Q. I’ve hit a brick wall with my Northern Ireland ancestors before 1800. What resources can I try?
A. Several census substitutes can help you find pre-1800 families, according to the Ulster Historical Foundation. Indexes and originals for most are available through the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI):
• Hearth money rolls: Returns for this 1660s tax on hearths are arranged by parish and list householders who paid. Surviving records cover Northern Ireland better than the rest of Ireland.
• Census of Protestant householders: Not a true census, this 1740 enumeration by the collectors of the hearth tax lists names arranged by county, barony and parish.
• Religious census of 1766: Church of Ireland rectors enumerated inhabitants by religion: Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic (identified as “Papists”) and Presbyterians (“Dissenters”). Some rectors simply counted heads; others listed households. The original returns have been destroyed, but transcriptions survive in the Tenison Groves Papers, available on Family History Library microfilm and on Ancestry.com.
• Petition of Protestant Dissenters: This list of dissenters’ names was submitted to the government in 1775; PRONI has transcriptions. You can search an index covering the 1740, 1766 and 1775 databases at PRONI; results reference the original records.
• Flaxgrowers List: In 1796, the government awarded free spinning wheels or looms to farmers who planted a minimum acreage of flax. PRONI has lists of more than 56,000 recipients. Search an index at the Ulster Historical Foundation website.
From the January/February 2015 Family Tree Magazine