The most important advice we can give is to do as much research as you can before you come to Ireland. You may have access to records or information in your home country, or indeed in your own family that cannot be accessed here, or does not exist here. For example, you may have letters or photos or indeed a family Bible that records a townland or parish name. Perhaps there is a local cemetery where townland names are recorded on headstones. Sometimes where mass emigration resulted in entire neighbourhoods leaving one part of Ireland and going together to your home country, neighbours stayed together. Record all of this information.
If you are only starting out in your search, remember:
- Start with yourself and work backwards. Make sure you record everything you know. If you do not know exact dates of birth for example, make an educated guess. Many people could not read and did not celebrate birthdays and events like we do now. Many of our ancestors would not have actually known their real date of birth
- Make use of the free online resources for the Tithe Applotment Books, Griffith's Valuation and Census of Ireland 1901 & 1911
- Talk to the older members of your family. While some stories change over time and may not be entirely true, you may be able to ascertain a place in Ireland or the name of a family friend that may later appear as a sponsor on a baptism record, for example, thereby verifying a link. You never know what information will be useful!
- Make use of our message board. If our volunteers can help you they will, and you may be lucky enough to establish the exact townland where your ancestors were born
Develop a research plan
If you only have a short time for research while in Ireland, you won't want to waste time. Decide what line of the family you wish to start your research on. Generally it is easier to work on the paternal side. Make sure you also record the names and contact details of those you speak with, you may need to contact them again to clarify a piece of information when you get back home
Learn about core Irish genealogy archives by visiting our information pages on the Irish historical census and other archives.
There are many online resources available to help you conduct your family history research. Please visit our Family History Resources Useful Information Archives Page for an explanation of the best of these sites and how they may be useful to you.