Mail order DNA kits have become extremely popular, and more people are discovering exactly how genetically Irish they are. For some, that might be the end of the story. But more people will find it is an answer that leads to more questions. Who were those Irish ancestors and where did they come from? Why did they leave Ireland? And what exactly did they leave behind?
Researching your family is like solving a mystery. Some people left many clues for their descendants – family bibles, well-labelled photo albums, and the most exciting find of all, a journal. Many people are lucky to find a stray birth or marriage certificate that offers up clues about where people were born and who their parents were. But some Irish people strove to start life in the new world with a completely clean slate. That is often the case with those who fought for Ireland’s freedom. They left to escape British persecution, and they grieved their homeland.
Once you have the name of an Irish ancestor, you can start. But remember – spellings are flexible. For centuries, Irish people have used both the Irish and English version of their names interchangeably. Someone named in American documents as Ed Sullivan, for example, might be Eamon O Súilleabháin on his Irish birth certificate. So once you start on the trail to discovering who your Irish ancestors were, where should you stop to search for more information?
Finding Irish Genealogy Resources
Here are some of the first places to look for more details about your Irish roots.
- Census Online: The 1901 and 1911 census records are available to search online at the National Archives website. Some fragments of earlier records are also available online. Their site also gives lots of useful and interesting information about how to research Irish genealogy and what life was like in Ireland generations ago.
- Graveyards: If you have ancestors buried in Ireland, the graveyard where they lay probably offers some family details. If you can find out where your people came from, you could visit the local cemetery on a vacation to Ireland. There are also private companies that send people to search and photograph gravestones. Glasnevin Cemetery is a great place to start searching for information on ancestors in Dublin. You can search their records online.
- Church Records: Churches kept records of all baptisms, weddings and deaths in their parish. How easy it is to access these records varies locally. But if you were visiting Ireland and knew which town or village your ancestors came from, you could call in. The National Library of Ireland has some Catholic parish records available online. They also operate a genealogy advisory service that can help by email or phone.
- Office of Records: If you have names, dates and locations, you can order some records of births, deaths and marriages. The General Register Office won’t help you search, but it is the official source for copies of records.
Any number of private companies can help you track down the details for a fee. It is fun and fascinating to track down your Irish roots, but at the end of the day what really matters is how you feel about this island.