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Tracing Your Irish Ancestors

You can pursue your search yourself or engage a professional to do it for you. In either case, there is basic information that it is essential that you be able to provide.

A comprehensive reference is Tracing your Ancestors in Ireland, a brochure published jointly by Bord Failte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Among other publications that might be helpful are John Grenham's Tracing your Irish Roots and James G. Ryan's Irish Records.

Tracing your Ancestors in Ireland includes information on bodies that will help your personal search, including the National Library of Ireland (, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) (, registers/libraries of various church bodies and the umbrella organisation for professional genealogical research services in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Irish Genealogy Ltd (

Irish Genealogy Ltd's board is comprised of representatives from various national institutions and bodies such as the Irish Family History Foundation (IFHF), the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) and the Association of Ulster Genealogists and Record Agents (AUGRA). IFHF members are local genealogy research centres (found in virtually every county on the island), whose services are available for a fee.

Among other Web site references that may be helpful are the General Register Office and the Linen Hall Library The may also be helpful.

The basic information you need for successful research about an ancestor who emigrated from Ireland would include: full name; approximate birth date; county and parish of origin in Ireland; religious denomination; occupation (farmer, tradesman, etc.) and background (wealthy, poor), date of emigration from Ireland, names of ancestor’s parents; and name of ancestor’s spouse and date and place of marriage.

Family sources of information include birth, marriage, death and other local church and government certificates and records; old letters, diaries and family bibles; military service records; emigrant ship lists; newspapers – and the early memories of the oldest members of your family.

While some records have been lost in the various upheavals of Irish history, the main sources of genealogical information Ireland and Northern Ireland are: civil records of birth, marriage and death; church records of baptism and marriage; land/property valuation records; and census returns. Other sources generally found to produce more limited results include land deeds and wills.

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