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Best Genealogy Sites for Irish Research: IrishAncestors

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

A few weeks ago, FamilyTree Magazine published its list of the 101 Best Genealogy Websites of 2020. Surprise, I didn't make the list.😀 Of course, I jumped immediately to their category UK and Irish Sites and was disappointed. They listed only two sites for Irish research, The National Archives and The National Library. Don't get me wrong, these are two good sites, but there is so much more! I decided to write on what I thought were the Best Genealogy Sites for Irish Research. This will be a continuing series checking out one or two sites each week. If you haven't identified a locality in Ireland, you need to do that before most of these sites will be helpful. Click on "Getting Started" or "Finding a Locality in Ireland" above for more information. Here goes.

This is a site created by John Grenham, author of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, 5th edition and one of the best known Irish genealogists. It would be unusual if a day went by that I didn't use this site (it would probably mean that I wasn't doing any research that day). You will not find a record on your specific ancestor, but it will tell you what records are available for the time and place where your ancestor lived. When you arrive at the Home page for the site you're greeted with a beautiful picture of Ireland (which changes regularly) and a flashing cursor that invites you to type in a surname. What? Didn't I just say it's not for finding records on your ancestors? This will take you to a surname distribution of where in Ireland your name is found. If you have a common name, such as Daly, the dots will appear over all of Ireland. However, if you have an unusual name, such as Moughty, you may find the name isolated to a small area. The information used to create these maps is taken from Griffith's Valuation done between 1847 and 1864, but even if your ancestors left earlier, the chances are that some of the family remained behind. Note: I. had to modify the spelling of Moughty to Mughty as that was the spelling in Griffith's. There were only 4 families in all of Ireland with that name versus 3,865 Dalys. This page will also provide you in the upper right with all of the spelling variations of the name.

If you know the maiden name of the woman of a couple married in Ireland you might also be able to reduce the numbers. Hopefully at least one of the names is less common. Another way to reduce the number is knowing the County. One of John Daly's wives was Mary Kirrane. By adding a second surname (in the lower left of the screen) the number of possibilities is reduced and focused on only three counties, Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. The Irish typically lived and married within their own parish or an adjoining parish. They were not mobile and would have had limited ability to meet people from other areas. Knowing that my Daly family was from Mayo, this reduced the localities to just three, all of which adjoined each other.

The left side shows the number of Kirraines by civil parish and the right side shows the number of Dalys

People are constantly posting on various assistance sites or asking questions such as, my ancestor came to the US (or other country) from Ireland in 1850 and I want a copy of his birth registration...where can I find it? I'm sure you all know that Civil Registration didn't start in Ireland until 1864, so that record doesn't exist. The next best record would be a baptismal record. Does one exist? Well first, you need to know the locality and approximate date. You then go to Irish Ancestors > Site Map > Civil Parish Map and select the county, then the civil parish where your ancestor was born. In the upper right, click on "Church Records" and find out the dates of extant records for the locality. Yesterday I was working on a family that was on the border of Westmeath and Longford. I was able to quickly take back one part of the family to 1804, but the other side only to the 1840s. It all had to do with when the records began for those parishes. Back in April I wrote a blog which includes a short video on how to do this.

There is so much more to this website. That upper right corner of the Civil Parish website also provides information on lots of other sources...census substitutes, estate records, local histories and journals, newspapers and graveyard inscriptions. The center section is a list of all of the townlands in the parish, and if you click on the name of the townland it will take you to Griffith's Valuation at Click on 1901 or 1911 and it will take you to the census records for that area.

Another very valuable section is Placenames. A word of need to type it exactly or you'll get a "No Match" response. Having said that, you can get around this problem by using wildcards, a "?" to replace one letter or an "*" to replace multiple letters. Still not finding it? Try using just the first few letters with an "*" and the county name, then browse through the list. If the name has multiple words such as Ballycurrin Demesne and you type in only Ballycurrin without an "*" you will get a "No Match" response. Using the Placenames can be very helpful if you have a location from a record and your trying to find out where it is. I frequently say with surnames, spelling doesn't count, but that is especially true with locality names in Ireland. It may have been written down as the clerk or others heard it, not as it was officially spelled. Depending on the timeframe, it may not have been an official name or had an official spelling (the names were standardized in the 1830s) but our ancestors may have continued to use an old name reference. It may have been a village, rather than a townland or town and won't show up. When this happens, I google the name and then check a map for a nearby locality. If you're not familiar with Irish jurisdictions check out this blog which also explains how to use this facility at IrishAncestors.

There are 13 townlands or towns named Crumlin and notice that they aren't limited to 13 different counties. Mayo has two, but because John Daly had also referenced Claremorris on his Naturalization, I knew which one; it was in the Civil Parish of Kilvine, the Poor Law Union of Claremorris and the Registrar's District of Ballindine. Clicking on Claremorris will take me to a list of all of the townlands in the Poor Law Union and clicking on the Registrar's district will list the townlands in the Registrar's district of Ballindine. Clicking on Kilvine will take me to the Civil Parish page. I want to clarify here the difference between the Poor Law Union and the Registrar's district. When discussing the Poor Law Union I indicate that this jurisdiction is important because it became the Registration District for Civil Registration. Then what is the Registrar's district? Sometimes referred to as a Dispensary district, there were multiple Registrar's districts for each Poor Law Union. Your ancestor would go to the one that was local and register a birth, death or marriage and the multiple Registrar's would then forward a copy of the record to the Superintendent Registrar in the Poor Law Union where the records would be compiled and forwarded to Dublin to the General Registrar Office. What you see listed in the Civil Registration Indexes is the name of the Superindent's District or the Poor Law Union.

I try not to go over a 5 minute read, so I'll leave it there for this week. John Grenham allows 5 free requests to his site each day, then asks for a subscription. You can subscribe for a day (24 hours), a month or a year. I think this should be your first stop once you jump the pond back to Ireland (which means knowing the location).

Happy Hunting and Stay Safe.

Have you registered for the Celtic Connections Conference yet? I'm lecturing on Church Records, Civil Records and Griffith's Valuation. I'll also be participating in two Chat Session where you can ask questions. John Grenham will also be lecturing and doing a Chat. Registration is open.

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