Ok, you’ve finally made the decision. After a lot of discussion, you’ve booked that flight for a research trip to Ireland. The purpose of your trip is to find information on one ancestor or your great grandparents who came over from some place in Ireland! That’s great and congrats on your decision. So now that you have made the decision to go over to the land of your ancestors, you may not know exactly where those ancestors originated from in Ireland. In some cases, they may have arrived from two separate places and were married here in the U.S. Perhaps a relative told you a county where they believe these ancestors were born. Whatever the situation, there is some work you will need to do before you even board the plane.
First, it’s important to research as much information as you can on that particular ancestor or ancestors. With much of these records now showing up online, the task of gathering information is a bit easier than in the past.
Be sure to check all the North American records and compile as much as you can on the ancestor. Be sure to research for death certificates, obituaries, cemetery records, census records and in some cases veterans records. Remember, if your male ancestor arrived into the U.S. around 1860 he might have served in the American Civil War.
Many Irish immigrants are found in Irish regiment muster rolls and on both sides of the conflict. In addition to the National Park Service’s roster of Soldiers and Sailors in the Civil War, checking the history of an Irish regiment from the state where that ancestor lived, could provide you with some important information. It would also help to check the 1890 Veterans enumeration and see if he or perhaps his widow is listed in the census.
Also, take a look at the 1900 U.S. Census to see what year might be indicated for the year of arrival into the U.S. You can find information on the 1900 Census on the National Archives website https://www.archives.gov. I would then check for passenger lists which are available on many free and pay genealogy websites. Prior to 1906, a local court authorized a Naturalization to an immigrant. It‘s a good idea to check the Declaration of Intent as well as the final Naturalization. Either or both could provide you with a county or location where that ancestor originated.
If you couldn't find much information regarding the arrival of your ancestor be sure to check the Library and Archives Canada. Perhaps your ancestor arrived in Canada first then traveled into the U.S. You can find information on their website http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/.
It's also important to check a number of the Irish websites which have recently generated a great deal of civil and religious records. The Irish government has introduced a great website which includes indexes and records for a number of civil and religious records that date back into the mid 19th century. Irish Genealogy.ie https://www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/ contains a number of birth marriage and death records from the General Register Office (GRO) and also contains links to other genealogy sites on Irish research.
The General Register Office also maintains a family research facility on Werburgh Street in Dublin 2. This is the area near Dublin Castle. You can search the index and purchase copies of birth, marriage and death records. More on this facility can be found at http://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/GRO_Research.aspx.
The National Library of Ireland maintains a website http://registers.nli.ie/ which contains records for almost 1100 Catholic parishes from Ireland and Northern Ireland. These registers contain baptism and marriage records up to 1880. This site requires that you search by parish name. Depending upon the location of the parish, some records date back into the 1700s.
The Representative Church Body Library has registers from various parishes online. This includes digitized registers of baptism, marriage and death records from the Anglican Records Project which was started by Mark Williams roughly 20 years ago. Although many Church of Ireland parish registers were destroyed in the Four Courts Fire in 1922, there are still many records that exist. The RCB website https://www.ireland.anglican.org/about/rcb-library/ has a listing of all parishes that contain information about each parish and whether that register still exist and where those records may be found.
Keep in mind a religious or church parish is not the same as a civil parish although civil parishes have closer boundaries to the Church of Ireland parishes. In many cases, parishes crossed over town and county lines.
The National Archives of Ireland also has a number of records for the family historian. Again, a vast amount of the Census records from Ireland were destroyed in the 1922 fire. However, there are fragments of records that are still available. Some of these records are available online as well as a number of Census Substitutes which include the Tithe Applotment Books, will registers and shipping agreements and crew lists. http://www.genealogy.nationalarchives.ie/ There are a number of records that may be searched onsite. If you plan to visit the National Archives, it's important to register for a Reader's Ticket provide two forms of ID include one with a picture and proof of your permanent address. Your travel documents that contains your address and your passport or driver's license will work. You will not be allowed into the Reading Room unless you have a Reader's Ticket. The Archives also provides a free Genealogy service and are available to assist and answer questions regarding your research.
The Registry of Deeds located at Henrietta Street in Dublin 1 will allow research of indexes by townland and grantor's name and look through a copy of the Memorial document. If you find the name of an ancestor, you are able to purchase a copy of the document which will be sent to you later. Many of these records date from 1708. For more information, you can search the Registry of Deeds website http://www.prai.ie/registry-of-deeds-services/#records, for hours of operation, a map of the facility and a glossary of terminology. You can also save some steps since many of these records are now showing up online. The Registry of Deeds Index Project Ireland http://irishdeedsindex.net/index.php has been digitizing many of the indexes and can be searched on this site. This website will allow you to search by grantor and grantee. These records are also being made available on Family Search.org https://familysearch.org.
Griffiths Valuation Survey is also a great census substitute which should give the researcher a location of origin as long as they were leasing land at that time. It is certainly worth searching these documents. My favorite link to these records is the Ask About Ireland website http://www.askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation/. This site will allow you to search
The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland also has a number of records in its collection which include a few online records. PRONI has a vast number of microfilm that can be searched in the reading room. The staff is always available to answer questions and assist you if you need any help. PRONI also requires a photo ID and a record that indicates your permanent address. You will be required to fill out a registration form in advance. You can obtain a copy of the form on the PRONI website https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni. You will have a photo taken which will be included in your Visitors Pass which you will need each time you visit PRONI.
There are a number of other online sites that are valuable and worth searching before heading out on your trip. These include:
Ulster Historical Foundation https://www.ancestryireland.com/
The Irish Family History Foundation https://www.ancestryireland.com/
The key here is to narrow down your search so that you can identify the townland and civil or religious parish in the county that your ancestor originated. These links should help you find the location where they lived which will help you find other information on your ancestors before you set out on your journey. One of the most fascinating moments for a North American is to stand and look out at the same spot your great great grandfather viewed almost 200 years before. So, knowing even some of this information ahead of time can save you a lot of time and possibly give you that opportunity to stand where your ancestors stood.
The more detailed you make your search in Ireland, the greater your chances are for a successful trip. While you are there, be sure to allow yourself some time to take in all the great sites that make Ireland the wonderful place that it is. There are a number of natural sites as well as museums and archives in both Ireland and Northern Ireland that are worth visiting. The Ulster American Folk Park, The Titanic Museum, Dublin Castle, Trinity College and Kilmainham Gaol are just a few of the many places worth taking the time to see. So take the time to visit these places. Trust me, you won't regret it.
Also keep in mind a couple of things before heading out to Ireland. This is something that most Americans or Canadians may not be aware. First, the Republic of Ireland uses the Euro for currency while Northern Ireland uses the British Pound. Visa cards are widely accepted. Second, everyone drives the opposite of how we drive in North America. So before crossing the street, look right first! The driver is also on the right side of the car and not on the left as is the case here. So, do your research and be prepared for a grand adventure searching for your ancestors and walking down the paths they once walked.