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Best Genealogy Sites for Irish Research:

Last week I started this series by discussing John Grenham's site, IrishAncestors. (He added a new feature this week that lets you look at the distribution of given names.) The second site which I also use just about every day is This is a free site managed by the Department for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. It originally housed the records for the Roman Catholic church in Kerry and Western Cork (Diocese of Cork and Ross), but expanded to include other denominations in those areas, and also Dublin City. The big breakthrough came when they brought the civil records of the General Register Office online. A bit of 2014 the index and images for Civil Registration came online and it was exciting! The records included up to the early 2000s. Besides the problem of everyone immediately jumping on, the bigger problem was the Data Protection people who freaked out and within two weeks the site was pulled down. It didn't come back online until 2015 with some restrictions. Birth records had to be at least 100 years old; marriage records 75 years old and death records 50 years old. Here's what is available today.

Births: 1864 to 1919

Marriages: 1845 to 1944

Deaths: 1878* to 1969

What we are still missing are the images of deaths from 1864-1877 (which they state will be available in a future update). Each year we should see the addition of another year on the end (but it sometimes takes a couple of years for them to catch up). This site covers all of Ireland until 1921, and then the Republic for available records after 1921.

Now as you probably know, Civil Registration began for everyone in Ireland in 1864. In addition, Protestant marriages were recorded from 1845. What was different about this site was in addition to the index (which was always problematic) this site contained the images of the registrations for free. The indexes to civil registration had been available for a while. It was one of the early FamilySearch indexing projects and covered from the beginning of registration to 1958 for the Republic and until 1921 for Northern Ireland. Remember that Ireland was only one country through 1921. But, the FamilySearch database was just an index. Here's the problem. I'm looking for Michael Daly born in the late 1880s. Many of our ancestors did not know exactly when they were born so remember to be flexible on dates. Until I had a locality and some corroborating detail, with such a common name, it was almost impossible to find him. There are 111 Michael Dalys in the index between 1885 and 1890. But, once I knew the Registration District (Poor Law Union) which was Claremorris, that number fell to just two.

The amount of information provided on the transcriptions was not enough to determine which of these two Michael Dalys was mine. The index provided no identifying information.

My next step was to order the certificates from the General Register Office. I typially did this on one of my visits, but which one to order? Now if I was personally at the GRO, I could pick one, pay my €4 and see if it was the correct one based on the corroborating details, the names of the parents. If I picked wrong, then I paid another €4 and got the correct one. But what is there were 10 or 15? I can tell you, I had a file full of "wrong" certificates. I don't even want to think about how much money I've paid to the GRO! Now they are all free! I can see the actual registration and determine the correct one.

Notice that both of these Michael Dalys were born in 1886. Under the old indexing system, I would have the Quarter, Volume and Page listed which I would use to order a copy of the registration. Under the new system, there is a Group Registration ID (which now replaces the information in my source citation). If you are ordering in person, the GRO accepts either system. I can now click on the registration and view the image of both of these.

The first shows the parents of Michael as Michael Daly and Bridget Cassidy...not mine. The second confirms the identity of the parents as John of Crimlin [sic] and Mary Morally [sic]. That's mine! Notice also that John registered the birth with his mark (couldn't read or write).

I'm sure some of you are thinking that the dates for civil registration are too late for your ancestors. I suggest that you think more broadly about the family of your ancestors. Did they all emigrate? Did some remain in Ireland? What about the parents...if they did not emigrate, you might find a death record. In the Daly family above, John married three times and had 10 children, 8 of whom survived infancy. Only one remained in Ireland and I've been able to visit with the descendants of that brother. The key is knowing the location.

Below is a video of how to use the site both for church records and for civil records. If you haven't used the site, you might find it helpful. Although the video is longer than usual it should provide a good overview of the site.

Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!

Have you registered yet for the Celtic Connections Conference? I recorded my three lectures last week and I'll also be available on two days for Chats. You'll have plenty of time to view all of the lectures as you'll have from 31 July until 31 August. I'm looking forward to hearing many of them as I'm usually lecturing at the same time as my favorite speakers. Time zones won't matter except for the Chats.

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