Finding Your Irish Ancestors

By Patricia McMorrow Premium

More than 7 million emigrants left Ireland since the 1600s in search of a better life. From the 1820s through the Great Famine and into the 1880s, one-third to one-half of all the immigrants to America sailed from Ireland. Today, according to the 1990 Census, 40 million Americans identify themselves ethnically as Irish, behind only British (50 million) and German (49 million).

Tracing those Irish roots has become a passion for many in recent years. It can be a challenge for genealogy novices, and even experienced searchers are always reminded that those who lived in desperate poverty in Ireland couldn’t take pains to record family histories. But even the slimmest leads can turn into real treasures, if you’re persistent—and lucky.

Here are some Web sites to get started:

Get research tips and buy books, CDs and maps to help you with your search.

The site to begin your Irish and UK research, with research help, basic information, resource listings and more.

Irish Genealogical Society Intl.
At 2,300 members, this Twin Cities group is the largest of its type in the United States. Records are incredibly comprehensive and volunteer researchers are good sounding boards who point you in right direction.

FamilySearch Ireland Research Wiki
Get lots of research guidance and find out what records FamilySearch may have from your ancestor’s area.

Ireland Tourist Board: Tracing Ancestry
Learn about historic sites in Ireland and get links to genealogy services in each county.

National Archives of Ireland
This site includes list of genealogical centers in Ireland, national school rolls, prison records and archival links. Click Research Your Family Tree for genealogy guides. Online records and exhibits are under Digital Resources.

Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland
Click members for a directory of researchers you can hire in Ireland.

The Irish Times
Access articles back to 1859 with a subscription.

Irish Roots

The Irish Family History Foundation
This network of genealogy centers has branches in many Irish counties. You can search records online (view them for a fee), hire a researcher, get tips and more.

Center for Irish Studies
This internationally renowned organization at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., explores Irish culture via educational programs, research, publications and support of the arts in Ireland. Click Irish Roots at UST for information on its Celtic heritage collection.

Are you a little—or a lot—Irish? Use these Family Tree Magazine resources to help you trace your roots in Ireland: