Researching in Ireland

With thanks to the unknown author of the IGSI handout from the Irish Fair in St Paul, here are tips for “Discovering Your Irish Family History” through research in Ireland:

  1. Irish research is difficult but very rewarding. Wars, neglect, and religious conflicts have taken their toll on the records. However, it provides a great excuse for a trip to Ireland.

  2. Read (and consider purchasing) one or both of the following books before your trip: 1) Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham and 2) Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors by William Roulston.

  3. There are three principal repositories for family history records in Ireland: a. Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) – Located in Belfast, the staff is very helpful. It is a wonderful facility. The emphasis is on records having to do with Ulster (Counties Donegal, Tyrone, Armagh, Down, Antrim, Londonderry and Fermanagh); b. National Library of Ireland (NLI) – Located in Dublin, it contains records for all of Ireland. This beautiful, historic building has a seemingly endless supply of information. You have to know what it is you are looking for, but they have helpful staff to point you in the right direction; c. Ulster American Folk Park – Located in Omagh, this excellent museum tells the story of emigration from Ulster to American in the 18th and 19th centuries. It al houses the Mellon Center for Migration Studies.

  4. Refer to Matheson’s Special Report on Distribution of Surnames in Ireland (1890). Found online, this source is an excellent way to find out where your surname was distributed I 1890. Your direct ancestors may have come to America before 1890, but it is unlikely that the entire family came all together. Some family members may have remained.

  5. If your ancestors came from Ulster, consider a membership in the Ulster Historical Foundation. They have a very helpful website and database, access to useful books at reduced prices, and excellent periodical publications.

  6. Be systematic! Make lists of what you want to look at. Get call numbers for PRONI an NLI online, in advance. It will save you lots of time. Once you have looked at a source, check it off your list.


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