immigration officials would be required to ask “where are you from”. Now many, and sometimes most, of the Irish immigrants would have been Irish speakers. The Irish language is very literal, so this question would be understood as “where have you just come from now”, to which they would answer Cork, or more particularly Queenstown. So just because Ellis Island or Castle Garden records for New York, or even a ship’s passenger list, state that a person is from Cork. They might just have travelled from there.

  2. My second tip for Cork, is that it’s very large. There are hundreds of civil parishes, and over 100 functioning Roman Catholic parishes. So finding the right place of origin is not going to be easy, even if you know the county. Thankfully a lot of work has been done to index and publish these registers. The Irish government’s free web site provides access to detailed transcripts linked to scanned images for most of the Diocese of Cork & Ross, which covers the south-west of the county and Cork city. But, a word of warning, there are several parish registers which are only available locally, like Glounthane. Moreover, given the high proportion of non RCs in Cork, very few Church of Ireland or other denominational registers have been indexed.

  3. My third tip for Cork is applicable to all research in Ireland. Once you find the county of your ancestor’s origins, you should always go and see what the county library has put online. Most Irish county libraries have been engaged in some digitisation of historic records, and some have done a lot, like Cork. The Cork libraries have their own website, with access to lots of useful information for research.

You can start exploring over 5 million Cork family history records right now on Findmypast.

For more stories on tracing your Irish heritage from Findmypast click here.

* Originally published in October 2014.