Genealogy is the study of family ancestry or history. Genealogical records have existed since ancient times. Egyptian hieroglyphics provide records of pharaohs, and the Bible contains numerous genealogy lists including the genealogy of Christ.
In 1538, Thomas Cromwell ordered English churches to record parish weddings, christenings, and burials. In 1826, British genealogist John Burke started publishing Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, a guide to the titled families in Great Britain and Ireland. In America, the New England Historical Genealogical Society, the oldest genealogical organization in the country, formed in 1845.Today genealogists across the globe use the Internet to search for and share their family histories.
To discover your Irish family roots, start with family records. Interview your parents and grandparents to obtain birth, marriage, and death dates of relatives in your family tree. Consult family records such as family Bibles, birth certificates, marriage licenses, baptismal certificates, and death records.
Once you’ve exhausted family resources, consult external resources like your local library’s genealogy section or your local historical society. Census records, property deeds, and wills will also provide documentation of your ancestors. If your ancestors came to America, you can find passenger lists for the ship they traveled on and you can find them in census records in both America and Ireland.
If you identify the county from which your family originated in Ireland, you can consult that county’s records for information about your Irish family members. Parish church records, military records, and other government records can provide additional information about your family history.
A number of genealogy software programs exist to help you document your Irish family history. The most common include Roots Magic, Family Treemaker, and Legacy. A review of the top ten programs can be found here.
Countless online resources exist for finding information about your Irish ancestors. You can search for your relatives’ names in online databases and search engines, look up the origin of your Irish surname, see your family coat of arms, and find your military ancestors’ names on Irish war memorials. Check out the links below to get started with your Irish family history search.
Irish Genealogy Online Resources
A Little Bit of Ireland – Marriage and other parish records, Irish newspaper excerpts
GenWed Ireland Mega Search – Search multiple free online databases
Ireland-Australia Transportation Database – Database of Irish convicts transported to Australia 1788 to 1868
Irish Genealogy – Information on searching records in Ireland
Library of Congress Sources for Research in Irish Genealogy – Extensive lists of offline Irish genealogy resources
ProGenealogists Irish Genealogy – While some services on this site require payment, there are numerous links to free databases, directories, and archives.