In general, Irish genealogical sources fall into four main categories:-
1) Civil or Government records of birth, death and marriage
Civil Registration of births, deaths and Roman Catholic marriages in Ireland commenced in 1864. Civil Registration of marriages, other than Roman Catholic, commenced in 1845.
- Indices to Irish births, marriages and deaths from their respective commencement dates until 1958 are available on www.familysearch.org
- Uncertified copies of birth, marriage and death certificates are available for the 32 counties of Ireland from their respective commencement dates up to 1921 at the General Register Office Research Room, Floor 3, Block 7, Irish Life Centre, L.Abbey St, Dublin 1. Uncertified copies of birth, marriage and death certificates from 1922 to the present for the 26 counties are also available at the General Register Office Research Room in Dublin.
- General Register Office for the Republic of Ireland is based at Convent Road, Roscommon Town, Co. Roscommon – – www.groireland.ie
- General Register Office for Northern Ireland is at Oxford House, 49-55 Chichester Street, Belfast BT 1 4 HL – www.nidirect.gov.uk
2) Church records of baptism and marriage –
- Irish Roman Catholic Parish registers from their respective starting dates until circa 1880 are available on microfilm at the National Library of Ireland, Kildare St, D.2 – www.nli.ie
- Microfilm copies of extant parish registers for Northern Ireland for most religious denominations from their respective starting dates until circa 1880 are available at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 2 Titanic Boulevard Titanic Quarter, Belfast, County Antrim BT39HQ – www.proni.gov.uk
- Some Church of Ireland registers of baptism, marriage and burial are available on microfilm at the National Archives
- Many original Church of Ireland registers are available at the Representative Church Body Library, Braemor Park, Churchtown, Dublin. 14 – www.ireland.anglican.org/library
In general, Church records of baptism and marriage pre-date civil records. While the majority of Roman Catholic Church registers date from the early to mid-1800s, some registers date from the middle of the 18th century, with a few exceptions dating from the late 17th century.
Registers of the Anglican Church of Ireland suffered a great deal of destruction in a fire in Dublin in 1922. However, not all Church of Ireland registers have perished. Most of those that have survived are held in Dublin or in Belfast, while some are still held in the custody of the local parish. These registers usually contain records of baptism, marriage and burial.
Presbyterian Registers for Ireland pertain mainly to parishes in the northern part of the country. The majority of extant registers are held in Belfast.
3) Census Returns
For a variety of reasons, there is a great scarcity of census material for the 19th century. While remnants of 19th century census returns are available for some counties, the only complete census at present available to the public, are those of 1901 and 1911.
- 1901 & 1911 Irish Census returns are available free-of-charge on the National Archives web site www.census.nationalarchives.ie
- Fragments of 19th century census returns are available at the National Archives of Ireland, Bishop Street, Dublin 8 (Check Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham (County sections) for available census fragments. )
- Census search forms (applications for pensions) are available at the National Archives of Ireland.
4) Land/Property records:
- Griffith’s Primary Valuation of tenements – (1847 – 1864) is available on the web site of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna www.askaboutireland.ie
- Revision/Cancelled valuation books and maps are available at the Valuation Office, Irish Life Centre, Lower Abbey Street, D.1.
- Surveyors Notebooks (House books, Field books etc, ) are available at the National Archives.
- Tithe Applotment Books (1823 – 1837) are available on microfilm at the National Archives and National Library.
- Surnames Indices – joint indices to Griffith’s & Tithes are available at the National Archives and National Library.
The absence of complete census returns for the 19th century renders the land/property record known as Griffith’s Valuation an extremely useful genealogical source. Griffith’s Valuation was published between the years 1847 and 1864 and essentially, records occupiers and lessors of land/property in that time-frame. It may be researched on the web site of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna www.askaboutireland.ie
Valuation Office Records:
The updates or Revision books, which are based on Griffith’s Valuation are available to researchers at the Valuation Office in Dublin. These land books which post-date Griffith’s Valuation document changes of occupancy of a particular holding and are therefore most useful to the family historian. Changes noted therein give a good indication of the date of emigration or death of the various occupiers of a property.
Tithe Applotment Books:
The Composition Act of 1823 specified that tithes due to the established Church of Ireland, which had hitherto been payable in kind should now be paid in money. As a result, it was necessary to carry out a valuation of the entire country, civil parish by civil parish, to determine how much would be payable by each landholder. This was done over the ensuing fifteen years, up to the abolition of tithes in 1838. Not surprisingly, tithes were greatly resented by those who were not members of the Church of Ireland, and all the more because the tax was not payable on all land. Because of resistance, and the many exemptions to the payment of tithes, these books, though useful to the family researcher, are not as comprehensive as Griffith’s Primary Valuation of Tenements.
While there are many further miscellaneous genealogical sources available for research, the above records are most relevant for the majority of those pursuing Irish genealogical research.
Territorial Divisions in Ireland:
As one of the ultimate aims of the family research is, to locate an ancestor’s precise place of origin, it is important to have some understanding of territorial divisions in Ireland. When Ireland was divided in 1922, six counties in the north east of the country remained under British rule, while the remaining 26 counties transferred to Irish rule.
The smallest geographical unit within a county is the townland. Normally, a townland can consist of a few hundred acres. This unit is still used, and is particularly relevant to rural dwellers. The next largest territorial division with a county is the civil parish, which bears the same name and boundaries as the Church of Ireland parishes. The Roman Catholic parish is usually a larger unit than the civil parish and generally, bears a different name. The barony is the largest unit within a county, and, like the civil parish, is no longer in use as a territorial division. Just to add a little further confusion to the complicated system of territorial divisions in Ireland, one should also be aware of Registration Districts that are used for civil registration purposes. The Registration Districts are based on the old Poor Law Unions that were set up in the late 1830s to deal with the increasing levels of poverty throughout the country.