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Genealogy in Ireland

My mom and I are going to Ireland for fun and some genealogy work. Our family is from Enniskillen in Northern Ireland and we plan to go there first from the Dublin airport. After that our plan is open. We will be driving so we have means to get around to smaller places. Is there a place in Ireland with any main records of the past? I know a lot of records in Ireland were burned in churches but I don't know if there is a central point for records? Also, if you have small towns in Ireland that you have loved away from the big cities let me know. We would rather spend our time without high tourist areas and mainly in the beautiful country with our spare time. Will turn in car and be in Dublin a few days before our departure.

Posted by
10 posts

Go to EPIC The Irish Immigration Museum in Dublin. They have really interesting stuff in there, plus a genealogy section.

Posted by
29 posts

in Northern Ireland you will need to go to the GRONI, remember there are 2 different countries on the Island
Northern Ireland records are now held in Belfast, not Dublin, so you are better to head to Belfast and access them there
GRONI is the "General Register office of Northern Ireland " you can visit them but you will need to book a visit you cannot rock up randomly https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/contacts/contacts-az/general-register-office-northern-ireland
please be aware records in what today is Northern Ireland (which dates from 1921) date from 1864, I am from NI myself btw)

Posted by
29 posts

fyi "Island of Ireland" is a better to say meaning the geographical island of Ireland
"Ireland" on its own is the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland o
whilst i live on the Island of Ireland I dont live in "Ireland" aka the Republic of Ireland , I live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Posted by
47 posts

Thank you for the in depth clarification James Woods. We have information that one person was from Enniskillen which is in NI so I appreciate your information about GRONI in Belfast. How do I know how the lines changed between Republic of Ireland and NI over the years? Enniskillen is close to the border. Are there any records in the small towns? Does GRONI have emigration records? Looks like our James Wilson emigrated from Derry (Londonderry)? Thank you!

Posted by
29 posts

Enniskillen is Very much in Northern Ireland, there are no records keep in small towns Northern Ireland is divided up into 11 different council areas there are births deaths and marriages but they do not have the facilities for family research you are better going to GRONI in Belfast with Belfast being the Capital of Northern Ireland there is also the PRONI facility is in Belfast PRONI is the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and is in the Titanic Quarter https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni

Posted by
29 posts

also remember because NI is part of the UK if driving the road signs in NI are different from the Republic and the speed limits like the rest of the United Kingdom are in miles per hour and you will need Pounds as well for NI :)

Posted by
29 posts

just a side note GRONI (general register of Northern Ireland) is for births deaths and marriages in Northern Ireland
PRONI (public record office of Northern Ireland) would hold records of emigration etc so you are better to head there they are located in the titanic Quarter take the G2 glider bus from the city centre to the TQ it will cost a few pounds (£3.50 for a day ticket) from the ticket machine to get there see the earlier links i posted

Posted by
1730 posts

If you do not know of any existing family members in Enniskillen (and I realize you may already have such info), but if not, do not overlook talking with B&B owners, shopkeepers, local government office, church, etc. to see what folks might know about your family name and if there are any people with the same last name, and then try to connect with them. (And, you could also Google the family name while still at home, to see what you come up with).

It was by chance that I emailed a B&B owner in the small town where I knew a distant cousin lived (but I did not know her married last name...just the original family name), and magically the B&B owner knew the family and helped us to connect. That resulted in our meeting them, having her and her husband collect us at our hotel, show us the old family home (where my grandmother was raised....I had an old tattered black/white photo from my childhood), family graves, family church, etc. as well as where the great-grandparents had lived. It was truly a WOW experience and one that would never, ever have happened without my chance email to the B&B owner (and yes, we did stay at his B&B in that town).

So, sometimes taking an outside-the-box approach can really work. We found a lot of older Irish people have incredible knowledge about the family heritages. My cousin mentioned that in church they have a special day when they pray for the immigrants (and she meant US) and said we were the first immigrants to come home to visit them. A different twist, but okay.....never thought of myself (a three generations later) as an immigrant....LOL.

It really was a magical experience connecting with them and having that first-hand guide to show me sooooo much. Something I never, ever dreamed I would experience when I was a kid seeing that little photo of the modest stone house.

Posted by
29 posts

i wouldnt go knocking on peoples doors can you imagine someone coming to your door and saying they are your long lost relative
Northern Irish people would tell you to do one, in no uncertain terms

Posted by
5718 posts

Charming or not it’s honest.
You can’t just assume that people will welcome you with open arms or be the least bit interested just because you say you are a long lost relation.

Sarah have you done any genealogical research online recently? I’m asking because I’ve been doing my tree through ancestry.com for the last few years and really struggling with the Irish side of the family. But in the last couple of months lots of new links have popped up taking me back 100 years and to the 1 square mile parish where part of my family is from. There are definitely lots more scans of parish registers etc which have provided more specific info than census records etc, once I managed to translate the handwriting. I don’t know if they have access to more documents or they have changed the search algorithm but it has definitely changed.

I could be wrong but I don’t think the problem with records is that they were burnt in churches rather that the central records office went up in smoke during the civil war. I would definitely do some research before you come so you are looking for specifics eg graves, family farms etc rather than coming over and expecting to get a lot done on site.

My recent research brought up some interesting stuff about part of my family. It looks like they aren’t quite as Irish as they thought with one branch probably being descended from a welsh soldier sent over by Mary Tudor in the 16th century, something the welsh side of the family will find hilarious! So you never know what you will find!

Posted by
747 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
I also have some Northern Ireland roots and went looking. Belfast is where I found excellent mapping. I forget what they are called for sure, but I think they are the six inch map. That is six inches on the sheet of paper equals one mile of actual land. Extremely detailed, nearly shows you every fence post as of ...hmmm....1837? These maps are found on line if you know what you are looking for. https://libguides.ucd.ie/findingmaps/mapshistIreland

The beauty is that the map shows houses, sheds, roads, trails, wells and the place names that have no home any more. I found Ballymccaffry, town of Mccaffry. Locals and priests weren't of as much use as I thought they might be. Priests aren't always a local boy grown up. A couple of priests were able to point out historic, no longer in use, cemeteries. Very useful. And which extinct parishes used them. Keep in mind that church records may not be open to you. Here in WI, our local bishop, and he's a piece of work, has banned public access to church records.

Yes, many records in Dublin were destroyed during the uprising of 1916. I think the goal was political. Maybe an attempt to destroy land records of the 1690 Scottish/English planters' invasion.

And Rathmelton in Donegal holds fond memories for my wife and me. Keep in mind that from Portrush to Larne...Northern Ireland is beautiful. The famous Green Glens of Antrim and the Antrim Coast road. Just great.

Drive those rural roads and soak up the beauty. Drive as if there is an obstacle around each corner.

Wayne iNWI

Posted by
29 posts

there are NO records held in Dublin !!!!!!!!!!!!!, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and any records held are held in Belfast Births deaths and marriages are held in GRONI (General Register office for NI) and other records such as emigration and townlands maps are held in PRONI (Public Record office of Northern Ireland) see my earlier posts for weblinks

Posted by
5718 posts

Calm down , no one is saying the records are in Dublin! You made your point very clearly previously.

Posted by
47 posts

Thank you everyone for all the great information. We are on ancestry and have gone as far as we can go on there. I will also check out my husbands side if time allows since his side of the family is from the Republic of Ireland and I'll check in Dublin for that information. Many thanks again!

Posted by
747 posts

Hi from Wisconsin again,

My last name can be spelled in any number of ways. And considering even recent ancestors were illiterate, marking official documents with an X, strangers often determined how a name was spelled. I got quite a lesson from a priest I visited with in 1973. He suggested that Eagon and Hagan and Gauagan might be the same name depending on the visiting Priest and whether of not you had a cold in your nose the day of the baptism, wedding or funeral.

So first things first...be creative in how you think your name might possibly be spelled. Does it end in ery, ary, rey, ry, etc. Is it O something or O'Something. In Wisconsin if your voting records show O'something and you use Osomething, your vote is contingent on you changing your registration in the week that follows. Same with McC or Mc C. I fell through the gap and my vote was provisional. Little differences make computer searches problematic. Be creative.

Once you have a good list of spellings sit down with Griffith's Valuation from about 1850. There are free sites that let you enter a last name and see all the "hits". If you know your county, then it is even better as names are listed by county. I had 175 its on my first try

wayne iNWI.

Posted by
47 posts

Thanks Wayne, that is very helpful for that website. The last name my mom is looking for 2 James Wilson's different families etc so I'm not holding my breath we will figure that one out. Might be like looking up Smith here. You see on census for the US they also have crazy spellings depending on the census takers at that location and time. We will definitely look into all of this before we leave in May. Thanks again for another great tip!
Sarah

Posted by
1648 posts

Years ago I had a co-worker who shared this story:
It was their first trip to Ireland, and they were driving the "tourist loop" from Dublin out to Galway, down thru Dingle and Killarney and then back by way of Kinsale and Waterford. It was in the days before DNA tests and ancestry websites, so all they had to go on was family lore which indicated that the family had emigrated from a small village in West Cork during the famine years. Since their itinerary took them close to the old village they decided to stop off for a look ... mainly so they could say they'd been there I suppose. They happened to be there around lunch time and so opted to grab a bite at a small tea room along the main street of the tiny little place. While chatting with the hostess they discussed how they happened to be there and mentioned the supposed family connection to the village. After hearing more of their story she mentioned that she had a good friend with the same last name (Rafferty) who lived only a few doors away. Dropping everything, she closed the place up, walked them down the street, knocked on her friend's door, and then explained to her friend the possible connection that these two American visitors had to the village... and possibly with her family.
Long story short - the friend invited everyone inside and, over a pot of tea and a healthy serving of scones, it was eventually determined that the two were actually long lost cousins - the American side of the family having long since lost contact with anyone from the old village.
The charming post script to the story was the friend's comment that the Irish Rafferety's had always prayed for the American emigres, long after direct contact had been lost, hoping that someday a member of the extended family would return ... as eventually they did.
So, you never know what the most casual of inquiries may lead to.

Posted by
1730 posts

Robert, that is indeed a charming story, and one I am absolutely not surprised to read, as that is exactly the helpfulness and kindness we experienced with the Irish (and, as I mentioned in my post earlier, the prayers for those (even generations later) that left for the USA.

I did not mention in my previous post, but a few years after our trip, friends of ours visited Ireland and used the same driver we did. She was hoping to learn more about her ancestors. Turns out, the likely connection was in the Aran Islands. So, the local driver took them there, found the son who ran the bike shop of the same name, who connected them with the father who welcomed them into their home, then showed them around the island, grave stones, etc. One of her fondest memories was of the old man standing at the pier watching them sail off to the mainland of Ireland....waving. They were truly the highlight of his day, likely his week,maybe his month or year. The driver even asked if he could cut a lock of his hair (the driver is a character) so she could do a DNA test when she got back to the US........the pappy guy quickly agreed. He died not too long later, and while it was not certain he was a relative (the DNA test was never done), she will always hold dear the kindness of this maybe-likely relative.

It is our experience that if approached kindly and casually and/or introduced by another local, the Irish (at least in the countryside) are thrilled to learn of the possibility of a long-lost relative from the US.......or they will at least try to assist with whatever knowledge they may have.

A separate aside, we learned (at least about 7 years ago...I think it may have since changed), when mail was addressed in parts of Ireland, unlike the 123 West Main Street, just the person's name and Townsland or City is included. Since many have the exact same last name and often the same first name, he said if he opens something, he will realize oh, " that is for Tony over the hill, not me" and then pass it along to the right Tony. A different way of life.............................. Many really know a lot about each other and their heritage.

Wishes for finding a connection or at least meeting some dear, helpful people along the way that will always be deep in your heart of memories by their sincere Irish kindness.

Posted by
372 posts

Side Note...

I once read a good tip and I found it be be true: When you're in the pubs and making conversation, don't jump in with "I'm here researching my family," but rather let the locals establish the first connection..."There's lots of Dolan's in Iowa." And then let the conversation go from there.

Enjoy! We've been to Ireland twice and this last time, I really felt connected to my roots.