Findmypast is working in partnership with IrishCentral to share fascinating insights into your Irish ancestors. Click here to get a special half price subscription, and discover your Irish roots today.

Findmypast has the biggest collection of Irish history records online. With over 90 million records (and counting!), ranging from court registers to historic newspapers and parish records – plus the indispensable Griffiths Valuation, it should be your one-stop-shop for discovering your Irish family history.

Of course, Ireland has many well-known sons and daughters, lots of whom have travelled far beyond the Emerald Isle in pursuit of their fortunes. Our records reveal the Irish forebears of some of the most famous and infamous international icons, both past and present, and how one of the greatest tragedies in Irish history had a surprising impact on their fates.

Ned Kelly and the pig thief

One of the most infamous expats in Irish history, Ned Kelly remains a controversial and hotly-debated outlaw long after his execution in 1880. Was he a bushranging, cop-killing murderer, or a larrikin legend taking a stand?

The Victorian Prison Registers 1871-1960 on Findmypast provide a fascinating glimpse into the criminal career of this iconic outlaw, and include both his first mugshot and the final one taken before his hanging.

While Ned’s bushranging exploits and the home-made suit of armour he sported remain notorious, this iconic Aussie’s Irish roots aren’t quite as well-known. Yet, as Findmypast records prove, his father John Kelly, known as ‘Red’, was an Irishman from County Tipperary.

At the age of 22, Red was transported to Van Diemen’s Land for the crime of pig stealing. As Findmypast’s New South Wales and Tasmania: Settlers and Convicts 1787-1859 records show Red arrived in 1842 aboard the Prince Regent to serve his seven-year sentence.

Coincidentally, Red was transported to Van Diemen’s Land just years before a watershed moment of Irish history would propel tens of thousands of his fellow Irishmen to emigration all over the world, including to his new home in the colonies.

An Gorta Mór, or the Great Famine, was a horrific famine caused by potato blight. Between 1845 and 1852, this famine decimated the country’s population by roughly 1 million – or a quarter in total.

Though the Irish people were no strangers to large-scale poverty and suffering, this was a particularly harrowing time. Even decades before the famine struck, in 1824, the poverty was dire enough for the Irish Reproductive Loan Fund to be established, aiming to provide small loans to the poor across western Ireland.

Their stories of misery, of destitution and survival, are documented in the Ireland Poverty Relief Loans 1821-1874, on Findmypast. As it happens, Red’s father makes an appearance in Findmypast’s Griffith’s Valuation records in 1850, suggesting that perhaps he was one of the lucky few to make it through the famine, despite having lived in poverty.

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