Eire Apparent

By Allison Dolan Premium

Forego the four-leaf clover — if you’re researching ancestors from the Emerald Isle, you already have good fortune in a new online resource, <>. The impressive collection of primary sources on this subscription Web site would make any genealogist believe in the luck of the Irish. belongs to the new breed of genealogy sites built on digital replicas of original records rather than millions of transcribed names. Its mission goes beyond helping you find Great-grandpa Seamus in County Cork in 1852 — through pictures, newspapers, books and other contemporary sources, it lets you envision his experience.

To see just how can help you step into Seamus’ shoes, we got an exclusive sneak peek at the site. Here’s a tour of the resources and tools you’ll find in its different content areas:

Genealogy databases — The crown jewel of is a searchable database of the complete Griffith’s Valuation, a tax enumeration that tracked renters and their land or property owners between 1847 and 1864. Because most 19th-century Irish census records haven’t survived, Griffith’s Valuation is the best resource for tracing heads of household in mid-1800s Ireland — and this is the first time the entire 36,000 original images holding more than 3 million entries are available online. It’s a useful tool for determining ancestors’ place of origin.

You can search Griffith’s Valuation for both occupiers and lessors using a name, county, parish or town; you can also look up a titled person or an organization. Each hit gives the entry’s data at the top, followed by an image of the original page. To find out where the place in question is, follow the link to an Ordnance Survey map.

Maps — Those maps come from the first Ordnance Survey of Ireland, done in the 1830s and ’40s. They’re part of an extensive 19th-century map collection in the Map Room: You can search for maps depicting the baronies, Catholic parishes and civil parishes in each Irish county. The map area has tools to untangle Irish geography, too; foremost is the Place-names of Ireland database, which contains all the towns, villages and townlands in Ireland as they existed in 1851.

Galleries — Once you’ve pinpointed where your family lived, you can see their hometown firsthand in the Galleries’ historical pictures. The most vivid images of 19th-century Ireland come from the Lawrence Collection: While working for William Lawrence’s Dublin studio, photographer Robert French traveled across Ireland from 1880 to 1910. Now you can scour his work to see your forebears’ county or village, the people they lived near and worked with — perhaps even your ancestors themselves.

The Galleries also hold pre-photography images, many from books found in the site’s Library (see the next page). For example, you’ll find illustrations from W. J. Bartlett’s The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland, which depicts Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine.

You can search the Galleries by keyword, collection, county and the pictures’ subject (from a list of terms such as cottage, landscape, family and many more). All the pictures appear as thumbnails in your search results, so it’s easy to browse. You just click on the text or picture to view the full-sized image. The site’s viewer lets you pan across the image, select an area and zoom in and out. And you can zoom in extremely close without the pictures getting fuzzy — they’ve been scanned at a high enough resolution that you can actually see people’s faces.

Only three newspapers were available at the site’s launch: editions of the Belfast Newsletter from 1801, the Dublin Penny Journal from 1832 to 1836 and the Freeman’s Journal from 1775 to 1776. You can view pages by title, year and month. These editions cover a limited date range and the text isn’t searchable yet, so you’ll have a hard time looking up news of your ancestors — if it’s there at all. But perusing the ads, political commentary, announcements and news will give you insight into the attitudes and trends of the Irish society they lived in.

Library — Here you can electronically browse volumes Great-grandpa Seamus might have read, and refer to Irish history books. Of the first tomes available here, genealogists will probably be most interested in Samuel Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, an alphabetical reference that contains details about places’ history and economy as well as geography. You can search the Library databases by book title and keyword.

Besides digital documents, also has a Community section with free message boards, a chat room and discussion groups. For genealogy guidance, try the site’s interactive Genwizard.

Naturally, this glimpse into your green roots isn’t free. Without paying, visitors can browse the Galleries and use the general search to see what has that’s worth paying for. Considering the content’s scope and quality, the fees are a pretty good deal — for some, the exclusive Griffith’s Valuation database and place-finding tools alone will be worth the expense.

The service does have a catch: Because of the company’s data-security concerns, you can’t simply download images from, even if you’re a paying member. Subscribers can order 11×16-inch prints of most maps, newspapers and images from the galleries (since that section has open access, nonmembers can purchase pictures, too) for a fee. Members can print other images from their own computer through a credits system.

The system works like this: You either buy credits or earn them through the site’s Loyalty Bonus Plan, which gives you five “loyalty points” for every dollar you spend (including subscription fees). After you’ve racked up 100 loyalty points, you get a $1 credit toward future purchases, including subscriptions and local printing. Your best bet is probably to apply your credits to printout fees. You’d have to spend $200 — the equivalent of a subscription and five prints — to get $10 credit, so you won’t see a significant discount until you rack up a lot of purchases.

You do have a way to save the family history data you uncover, though. Each member gets a Portfolio — essentially, your own personal database on the Web site. In it, you can create unlimited folders to store family data and organize it however you want. You might create separate folders for each surname or family, and sub-folders for records, maps and pictures, for example. Every image on the site has an Add to My Portfolio button. promises more new databases in the future, including compilations of Irish landowners, 19th-century directories and graveyard inscriptions. And it’s continually growing its stockpile of books, newspapers, photos and maps. So whether or not you find Great-grandpa Seamus, you’ll feel lucky — the luck of the Irish, you might say — that his history’s being preserved.

From the October 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine