Your ancestors in Ireland

Your ancestors in Ireland

Irish family history records have been a challenge in the past to family history research. This is changing rapidly due to online records and Family History Societies dedicated to supporting you with your understanding of the records available and supporting your research.


A country in its own right, politically Ireland is divided into The Republic of Ireland (known as Ireland) and Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom.

Following the Norman invasion in the 12th C England claimed Sovereignty over Ireland, however it wasn’t until the Tudors in the 16th and 17th C that this became a reality. The Acts of Union in 1801 bought Ireland fully into the United Kingdom. The war of independence in the early 20th C created partition and ultimately the Irish Free State; now Ireland, and Northern Ireland (which remains in the United Kingdom). Today Ireland covers 5/6th of the landmass, Northern Ireland 1/6th.

A strong indigenous culture exists with Gaelic games, Irish music and dance and the Irish language. The English Language is shared with Great Britain as well as football, rugby, horseracing and golf.

Today Ireland is subdivided into 3 provinces; Connacht, Leinster and Munster (Ulster a fourth is part of Northern Ireland). The 3 provinces are broken into 26 counties (a further 6 in Northern Ireland). Dublin is the capital city.

The religion of Ireland is Christian, with Roman Catholic being the largest Church. Freedom of religion exists as part of the constitution, however 3.7 million people identified as Roman Catholic in the 2016 Census (79% of the population). The Church of Ireland (Anglican) is the second largest Church, however membership has declined for much of the 20th C, apart from more recently. Other significant Protestant denominations include the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland. Hindu and Muslim populations have grown in recent years due to immigration.

Northern Ireland Family History will be covered in a future blog.


Irish Family History has been historically affected by a devastating fire in the Irish Public Record Office in 1922, which destroyed many records:

  • half of Anglican Irish parish registers have been lost
  • nearly all probate records (The Society of Genealogists holds a collection of abstracts of Irish Wills for 1569-1909)
  • the Census 1861-1891 was destroyed (The Census for 1901 & 1911 is available)
  • all civil registration records are available



Civil registration begin in 1845 (Non-Roman Catholic marriages) and 1864 for all denominations’ Birth, Marriage and Death at Before 1845 you’ll need to access Parish Records (Baptism, Marriage and Burial)


1901 and 1911 is available for free at Partial census records for 1821 – 1851 survive with FindMyPast (however the 1861-1891 Census was entirely destroyed).

Key contacts

The starting point for your research should be the Irish Genealogical Society at is also worth checking

The General Register Office of Ireland, Government Offices, Convent Road, Roscommon

The National Archives of Ireland, Bishop Street, Dublin 8, Ireland

Recommended text:

Paton, C Tracing your Irish Family History on the Internet, a guide for family historians. Pen and Sword, 2013


Other useful websites

Research ancestors in other countries






New Zealand




  • Family Tree Magazine
  • Wikipeadia, accessed 2019


Robert Parker is a Genealogist and Trainer, based in Kent. He delivers courses, guidance, talks and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. See for further details. Contact Robert to discuss your requirements without obligation.

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