From 1800 until 1922, Ireland was part of the UK so there are strong similarities between the records available for both countries. However, because they were one country, it means there are no official immigration records covering travel between the two islands. Another main stumbling block for those researching their Irish roots is the fact that during the Civil War of 1922, the Irish Public Record Office was burned to the ground. With it went Ireland’s 19th-century census returns, two thirds of the parish registers of the Church of Ireland and all the wills probated in Ireland.
This means that other sources from Ireland are all the more important. Premier among these is the Griffiths Valuation (1848-1864) and there’s an Index to this important survey of land ownership available to Premium and Worldwide members. You can perform a search of the index and it will tell you what land your ancestor owned, and which townland, parish and county it was located in. You can follow up this information using other records with a visit to either the National Archives in Dublin, or the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast. You can inspect the complete Griffiths Valuation documents at both of these archives.
While the one million records in the Griffiths Valuation Index give your ancestors’ names and locations, the Tithe Applotment books 1824-37 provide similar information but add another crucial bit of information – the year the record was taken. The applotment books only cover the counties of the North (Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone) but nonetheless provide a crucial resource for pre-famine Ireland.
The bulk of Ireland’s parish records are held by the Roman Catholic Church in various parts of the country, some have been transcribed and are part of the Irish Records Extraction database. This actually contains nearly 90,000 names from a mix of sources including baptisms, marriages, burials and even some wills.
In Ireland, civil registration began in 1864. To find certificates from the 19th and early 20th centuries you’ll have to contact the Irish General Register Office in Dublin (www.groireland.ie) or the General Register Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast (www.groni.gov.uk).
If your ancestor enlisted in the Royal Irish Constabulary, search our index of recruits, which holds nearly 90,000 records from 1816-1921. You’ll find your ancestors’ names, the year they joined, their ages, and their birthplaces. Many Irish men served in the British forces in World War I – if you think your forebear might have served it’s definitely worth searching the British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 collection, as well as the WWI Service and Pension Records. There’s also a list of over 49,000 Irish men who died during the War in Ireland, Casualties of World War I, 1914-1918, which tells us a little bit about each soldier.
For instance, using the British and Irish military records together, we can find out that Private Thomas O’Kane, born in Garvagh, Co Derry, was killed in action aged 25 in France on 16 May 1915. He fought with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1915 Star for his sacrifice. We now know a lot more about him and his military service.
The luck of the Irish is often referred to and a little of that might help you find the records you’re looking for. However, the main quality that’s required is perseverance.