A guide to tracing your Clare ancestors using oral, documentary and genetic evidence

Shannon Archaeological and Historical Society

8:00pm Wednesday 17 January 2018

Oakwood Arms Hotel, Shannon

by Paddy Waldron

WWW version:


YouTube version:



Oral Evidence

Documentary Evidence

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:

Can be used to overcome the gaps in the official online versions of civil records
Free registration now required
FamilySearch.org --- 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.
FamilySearch.org --- 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.
FamilySearch.org --- 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.
FamilySearch.org --- 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 worldwide familysearch.org search
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.
Catholic parish registers up to Abt 1880.
Newmarket-on-Fergus stops in 1865 (marriages) or 1866 (baptisms).
John Grenham lists other registers (e.g. Kilkee, Ennistymon) which were missed when registers up to 1880 were microfilmed.
The professional and charitable Clare Heritage and Genealogical Centre has indexed the original registers up to 1900.
These indexes are usually available to researchers only in the relevant parish offices.
Similar companies in most other counties now make their indexes available to subscribers at ROOTSIRELAND.ie
The National Library of Ireland microfilms are also 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 Smithstown ...
... in Drumline civil parish in the barony of Bunratty Lower in the county of Clare in the province of Munster.
Not to be confused with Smithstown in Kilshanny civil parish in the barony of Corcomroe and many other Smithstowns around the country.
In the 1911 census, this Smithstown was in Clenagh DED and the Kilshanny Smithstown gave its name to its own DED.
We are in the Poor Law Union of Ennis (both pre- and post-Famine).
Julius Caesar: Divide and conquer - divide et impera
Griffith's Valuation (askaboutireland Family Name Search or Place Name Search - free)
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".
Some people evaded Griffith's publication by moving at inappropriate times.
Try lining up the OSi maps, Griffith maps and Google Street View - details here.

Offline sources

The most important repositories for records not yet available online are:

Genetic Evidence

The latest state-of-the-art tool for identifying long-lost cousins and shared ancestors is DNA comparison, now available for as little as USD69 (approximately EUR57).
The latest DNA-based technology can be used to explore Clare surname origins (Y-DNA) as well as to find long-lost cousins (autosomal DNA).

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:


Keanes of Kilkee (work in progress)

O'Deas of Newtown

Irish DNA Atlas

Clare Surnames

What next?

There are many online communities to which you can turn for help when you get stuck:
IGP's County Clare Ireland Genealogy group at facebook.com
4,034 people tracing their Clare roots (as of 17 January 2018) 
Ireland Reaching Out
Clare Past Forum

DNA kits are available for anyone interested in exploring the new technology.