Are you planning a trip to Ireland, and do you hope to carry out some family history research during your visit? If you happen to have an Irish born ancestor who emigrated to the United States, and are planning a visit to Ireland in the near future and hope to do some family history research during your visit, it is good to have some clear idea of how you should prepare, and the kind of information that you need to bring to Ireland with you in order to advance your research.
Family history starts with yourself. So, if you have not already commenced your family history research, it is a good idea to start the process well in advance of your visit to Ireland.
First of all, it is wise to write down all you know about the immigrant ancestor, his/her spouse, children and grand-children. Then arrange to talk with older family members who may have considerably more information on the Irish born ancestor than you have. Once these tasks have been completed, you should then proceed on the US paper trail.
U.S. Census returns are a wonderful starting point for your research. Hopefully, you will locate a number of the immigrant ancestor’s US census returns which should provide you with an idea of his/her birth year, and year of marriage. Bear in mind of course, that ages recorded on census returns, and indeed on death records are frequently found to be quite inaccurate. In general, when such discrepancies arise, ages are usually under-stated, rather than over-stated.
If your immigrant ancestor married in the United States, it is advisable to seek the civil/vital record of marriage of the immigrant, as this record should provide you with the names of the parents of the immigrant. Naturalisation papers can also very useful, as they often record the Irish county of birth of an immigrant. Gravestone inscriptions, and obituary notices are also very useful, as they can provide further useful information.
Far too many people arrive in Ireland with very basic information on their Irish born ancestor, and expect that some archivist or genealogist in Ireland will be able to confirm the names of the parents of that ancestor by pressing a magic button ! Unfortunately the process doesn’t quite work like that ! This is why it is necessary to carry out good research within genealogical sources in your own country – well in advance of your proposed trip to Ireland.
Hopefully, your preparatory US research will provide you with good basic information on your Irish born ancestor such as:
The name of the Irish born ancestor
Approximate year of birth
Place of birth in Ireland
Names of Parents of immigrant
Occupation of ancestor
Date of immigration.
If you ancestor was born in one of the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland, your research should commence in Dublin city. If your ancestor was born in one of the six counties of Northern Ireland, you can carry out some research on that ancestor in Dublin. However, it is also important to factor in some research time at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast.
In Dublin city there are a number of repositories where one can carry out family history research. Microfilm copies of Roman Catholic parish registers of baptism, marriage (and some burials) for most parishes throughout the island of Ireland are held at the National Library of Ireland, from their respective commencement dates – up to about 1880. There are also a great deal of newspapers available for research at the National Library of Ireland.
Uncertified copies of births, deaths and Roman Catholic marriages certificates from 1864 to 1921, and uncertified copies of non-Roman Catholic marriage certificates from 1845 for the entire island of Ireland may be obtained at the General Register Office Research Room on Werburgh Street in Dublin south inner city. Uncertified copies of birth, death and marriage from 1922 to the present time for the 26 counties of Ireland may also be obtained at this office which is situated close to Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin.
The National Archives of Ireland is on Bishop Street in Dublin city and is about a ten minute walk from the General Register Office Research Room. In order to obtain readers’ ticket for the National Archives, it is necessary to produce your passport or other form of photo identity, and an up-to-date utility bill. In addition to census returns, the holdings of the National Archives include testamentary material, government and business records, land records etc.
Genealogy advisory services are also available to readers at the National Library of Ireland, and the National Archives. The genealogy service at the National Library is available Monday - Friday: 9.30am - 4.45pm and the service at the National Archives is available from Monday to Friday, from 10.00–13.30 and is located on Floor 5 of the National Archives, adjacent to the Reading Room. The Valuation Office at the Irish Life Centre on Lower Abbey Street is also an interesting repository to visit, as it houses property valuation records for the 26 counties, from the 1850s to the late 1970s.
As one of the ultimate aims of carrying out research for your Irish born ancestor is to identify the precise location where he/she was born, it is important to factor in a visit to the ancestral home-place during your time in Ireland. Even if there is no possibility of meeting up with living relatives, such a visit will enable you to imbibe the culture and landscape of that special place that cradled your Irish born ancestor, and thus help you reach a deeper understanding of, and appreciation of your own Irish heritage.
Helen Kelly is a consultant genealogist for the Irish Ancestry Group at The Wild Geese. She runs her own genealogy firm, Helen Kelly Genealogy. Helen is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (the accrediting body for Irish genealogists. She has been involved in genealogical research since the late 1980s. Since 2007, Helen has been genealogist-in-residence at Dublin’s historical Shelbourne Hotel, where she holds the unique title of Genealogy Butler and in that capacity has broadcast on the subject of Irish genealogy research and consultancy on international radio and television, including stations in New York, New Zealand, Australia, Dublin, London, Birmingham, Manchester and Paris.
Helen encourages the descendants of Irish emigrants to reconnect with their Irish heritage. Read more about Helen.