Tracing your ancestors: Beginning your family history

Killaloe-Ballina Local History Society

7:00pm Wednesday 20 December 2017

Killaloe Public Library

by Paddy Waldron

WWW version:

YouTube version:



  • Where do I start?
  • Principles
  • National sources
  • Local sources
  • DNA sources
  • Where do I start?

    Tracing ancestors in Ireland has never been easier.


    National sources

    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 genealogy sites.

    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    Home page is rather out-of-date.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 to explain why more recent birth and marriage records are available offline only.
    Death records 1878-1966 (1864-1877 to be added).
    Data protection arguments relating to data on living persons are also used to explain why more recent records related to deceased persons are available offline only.
    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.
    Alternative search form.
    The results from the main search form provide links to other free government-backed online databases. (Killaloe, Ballina)
    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 Register commences 26 February 1829.  No gaps are noted."
    John Grenham confirms that all Killaloe records up to 1880 were microfilmed and are online and that the commercial Clare Heritage and Genealogical Centre has 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?
    Here 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 post-Famine).
    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 website.
    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.
    See sample birth record
    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.
    See sample 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 death record
    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 townland.
    Full search
    In some non-Irish records the 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.

    Offline sources

    Local sources

    Free online sources

    IGP's County Clare Ireland Genealogy group and IGP's County Tipperary Ireland Genealogy group at
    3,989 people tracing their Clare roots and 2,061 people tracing their Tipperary roots (as of 20 December 2017) 
    Ireland Reaching Out

    Offline sources

    DNA sources

    Where does our DNA come from?

    male offspring female offspring
    sperm Y chromosome X chromosome
    22 paternal autosomes
    egg X chromosome
    22 maternal autosomes

    Inheritance paths

    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 consecutive males.
    Blaine Bettinger's nice colour-coded blank fan-style pedigree charts show the ancestors from whom men and women can potentially inherit X-DNA.
    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 on.
    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.
    Autosomal DNA comparison will find:

    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: