Among family historians, Irish research has traditionally been known as quite a difficult area to make progress in. This is largely due to scarcity of some key records, many of which were destroyed during the Irish Civil War.
We've prepared some handy guidelines to illustrate the many resources that might contain the information you are looking for, to help you get further when you're struggling.
In 1868 31% of the British army were Irishmen. This statistic declined slowly over decades, but remained relatively high - in 1898 14% of the British army were still Irish nationals. Many men left behind detailed service records. Findmypast is the only place you'll find records covering this period from both Chelsea and Kilmainham, where a record was held would depend on where a soldier was when they ended their service.
If in Ireland they would be kept in Kilmainham, Dublin, if on the mainland they would be stored in Chelsea, London. Check both of these to be comprehensive.
Findmypast has over 20 million court registers from 1828 to 1912. From an island with a population of around six million that's a phenomenal amount! The “Petty Sessions", as they were known, were a lower court where smaller crimes were heard and judged. Defendants, witnesses and victims were all named, so finding a relative in these is less worrying than it may seem at first glance.
We've got millions of local newspaper articles from all over Ireland. Whilst other records may not have survived, you could find your ancestors in all manner of reports from family notices to news reports.
News was often syndicated too – so read carefully and you might spot a relative in a publication a little further afield than you might expect.
This was a sort of land-based census substitute. Every townland had the owner of a property listed, plus the current tenant together with how much rent they paid to live there. It covers 1847-1864, and can help to give you an address of your relations and their neighbours.
This is one of the most comprehensive record sets available to a researcher in Ireland, use it to narrow down where you may need to search more.
Irish census fragments and Search forms
We know that the original census returns for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 have been destroyed. Horribly, the 1881 and 1891 censuses were pulped during the First World War. 1821-1851 censuses were largely destroyed in a 1922 Public Records Office fire, but there ARE some survivals.
Findmypast has almost 500,000 of these records and another 150,000 census search forms from the 1841 and 1851 censuses. These were used when somebody in Ireland wished to claim a pension and had to prove their age. That person would tell an official where they could be found in an earlier census, and validate their story so that they might be granted a pension.
Although by no means complete – these records are a substantial proportion and should always be checked.
Irish Births Marriages and Deaths
Much like in the United Kingdom, Ireland has a civil register of births, marriages and deaths starting from as far back as 1845. References to the original certificate in our indexes allow you to order a copy of the original document, which will be full of vital information including witnesses, residence and name and occupation of fathers.
Our MarriageFinder automatically matches references in these record indexes to give you the names of any possible spouses, saving you the trouble of having to dig yourself, and giving you even more chance of getting those all important new names!
Findmypast has the largest collection of Irish records online and these are just a handful of the most useful records we have. The most important thing to remember when looking for ancestors in Ireland is to never give up!