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Reference Books for your Personal Library

The books I use all the time are an arms length away.

What’s on your personal library shelf? I’m frequently asked about reference books for Irish research, and it’s been a while since I updated the list. Here are some of my favorites. This is not a comprehensive list, but it covers the basics. Your personal library will depend on your specific area of research, so I’ve divided the list into a couple of different categories. You should also check with your local library to see if the books are available. Don’t forget about to find the closest library which might have copies. I’ve also given you links directly to Amazon.

As I’ve said many times, research begins at home. That could be the US or some other place where your ancestors emigrated. Many Irish migrated closer to home, sometimes for a number of years before moving on, so don’t forget England and Scotland. When they Ade the big jump it might have been off to the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina or South Africa. I have found family members in all of those locations. Here are some books on US research and Methodology that I keep close at hand. The most important piece of information is the locality in Ireland where your ancestor was born and the chances are this information is in one of the location where they immigrated. For the US, my favorite resource is The Red Book which has a chapter on every State. If your ancestor spent time in Pennsylvania, Ohio or other place on their way to Missouri, you need to understand what records are available for each of those locations. Another key online resource for the US and other countries is the FamilySearch WIKI.

1. Board for Certification of Genealogists. Genealogy Standards: 2nd Edition, Ancestry, 2019. (Available for Kindle)

2. Eichholz, Alice (Ed.). Ancestry’s RedBook, 3rd Edition American State, Country & Town Sources, Ancestry, Salt Lake City, 2004. (Online at RootsWeb Wiki)

3. Jones, Thomas W. Mastering Genealogical Proof, National Genealogical Society, Arlington, Virginia, 2013. (Available for Kindle)

4. Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1997.

5. _______. Evidence Explained: History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace 3rd Edition Revised, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 2017. (Available for Kindle)

6. Radford, Dwight A. American Scots-Irish Research: Strategies and Sources in the Quest for Ulster-Scots Origins, Family Roots Publishing Co., LLC. 2020.

6. Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Luebking, Sandra Hargreaves, (Ed.).The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, Third Edition, Ancestry, Salt Lake City, 2006. (Online at RootsWeb Wiki)

Once you discover the locality in Ireland (hopefully the parish or townland) you need to switch to Irish Research resources. I write a lot about John Grenham’s website, but his book, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors is an important resource as well. It’s now in it’s 5th Edition. Another resource that I can’t do without is Brian Mitchell’s A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland. I use the maps for determining localities and jurisdictions. Where I have a common name I’ll plot the localities on a map, as those close together might be related. I saw a negative review of this book at Amazon, and the comment was, “it’s just a book of maps.” Well, yes, that’s what an Atlas is! Another new source I’ve added to this is James Ryan’s, Sources for Irish Family History (2021). This is being offered as an eBook (something I appreciate since I can carry it around with me). It contains a listing of over 2500 Family Names with lists of resources for that name. The Daly, Daley & O’Daly section (3 pages) lists resources by localities. When you check for your name, make sure it covers the place of your family as well. In some cases you’ll get the repository and call number. If not, check WorldCat for a locality.

7. Grenham, John, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, 5th Edition, Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., Baltimore 2019.

8. Helferty and Raymond Refaussé, Directory of Irish Archives, Fifth Edition, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2011. (Available for Kindle)

9. McGee, Frances, The Archives of the Valuation of Ireland 1830-1865, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2018.

10. Mitchell, Brian, A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, Second Edition (Revised), Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, 2017.

11. Reilly, James R. CGRS, Richard Griffith and His Valuations of Ireland, Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000. (This book is frequently out of print, but you may be able to get a used copy.)

12. Ryan, James G, Sources for Irish Family History (2021) eBook, AncestorNetwork.

13. The General Alphabetical Index To the Townlands and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland, Dublin, 1851; Reprinted by Clearfield Co., Baltimore, 2006. (Reprint)

14. Finding Your ______ Ancestors. This is a series of books on various counties in Ireland published by AncestorNetwork.

The key resource for Scots-Irish and Ulster Research is William Roulston’s Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors: The Essential Genealogical Guide to Early Modern Ulster, 1600-1800, 2nd Edition. It’s a long title and I would suggest that this is not just for Scots-Irish, but for anyone with ancestry in Ulster from the 17th-19th centuries. Dr. Roulston, the Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation, has been busy during the lockdown and has published a couple of new books of interest which I have added. The book on farming ancestors has extensive references to finding people in Estate Records across all of Ireland.

15. Dickson, R.J., Ulster Emigration to Colonial America 1718-1775, Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast 1966.

16. Roulston, William J., Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors, The Essential Genealogical Guide to Early Modern Ulster, 1600-1800, 2nd edition, Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast, 2018. (Available for Kindle)

17. ______, Researching Farming Ancestors In Ireland, Ulster Historical Foundation, 2021. (eBook)

18. ______, Researching Presbyterian Ancestors in Ireland, Ulster Historical Foundation, 2020. (eBook)

These are by no means my only reference books, but they are ones I use on a regular basis.

I have a walk in closet in my office that includes a floor to ceiling book case to the right that didn't make the picture.
The rest are only a few steps away in a walk-in closet.

Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!

Are you thinking about researching in Ireland? There is still time and space available for Belfast in May, and Dublin and Belfast in October (the May Dublin trip is fully booked). Registration forms are available here.

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Oct 26, 2021

Thanks, Dale. I'll be watching for Chris' eBook.


Excellent list Donna that covers the most important aspects of both research and Irish research. I'm particularly pleased to see the McGee and Reilly books on the Griffith's Valuation. And where we would be without the living treasure that is John Grenham? While there are others that could be added, I would like to suggest the recently published Tracing Your Irish Ancestors Through Land Records by Chris Paton (ebook coming soon).

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