O nce upon a time, many old records did exist in Ireland. Throughout the many years and because of the many conflicts, and even a fire in 1922, records have slowly disappeared, never to be seen again. This is one bedtime story we don’t want an ending to.
The problem with researching your Irish ancestry is the pickin’s are slim when it comes to records. Unfortunately, like in our bedtime story, many have been destroyed. Other times, certain records just plain never existed. Free Irish genealogy websites are hard to come by as well!
It is often recommended to check passenger lists, parish registers, Griffith’s Valuation, and the tithe applotment books. Maybe you can or can’t find your ancestors in these. Maybe you need to go back further than these records allow. Or, maybe you are just looking to diversify your Irish research.
Either way, let’s take a look at a couple of Irish genealogy websites that you probably haven’t tried or heard of yet.
1 Ireland Reaching Out is a non-profit Irish genealogy website made up of volunteers who are building their organization on the principle of “reverse genealogy” -- a term they coined to work backwards from emigrants leaving Ireland to connect the emigrant with their living family today.
The website is made up of message boards and is broken down first into counties and then by civil parish. If you are unsure of which civil parish your ancestor hailed from, you can post on the county or the main Ireland Reaching Out community forum.
The non-profit group has a guide on how to best post queries on their message boards. Answers to queries generally give helpful suggestions on where to look next, and in my personal experience, volunteers generally do some rudimentary record searching themselves as well.
2 This isn't really a specific genealogy website, but, have you checked for a local historical or genealogical society in Ireland? Find the local one for your county of interest by going to RootsIreland and using the map to select the correct county. The contact information (including website) is listed in the bottom right corner of the page -- many have their own genealogy website.
I have experience with the Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society in County Offaly, and the lady who is head of the research there, Margaret, is absolutely wonderful. She goes above and beyond your expectations. If you go this route, please don’t expect immediate responses. They tend to get a large amount of requests.
3 The Irish Manuscripts Commission works to preserve written works dealing with the history and cultural heritage of Ireland and is also a publisher of such books. Although they have many interesting published papers and books on their website for sale, their free digitized publications are even better!
What’s more is that all of the digitized publications are able to be searched by keyword (hence, your ancestor’s name or a place). The publications include all kinds of different and interesting publications that you wouldn’t think to search and the commission is adding more books all the time.
The National Library of Ireland is keeping up, too. They also have a collection of digitized manuscripts which is slightly more extensive than the last collection. Finally, the UK’s National Archives has some online estate papers and manuscripts as well.
4 The Irish Emigration Database (IED) and "Voices of Migration and Return Database (VMR) are both little known, extremely interesting sources. The IED does slightly favor the Republic of Ireland, however the database includes a large amount of material from all of Ireland. The VMR, however, only includes information from Ulster.
The IED includes letters, wills, family papers and lore, diaries, and more from people who have left Ireland and their families. The VMR is a collection of oral interviews from people who have left Ireland and returned.
Both databases are published and maintained by Dippam -- Documenting Ireland: Parliament, People, and Migration.
5 A personal lineage website, John Hayes has gone above and beyond his own family history to put online indexes, databases, documents, and even books relating to Irish genealogy for free.
The website is skewed towards County Cork genealogy, however there are databases of interest for anyone searching their ancestry in Ireland. A small sampling of the free information online includes: Irish Flax Growers List of 1796, Selected Irish Marriage Records, Pigot & Co's Provincial Directory of Ireland of 1824, and Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland of 1846.
6 The Property Registration Authority, located in Dublin, is a government organization which records all property transactions throughout Ireland. The Registry of Deeds Index Project is an Irish genealogy website made up of volunteers with the goal of indexing “all of the names that appear in the memorial books at the registry of deeds” (Property Registration Authority).
The amount of information you will receive from the index varies, mostly varying with the deed type. However, if you know of a family who had dealings with yours, you can narrow down the results list by searching for deeds including a second family. The site also has many presentations on the Registry of Deeds, right on the site, so that you can learn how to better search and use these records in your research.
7 If you can link your ancestor’s to Dublin, Sean Murphy’s publications may be of interest to you. Sean has transcriptions from multiple Dublin graveyards, most including a history of the graveyard as well.
If you take a gander at the homepage of his website, there is some interesting Irish genealogy information there as well, mainly focusing on historical information to help flesh out social histories.
8 Historic Graves is similar to Find A Grave, however focuses mostly on the graveyards in Ireland. The project trains communities to survey the graveyards in their own area, and then allows for locally recorded video and audio to be uploaded with the surveys.
Although not all graveyards and graves are recorded, new records are added often.
9 This Irish genealogy website has all kinds of interesting databases online which are different from what you would find elsewhere. The website mainly focuses on maps of Dublin and Ireland, so it is unlikely you will find your ancestor’s name, per say (although there are multiple directories on the site).
The maps are extremely helpful for actually placing your ancestors on the map and finding townlands, baronies, parishes, and even surname distributions. If you know your ancestor’s occupation, you may even be able to use these maps and lists to figure out where your ancestor lived -- a major breakthrough for Irish research.
I hope you can use this list to help you discover more about your Irish ancestors. In the meantime, Happy Researching!