101 Best Websites 2010: Great Britain and Ireland

By David A. Fryxell Premium

Access to Archives

If you have English ancestors, chances are that records about them survive someplace. “A2A” tells you where—indexing 10.3 million records from 418 repositories.

County Tyrone

Readers called our attention to this standout volunteer site, packed with primary and secondary source records, photos and parish maps. Also linked to the County Tyrone mailing list, it’s the next best thing to traveling to Ireland (not that the trip would be such a bad thing).


The name says it all: This site is the epitome of free vital records when it comes to English and Welsh research. At last count, volunteers have transcribed more than 182 million distinct civil registration records of births, marriages and deaths from 1837 to 1983. Partner projects are similarly tackling censuses <> and parish records <>.


Everything you need to know about GENealogy in the UK and Ireland can be found under this umbrella (or “brolly”): church history, heraldry, land records, manors, occupations, poorhouses, tax records and even tips to decipher your British ancestors’ handwriting.

Historical Directories

This recently relaunched site from the University of Leicester is a digital library of local and trade directories for England and Wales from 1750 to 1919. You can find the directory you want by location, decade or keyword.

Ireland’s History in Maps

History meets geography meets genealogy in this site, which starts with “Ice Ages and Arrival of Humans.” You also can hunt for surnames by county, barony or castle.

National Archives of Ireland

All 32 counties of the 1911 Irish census are available here for search or browsing; you can choose to view a transcription or a PDF of the original page. But that’s just for starters: The site is being redeveloped to include full transcriptions of all of the data on the household forms for 1911, including religion, occupation, relationship to head of family, literacy status, county or country of origin, Irish language proficiency, specified illnesses and child survival information. The 1901 census, with all data transcribed, is underway and may be launched by the time you read this.

Ordnance Survey: Get-a-map

Fancy a free map (up to 1:25,000 scale) of your ancestor’s old stomping ground? This easy-to-use site serves up gratis, printable maps of anywhere in the UK based on place name, full postcode or National Grid reference.

Scots Origins

Though the rest of the Origins Network, covering Ireland and England, requires a subscription, this smaller Scottish site is free. It includes a handy search of the International Genealogical Index (IGI) marriage, birth and christening records; a search for county and district matches for any place name (per the 1881 census); expert articles; and a discussion forum.
For additional resources, including articles and website reviews, Family Tree Magazine offers Passport to Europe, a CD that provides a wealth of information on 20 European countries and regions, including England, Scotland, and Ireland. Available at Family Tree Shop
From the September 2010 Family Tree Magazine