First steps

This guide was last updated in 2009

Start by finding out as much as possible about your Irish ancestors from living relatives.

Follow one line (surname) of your family at a time. Your parents should be able to provide approximate dates and places of birth, marriage and death for their parents, and possibly their grandparents. Family bibles, letters, notebooks and diaries may help fill any gaps in your knowledge.

Whilst searching Irish records, you will need to bear in mind that the spelling of Irish surnames varied considerably during the 19th century, especially in the use of prefixes “Mc” or “O”. The surname “Maguire” may be spelt “McGuire” or “MacGuire”. The Surname “Blaney” may be spelt “O Blaney” or “McBlaney”.

Collect as much information about your ancestors in Great Britain before turning to Irish records. British sources include the General Register Office (for births, deaths and marriages), parish registers and census returns, all of which may provide you with that vital location in Ireland – the name of a county, parish or townland. Once you have identified a location in Ireland, your search of Irish records can commence.

Irish ancestors (general)
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