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* Introduction
* Caribbean
* Irish
*Tracing Irish Roots
*Irish Perspectives on UK Records
*Irish Records In the UK
*Irish Records
*Pulling It All Together
* Jewish
* South Asian


In this section * * * * *
British and Irish Records Systems: Similarities and Differences*    
Civil Records*   researching in the GRO Dublin*   
Census Records*   1901 and 1911 census* census substitutes and fragments*   
Church Records*   Roman Catholic Records, Research and their Locations* Church of Ireland Records and their Locations* Presbyterian Records and their Locations* Other Denominations (Methodist and Quaker)*   
Property Records*   Tithe Applotment Books* Griffith's Valuation* Transcripts and Indexes for Griffith's Valuation and the Tithe Books* Valuation Office* Estate Records*   
Other Records*   Dublin, Countrywide and Provincial Directories* Newspaper Indexes and Locations*   

*British and Irish Records Systems: Similarities and Differences*top of page

From 1800 to 1922 the UK was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In other words, for almost all of the period of interest to genealogists, the two islands formed part of the same country.

The first implication is that no official records of migration exist, since the Irish in Britain at this period were not technically immigrants. Another result is that British archives contain much original material of Irish interest. Follow the link to find more information on Irish Records in the United Kingdom.

An order of removal for Margaret Cahill
An order of removal for Margaret Cahill from the parish of Saint Mary Abbotts, Kensington to the parish of Mitchell's Town, County Cork, Ireland in 1836.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (LMA) MJ/SP/1837/04/102
There are strong similarities between the record systems of Britain and Ireland, particularly:

  • The formats of the various civil registration records
  • Census-taking practice
  • Probate for wills
  • Before census and civil registration, parish records are the only direct sources of family information for the majority of the population
However, some very significant differences need to be taken into account:

  • Because of the destruction of virtually all 19th-century census returns, the 1901 and 1911 censuses have long been open for public research in Ireland.
  • For the same reason, a whole range of different sources (known as 'census substitutes') have acquired an unlikely significance. The most prominent is Griffith's Primary Valuation, an all-Ireland property survey published county by county between 1848 and 1864. This is important for anyone concerned with 19th-century Irish ancestors.
  • Although the Irish county system appears to conform to British practice, place names below the county level are very differently organised and, since most records relate to specific localities, it is necessary to have a clear grasp of these differences when researching.
  • Most of the major record categories have starting dates significantly later than their British equivalents.

There are four categories of Irish records that are relevant to almost everyone doing research on Irish ancestors. These are:

  • Civil records
  • Census records
  • Church records
  • Property records

*Civil Records*top of page

The heading of a map of Ireland dated 1890 showing the Poor Law Unions and the electoral divisions
The heading of a map of Ireland dated 1890 showing the Poor Law Unions and the electoral divisions. There is a handwritten key to the coloured markings on the map which show the degrees of anticipated distress - acute, severe or light.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (PRO) MFQ 1/925
State registration of non-Catholic marriages began in Ireland in 1845. All births, deaths and marriages have been registered in Ireland since 1864. The main points of research access are:

  • The General Register Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast
  • The General Register Office in Dublin
Research in the Belfast Office is limited by space constraints, and pre-booking up to two weeks in advance may be necessary. Research in the Dublin Office is allowed on the indexes only, with the purchase of a photocopy necessary to obtain further information.

*Census Records*top of page

Full government censuses were taken of the whole island in 1821, 1831, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911. The first four, for 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851, were largely destroyed in 1922 in the fire at the Public Record Office, Dublin (surviving fragments are detailed in the county source-lists).

Those for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 were completely destroyed earlier, by order of the government, for reasons that deserve more investigation. This means that the earliest surviving comprehensive returns are for 1901 and 1911.

Because of this, the normal rule that census returns should not be available to the public for 100 years has been suspended in the Republic of Ireland. The returns for both 1901 and 1911 can be consulted on microfilm in the Public Record Office of Ireland.

A full microfilm copy of the 1901 census is available at the *LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City and through local Mormon Family History Centres. Indexes, in published or database form, are available for the 1901 returns of some counties.

Copies of the 1901 returns for the six counties now in Northern Ireland are available at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. In addition, some of the local heritage centres have computerised transcripts of the 1901 census returns for their areas.

Read more about the 1901 and 1911 census*.

*Church Records*top of page

Extract from a census conducted by a parish priest
Extract from a census conducted by a parish priest of his Catholic parishioners living in Mill street, Kirkham, a small town to the west of Preston.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (LARO) RCKI/12f68-76
Through the 19th century about 85% of the population of Ireland were Roman Catholic, 5% were members of the Church of Ireland and 10% *Dissenters, almost all *Presbyterian and mainly, but not exclusively, concentrated in the North.

Before the start of civil registration for all in 1864, the records of these churches are virtually the only direct sources of family information.

For information on the records of any of the religions or denominations listed below follow the appropriate link.

*Property Records*top of page

Because of the destruction of 19th-century census returns, surviving land and property records from the period have become significant for genealogical research. Two surveys cover the entire country:

  • The Tithe Applotment Books of c. 1823-38
  • Griffith's Primary Valuation, 1848-64
There are also a number of transcripts and finding aids for these. The records of the Valuation Office, originally set up to oversee the Primary Valuation, can also be invaluable and the records of the great landed estates can sometimes provide useful information.

In your search of property records the details provided in the categories below will be invaluable. Follow any of the links below for further information on that specific subject area.

*Other Records*top of page

Of records that are only relevant in specific circumstances the most important are:

  • Directories
  • Newspapers
  • Occupational records
  • Wills
  • Deeds
  • Ulster's Office/Genealogical Office
  • Migration records


Irish commercial directories completely exclude servants, small *tenant farmers and *landless labourers, which were the classes that made up the vast majority of the Irish population up to the 20th century. However, for those areas and classes that they do cover, Irish directories are an excellent source, often supplying information not readily available elsewhere. Follow the link Dublin, Countrywide and Provincial Directories* for more detailed information about directories.


Newspapers are a genealogical source that should be approached with caution, especially if time is limited - it is simply too easy to be drawn into the journalistic details of the past. They can, however, provide the kind of information absent from almost all other records.

For more on how newspapers may help your research please follow the link below for details.

Occupational Records

Once again, the most disadvantaged - those most likely to migrate, in other words - are least likely to have been in an occupation for which records survive. But if records do exist, they can be extremely useful. Two of the most important sets of occupational records are available in the National Archives, Kew, those of:


An extract from the will  of Austin O'Malley of Ormskirk, Lancashire dated 1848
An extract from the will of Austin O'Malley of Ormskirk, Lancashire dated 1848 which gives a clear link back to Ireland. The extract shown here refers to a house in Bridge Street, Westport in County Mayo that was owned by O'Malley.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (LARO) WCWAustinOMalley
With the obvious limitation that wills are only relevant for the minority who owned property, they can be an extremely important source of genealogical information in Ireland as elsewhere. They provide a clear picture of a family at a particular point in time and can often supply enough details of a much larger network of relationships to produce quite a substantial family tree.

Researching testamentary records - the records of wills - can be difficult anywhere but in Ireland the difficulty is greater because almost all of the testamentary holdings of the Public Record Office (now the Public Record Office of Ireland) were destroyed in 1922. Many of the substitutes now used are scattered and fragmented. Many wills of Irish subjects were probated in Britain, so it is worth checking the PRO records, some of which are now online: *www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline.

Read more about Testamentary authority* before 1857 and after 1857.

Creators: John Grenham

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