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Q. I’ve been searching for my Irish fifth-great-grandfather, who was born in 1748. How can I find out more about him?
A. For Irish ancestors prior to 1864, your best resource is church records. The Family History Library has many on microfilm; find them by searching FamilySearch’s online catalog. You’ll also find some of these indexed in the FamilySearch database Ireland Births and Baptisms, 1620-1881 and Ireland Marriages, 1619-1898. The Ireland Family History Foundation has also begun to transcribe and index millions of these records. Searching is free, but it costs about $5 see the full transcription of a record.
You might also try the religious census of 1766. The Irish National Archives has a list of the returns for each diocese.
Unless you get lucky and find your ancestor in an index, to trace a family in Irish church records, you’ll need to know the name of the place where they lived (the town or village) and their religion. Start your quest for this information with home sources, such as old letters, family Bibles and other papers that might have clues about your ancestral origins.
You also may find it helpful to study Irish migration patterns and your relatives’ neighbors in the United States. Your ancestors may have traveled in a group with neighbors and other relatives. They might have been part of a chain migration pattern, in which family and friends followed earlier emigrants who settled in America.
From the May/June 2015 Family Tree Magazine