Tracing your ancestors: Beginning your family history
Where do I start?
Tracing ancestors in Ireland has never been easier.
- The first sources to consult are the family elders.
- Then check the family papers:
- Armed with the basic information from these, one can go
online, and go back through the generations using the various free
websites made available by the authorities in recent years.
- census returns;
- birth, marriage and death records;
- church records;
- land records; etc.
- The latest state-of-the-art tool for identifying
long-lost cousins and shared ancestors is DNA comparison, now available
for as little as USD49.
- The family folklore is re-told in many Irish families at
Christmas time. This talk will help you to ask the right
questions and take the right notes whenever your extended family gets
- Soon you will be well on your way to recording the
histories of all 16 of your greatgreatgrandparents and beyond in your favourite
- Remember Larry Brennan's mantra when establishing the Clare
Genealogy is about names, dates and places.
These are the bones; family history is the flesh on those bones.
- For most genealogical events, there are up to four
different associated places:
- the place where the event happened;
- the place where the event was originally recorded;
- the place where the original record is stored
- the place(s) or website(s) where a manual, photographic
or digital copy (or copies) of the record can be
- In rural areas of Ireland, we can typically identify the townland
in which the event happened.
- In urban areas, we can typically identify the street
address at which the event happened.
- The administrative division(s) in which the genealogical
event is or was recorded and stored
- the townland where the event actually happened;
- the nature of the event; and
- the general time period.
- Ireland has been partitioned many times for
many non-genealogical purposes, but the genealogist needs to become
familiar with some of these repartitionings.
- Depending on the record, there may be an all-Ireland index,
a 26-county index, county-by-county indexes, or indexes for
subdivisions of counties or areas crossing county boundaries.
- Unless a person's name is extremely rare, narrow down the
search by place before you begin.
- Once we know the townland, we generally need maps and/or
lookup tables to figure out where to look for the record; for a
summary, see this table.
- In your genealogy software, document the source of every
name, date and place that you find, whether it be a family source, a
local source or a national source.
Free online sources
The most basic source is Google,
which is great for more unusual names or combinations of names, but
Google, by accident or design, does not harvest many
The major free online sources for Irish ancestry include:
- Home page is rather out-of-date.
Current status reported at November 2017 lecture to Genealogical
Society of Ireland (see Ireland's Genealogical Gazette)
Birth records 1864-1916.
Marriage records 1870-1941 (Catholic marriages for 1864-1869 and
non-Catholic marriages for 1 Apr 1845-1869 to be added).
Data protection arguments relating to data on living persons are used
explain why more recent birth and marriage records are available
Death records 1878-1966 (1864-1877 to be added).
Data protection arguments relating to data on living persons are
explain why more recent records related to deceased persons are
Births over 100 years ago, marriages over 75 years ago and deaths over
50 years ago due to be added in annual increments.
Basic civil records search form
Advanced civil records search form
The one-size-fits-all search form can mislead beginners.
The birth index includes mother's maiden name only from Abt 1900-1916.
Sometimes the groom is Party 1 and the bride is Party 2, sometimes the numbering is reversed.
Search separately for Kelly, O'Kelly, O Kelly and OKelly to cover all angles.
Similarly for Mc Namara and McNamara.
- Church records for only about
four counties, mostly pre-1900.
- The results from the main search form
provide links to other free government-backed online databases.
- registers.nli.ie (Killaloe,
- Catholic parish registers up to Abt 1880.
Killaloe Catholic parish "Contains the old cathedral parish of Killaloe
with the addition of the old parish of O'Briensbridge save the detached
western portion of it (Truagh) now in Clonlara parish. The
Baptismal Register commences 24 May 1828. The Marriage
commences 26 February 1829. No gaps are noted."
confirms that all Killaloe records up to 1880 were microfilmed and are
and that the commercial Clare Heritage and Genealogical Centre
indexed the originals up to 1900 (not available to researchers).
The National Library of Ireland microfilms are transcribed (badly!) on
other commercial websites.
- First edition 6"/mile OSi maps, later 25"/mile maps, live
street maps, five-yearly aerial views
- Example: where are we?
in the townland
of Shantraud ...
- ... in Killaloe civil parish in the barony of Tulla Lower
in the county of Clare in the province of Munster.
Not to be confused with Shantraud in Adare civil parish in
the barony of Kenry in the county of Limerick.
- In the 1911 census, the more rural part
of Shantraud was enumerated separately from the streets in Killaloe DED.
- We are in the Poor Law Union of Scariff
(sometimes spelt Scarriff) (both pre- and
Part of the pre-Famine Scariff PLU became part of the post-Famine Tulla
PLU from 1852.
From 18 Apr 1899, the county boundary was moved to bring
part of Scariff PLU from Galway into Clare.
Tulla and Scariff PLUs were amalgamated again in 1907.
- Julius Caesar: Divide
and conquer - divide et impera
--- Irish Civil Registration Indexes 1845-1958
- Includes more recent births and marriages than the official
See sample page
from original index (1866)
- Registration districts in this index are:
- The indexes don't include spouse or parents, apart
from the birth index from c1928-1958, which includes mother's maiden
surname only. To narrow the search, you can fill in one of (a) birth
date and/or place (b) marriage date and/or place or (c) death date
and/or place. Filling in fields which are blank in the record you want
will prevent you from finding it.
--- Ireland Births and Baptisms mostly 1864-1881
- Searchable by parents' names, unlike the official website.
- To narrow the search, you can fill in both parents' first
and/or last names and/or birth date and/or place. The appropriate
placename to use varies from year to year and from record to record.
Try townland or dispensary district or Poor Law Union or county.
--- Ireland Marriages mostly 1845-1870
- These years are not yet on the official website.
page from marriage register
- To narrow the search, you can fill in spouse's and/or
father's first and/or last names and/or marriage date and/or place.
Irish marriage certificates did not until relatively recently include
the name of either the groom's mother or the bride's mother.
--- Ireland Deaths mostly 1864-1870
- These years are not yet on the official website.
- See sample
- To narrow the search, you can fill in death date and/or
death place and/or residence place. Irish death certificates did not
include the name of any relative until c2004, unless the informant
happened to be a relative, and even then the relationship may not have
been specified. The appropriate placename to use is generally the
- Full familysearch.org
- In some non-Irish records the familysearch.org
transcriptions may include father's first name, mother's first name and
mother's last name, but not father's last name! See, for example, many
entries in New
Jersey, Marriages, 1678-1985. You must leave the father's
last name blank if you want to find these records.
- Griffith's Valuation (askaboutireland Family
Name Search or Place
Name Search - free)
- Beware that Tipperary, Tipperary North Riding and Tipperary South Riding all appear on the drop down menu!
It is apparently not possible to hyperlink to specific map
locations - see discussion.
It is possible to link to the occupiers of a specific location using
the PlaceID, e.g. Ballina (PlaceID=1223328). Results are stupidly broken into pages of 20
occupiers at a time. To view Original Page or Map View, right click on
icon and select "Open Link in New Tab".
Try lining up the OSi maps, Griffith maps and Google Street View - details here.
- General Register Office, Werburgh Street, Dublin - for BMD
records not yet online
- Valuation Office - for revisions of Griffith's Valuation.
Free online sources
- IGP's County
Clare Ireland Genealogy group
and IGP's County Tipperary Ireland Genealogy
group at facebook.com
- 3,989 people tracing their Clare
roots and 2,061 people tracing their Tipperary
roots (as of 20 December 2017)
- Ireland Reaching Out
Where does our DNA come from?
- When a sperm fertilises an egg, each brings DNA, which is
replicated in every cell of the resulting person.
|22 paternal autosomes
|22 maternal autosomes
is short for autosomal chromosome.
Autosomal DNA comparison will find:
- Y chromosome
- Only males have a Y chromosome.
The Y chromosome comes down the patrilineal line - from father,
father's father, father's father's father, etc.
This is the same inheritance path as followed by surnames, grants of
arms, peerages, etc.
- X chromosome
- Males have one X chromosome, females have two.
X DNA may come through any ancestral line that does not contain two
Blaine Bettinger's nice colour-coded blank fan-style pedigree
charts show the
ancestors from whom men and women can potentially inherit
- Exactly 50% of autosomal DNA comes from the father and
exactly 50% comes from the mother.
Due to recombination, on
average 25% comes from each
grandparent, on average
12.5% comes from each greatgrandparent, and so
Siblings each inherit 50% of their parents'
autosomal DNA, but not the same 50% (except for identical twins).
Similarly, siblings each inherit 50% of their mother's X DNA, but not
the same 50% (except for identical twins).
Sisters each inherit 100% of their father's X DNA.
- Everyone has mitochondrial DNA.
- Mitochondrial DNA comes down the matrilineal line - from
mother, mother's mother, mother's mother's mother, etc.
The surname typically changes with every generation in this line.
- all those closer than third cousins in the DNA database;
- about half of all fourth cousins in the database;
- about 10% of all fifth cousins in the database;
- small proportions of the very many more distant relatives in the database.
The Autosomal DNA and Genetic Genealogy Websites
To find your long lost cousins, link your DNA
match list and
your pedigree chart
and share them on the three major autosomal DNA comparison websites: