Tracing your Irish Ancestory

Home > Articles > Tracing your Irish Ancestory

Tracing your Irish Ancestory - A Guide

During the hard times in Irish history many young people and their families boarded ships and set sail for foreign lands in search of better lives.  For many people in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and New Zealand all roads lead back to the Old Country.  It is a natural feeling to want to know where you came from, how your family started out and how far back your ancestry goes.


When you begin searching into your family’s past there are a number of hints that you should bare in mind.  Firstly, it would be beneficial to learn as much as possible about your immigrant Irish ancestors as they arrived in their immigrant country.  Clues can often be found in family papers, church records, census guides, tombstones or possibly military papers.

You must also know exactly where your ancestors originally came from.  Remember, just because they may have sailed from Galway, Belfast, Cork, Dublin or Waterford, doesn’t mean that they were from there.  Due to a disastrous fire in the Dublin Castle Records Tower in 1922, many public records were lost forever.  There are other sources of public information though and you would be advised to check local parish records, public libraries (many have historians on site who will have access to newspaper microfilms etc) and also Ireland’s civil registrar. 

Additionally, the Irish Genealogical Office is based in the National Library on Kildare Street in Dublin 2 and features over 5 million items of historical interest.  This resource may be of much use to you and a large reading room is also provided for your comfort and convenience.  This process can of course be exhilarating but ultimately extremely rewarding if you find what you are looking for.

If you are having difficulty tracing your Irish ancestors it may because of a number of reasons.  Firstly, make sure you have the right spelling of your ancestor’s name – there can be many variations of Irish names.  Names with prefixes, such as O'Brien or McNealy, may be listed without the prefixes.  Also, some marriages are only listed by the name of one spouse and a woman's surname in the index may be a surname from a previous marriage and not her maiden name.

Of course, much of this information retrieval can only be found by traveling throughout Ireland yourself.  If ever you needed an excuse to travel to one of the world’s most historic countries, then this is it.  There are thousands of quality hotels in areas like Cork, Galway, Dublin and throughout Ireland to suit all budgets and requirements.  Also, car hire is extremely effortless and plentiful and may ultimately prove to be the most convenient way of tracing your family tree.