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Getting your Irish Ancestor across the Ocean

Finding an Irish immigrant's area of origin can be challenging, but there are several Irish, U.S., and Canadian records that may give you this information.


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Finding an Irish immigrant's area of origin can be challenging, but there are several Irish, U.S., and Canadian records that may give you this information. This article will discuss civil registration, immigration, church, vital, and cemetery records and how these records can assist you in finding your ancestor's place of origin.

Civil Registration: If your ancestor was born or married in Ireland after the mid-1800s, you may be able to locate him or her in Irish Civil Registration indexes. Civil Registration (governmental registration of births, marriages, and deaths) began in Ireland in 1845 for non-Catholic marriages and in 1864 for all births, marriages, and deaths. Finding an ancestor in a civil registration index will give you his or her area of origin. Original records can then be requested from the General Register Office in Dublin by mail or fax: General Register Office, Joyce House, 8/11 Lombard Street, Dublin 2, Ireland; fax: +353-1-6354527. Events recorded after 1922 in Northern Ireland must be requested from the General Register Office in Belfast. Their website is: Pre-1870 marriages and pre-1880 births are likely in the International Genealogical Index and can be searched at:

Immigration: Beginning with the 1900 census, you can find an ancestor's year of immigration and naturalization into the U.S. from census records. To find a date and port of arrival of your ancestor, I recommend checking the following indexes:

1) Filby, P. William and Mary K. Meyer, eds. Passenger and Immigrationi Lists Index. 3 vols plus supps. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981-. Each volume and supplement contains different persons, so all must be searched.

2) Glazier, Ira A., ed. The Famine Emigrants: Lists of Irish Immigrants Arriving at the Port of New York, 1846-51. 7 vols. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983-86.

Passenger lists (which list names and information of those coming to the U.S.) can give you names of others (possible relatives) who came across at the same time. They include details of last residence from 1883, and many are indexed. Naturalization records will give a person's birthplace.

Church: Many Irish were Catholic. If your ancestor was married after immigrating to the U.S., a Catholic marriage record may give his or her Irish place of origin. Baptismal records will list a child's sponsors, which were often relatives, and will also usually give the mother's maiden names. These things are important clues to identifying your ancestor in records in Ireland.

Vital: A death certificate will give the decedent's parentage and birthplace, which often includes more than just "Ireland." If death certificates begin too late in a state your ancestor died in, try checking for death certificates on a county level, which often began much earlier.

Cemetery: Not always, but if you are lucky, cemetery records will include an Irish immigrant's county of origin. I have seen it happen and you may be so fortunate, so it is worth checking.

Other records that may be helpful are Irish marriage indexes, probate indexes, indexes to Griffith's Valuation, and Tithe Applotment records (see Irish Ancestors: Land Records). These can help you locate your surname in certain areas of Ireland.

Although Irish research can be challenging, searching the records discussed in this article should help you locate your ancestor's area of origin. I wish you luck as you seek to discover more about your Irish roots!

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.

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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