The past twenty plus years I have been searching for my Irish ancestor. The closest ancestor I have to Ireland is a Scottish ancestor who sojourned briefly in Belfast before coming to America. He hardly counts in my book! I want a real Irishman ... somebody from County Cork with shamrocks in his pocket and leprechauns on his doorstep. In the meantime I'll share some of my favorites ideas for Irish research, just in time for St. Patrick's Day.
During the colonial period and later, the Irish played a key role in the settlement and development of the United States. Between 1820 and 1920 approximately 4.7 million Irish came to these shores. During the time period of 1820 to 1845 it is estimated that 1.3 million arrived here. We think of the Irish in conjunction with the potato famine and it is not surprising that in the two year period of time from 1846 to 1848 approximately 1,750,000 Irish came to the United States. They are referred to as the Irish famine immigrants. Some who also experienced crop failure, disease and famine began coming here earlier in the 1830s.
Statistics indicate that in the 1840s most of the Irish immigrants were from the midlands and southern areas of Ireland. In the 1880s most were from the western area of Ireland. Up to 1900, 48% came from the counties of Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Galway, Mayo and Tipperary. During the mid to late 1800s most of the immigrants from Ireland were unmarried, 15 to 35 years of age and many were women and domestic servants.
Clues to your Irish ancestry can be found in family traditions and stories, Bibles, journals and diaries, old letters, obituaries, newspaper articles and church records. The frustration comes when you learn they were from Ireland and no county or town is mentioned. Early naturalizations often do not contain an exact location, but they are worth checking. Census records of the 20th century contain information on the year a person arrived in the United States and whether they are naturalized. From this you can investigate passenger lists and naturalizations.
Should your research produce an area more specific than a county in Ireland, the IreAtlas Townland database is a very useful tool in obtaining more information. If you only enter a county, the database will return every townland in the county in a very large file. It can be found at http://www.seanruad.com/.
An interesting study of Irish surnames on Internet contains information on the Gaelic form and English variants, septs and branches, territory of origin, etc. and can be found at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~irishsurnames/.
The following are some interesting Irish research web pages. There are many more on Internet, so be sure and check a link site such as Cyndis List at http://www.cyndislist.com.
The Irish Ancestral Research Association The Irish Ancestral Research Association (Tiara)
GENUKI: Ireland Ireland Genealogy Index
Links of Irish Interest
Irish Emigration Lists 1833-1839
Irish Origins Irish Origins
There are a large number of Irish databases on Ancestry.com, http://www.ancestry.com. While these require a World Subscription, if you have a number of Irish ancestors, the cost might be worth what you glean from the research. Check for specials or free times that are offered for researching their databases.
One of my favorites on Ancestry.com is the New York Emigrant Savings Bank, 1850-1883. This was established in 1850 by members of the Irish Emigrant Society and served thousands of Irish emigrants who came here after the Potato Famine. The records kept by the bank include volumes of records, such as an Index Book, Test Book, Transfer, Signature and Test Book along with a Deposit-Account Ledger. Researchers should thoroughly check the index on Ancestry.com which will also link to images that contain more pertinent data. Normally the information found will include the name of the depositor, date and account number. The test books are for 1850-1868 and contain more details such as occupation, residence, sometimes family members, immigration information as well as birth and place of residence in Ireland.
There are some Irish databases on the New England Historic Genealogical Society web page, http://www.newenglandancestors.org/. While these require a subscription to access, the society also offers some free times for exploring them.
May the luck of the Irish be with you on St. Patrick's Day and also throughout each and every year as you search for that elusive Irish ancestor.
Source Information: Tracing Lines, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
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