Monday, 1 February, 2021
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No matter where you are stuck in your Irish ancestry quest, our local volunteers are here to help. 

Here are our top ten Irish Family History FAQs and helpful answers to get you back to Ireland and narrow your ancestry down to county, parish, and more!

IrelandXO FAQs: Finding Ancestors in Ireland

FAQ#1 I have Irish DNA (that's all I know)

Ireland Reaching Out has a community group for everyone looking for a way to reconnect with Ireland. If you are just beginning to investigate your Irish Roots your first step should be to join our "IrelandXO" group. This gives you free access to a wealth of insightful emails that will help you discover more.

JOIN IrelandXO

Have you taken a DNA test? The results on your Irish DNA map generally give you a clue as to where to begin reconnecting. (We invite you to join any "county" that corresponds with your DNA map). To figure out which counties apply to you... jump on our Message Board (post a closeup of your Ireland DNA map) and ask our local volunteers for help to narrow it down!

GO TO Message Board

You are welcome to join any county or parish in Ireland that has captivated your heart to learn and share information (e.g. recommend a place you visited in our Local Guide). Even with no known ancestral connections, this is a great way to keep in touch with the Irish places you love. (Again, if you need help discovering which group a certain town or place belongs to on our site, ask our volunteer Message Board tagging the county)

FAQ#2 My Ancestors were "from Ireland" (that's all I know)

When you have little more to go on than a "born in Ireland" record, here's how to begin the reconnection process. To #BringTheirMemoryHome

Your Ancestor Profile on IrelandXO makes them discoverable to other researchers and especially local reverse genealogists who might recognise and match them to county or more!

FAQ#3 All I know is the COUNTY my ancestors came from. How can I discover more?

Brilliant! Join any county of origin you are connected to. This immediately gives you access to genealogy volunteers from that county who have on the ground knowledge of what local records are available to you and more.

FAQ#4 I have an Immigration Record for my ancestor. Where to from there?

If your ancestor was recorded on a ship's manifest (especially the later ones) the bones of an address at home may have been recorded. Bear in mind that 

  • This was the nearest postal town so cast your net a lot wider than the town itself. 
  • Your ancestor may have come from a more rural place within range of that population centre.
  • Smaller postal towns or villages (located in one civil parish) served multiple parishes in that locality, as did larger towns (containing multiple parishes within). To narrow down which civil parishes a town may have served, ask our local volunteers.  

There's a good chance, if your ancestor was Catholic, that the Catholic Parish was named after that town eventually as populations grew. To confirm which pre-famine church registers would apply to your ancestor, ask our local volunteers, as this can narrow down your catchment area to a local chapel giving you a more specific range. 

FAQ#5 I know the Workhouse my ancestor came from, but no more – what now?

Did you know you can reconnect your ancestor to any Irish workhouse Ireland on this site?  It is a great way to share key resources and discoveries as your workhouse community grows.

FAQ#6  I have a Church record for my ancestor, but no address. What can I do?

Our volunteers can help!

To clarify where to begin your search (as Catholic parish boundaries morphed and changed as populations grew / declined) you'll need a local expert to advise you which district(s) that "parish" record covered at that point in time. Church of Ireland records match the civil parish of the same name). In either case, it's a good idea to ask our local volunteers and what other records may be available...

FAQ#7 I have a Parish name on my ancestor's headstone. Where to from there?

This is an invaluable clue as it confirms not only the county of origin but the civil parish too. (We have an Ancestor's Roll-Call for every civil parish on IrelandXO).

To reconnect your ancestor to their parish of origin see

The parish spelling on the headstone may differ from the official spelling today so if you have trouble finding it, try another spelling. Failing that, ask our volunteers on your county Message Board.

FAQ#8 How can I confirm if a record I have found is actually that of my ancestor?

Let's say you have come across a church marriage record that appears to be that of your ancestors... the names and date seem about right, but you have no other leads to confirm that they actually came from that county or parish. Or maybe you are looking at Tithe Applotment Book or Griffith's Valuation entry with the same dilemma?

Our local volunteers have experience in navigating these records and may be able to ask someone local who knows what became of that family (whether they emigrated or not). It's a great way whittle down a list of potential records by process of elimination.

  • GO TO Message Board (be sure to tag to your messages to the county of the parish record you are looking at)

FAQ#9 I heard my Granny "came out of Ballybeg" but which one? There are so many!

Many towns and townlands share common names like Bally~  because it literally means "town" or "home" in Irish. (See also What is a Townland?

There's a good chance you are going to be able to find a grandparent (or progenitor, or descendant) on an Irish Census record or substitute. And the Census of Ireland 1901/1911 is a good place to start. Keep an open mind on the spelling of names and places back then (as the may not exactly match what you input in your search). SEE ALSO Irish Surnames 101.

If you are new to this kind of research, our local volunteers have lots of experience and can help you with your query. 

FAQ#10 I've researched my ancestor's local records in depth. What more can I discover? 

Congratulations ... you're at the point of getting into reverse-genealogy! Your local record experience (however small or great) is an invaluable gift to share with others researching the same kin or district. By posting and sharing what you learn (even when not specific to your own ancestor) it opens doors to discovering more much about how every person within a given locality was connected. 

Whether you live in Ireland or overseas you are invited to volunteer on Ireland XO by responding to Message Board queries or adding content to your ancestral parish or county.  Find out more HERE


Got an ancestor from Ireland? 

#BringTheirMemoryHome by adding them to our Ancestors roll-call here:


LEARN MORE  Message Board Masterclass