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Commercial websites and professional genealogy services are a valuable resource for all people researching their Irish ancestral origins, but there are also a vast amount of free online resources available and these are an excellent starting place when looking to fill in the gaps about your Irish family history. Here we look at our favourite essential Irish genealogy resources and our top tips for using them.

Long cars Gorey County Wexford The Lawrence Collection at the NLI

The National Archives of Ireland

What records do they hold?

Here you will find among other free records the most popular, the 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland.  They cover all 32 counties in Ireland and can be searched by place, name, county, gender, townland, occupation, religion and other keywords.

What genealogical information can you expect to find here?

  • Family members and their relationships to each other
  • Parent names (no maiden names)
  • Age at time of census
  • Total number of children born – living or deceased (1911 Census)
  • Number and type of out-house used by the family - fowl house, stable, cow house, shed, dairy etc

Ireland XO Top tip

Children often lived with Aunts and Uncles. Consider neighbouring households of similar surname (or maiden name) to see if any nephews or nieces were present.

Registers at the National Library of Ireland

In 2015 the National Library of Ireland enabled the most important advancement to date in Irish genealogy by giving free online access to the historical Roman Catholic church registers.

What records do they hold?

This is a catalogue of over 400,000 digital images of the original Parish books where the details of all local baptisms and marriages were registered by the Parish priest. This catalogue can be searched by parish location, event and year but not surname, so you will still need to know a certain amount before having a look. They date from the 1740s to the 1880s, cover 1,091 parishes throughout Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records, although for some parishes, these dates vary greatly and in some instances the records are incomplete.

Once you know the parish you can then search the images. Very few of the registers pre-date 1800 and within registers there are gaps, missing pages as well as faded and poor handwriting.

What genealogical information can you expect to find here?

  • Children’s names and date of baptism
  • Children born of the same parents (baptism)
  • Wife’s maiden name (marriage)
  • Father of groom (marriage)

Ireland XO top tip

The single most important piece of information you need to use this resource is your Roman Catholic Parish of Origin. Browse the Ireland XO Message Board for your family name to see if any parish is mentioned. Even if it is the civil parish that you find you can then find out the corresponding Roman Catholic parish by posting a message.

During 2016 the General Registrar Office of Ireland provided access to birth, marriage and death records on Access to the records is free.

What genealogical information can you expect to find here?

Generally the records contain the following:

Birth Record: date & place of birth, first name if given, surname of child, name, surname, dwelling place and occupation of father, name, surname, dwelling place of mother, informant

Marriage Record: date of marriage, name of parties, ages, condition (widow etc), occupation, residences at time of marriage, father's details (name, surname occupation), place ceremony performed and name of witnesses

Death Record: date and place of death, name and surname of deceased, condition (married, widow etc), age at last birthday, occupation, cause of death, informant details (present at death)

If you know your ancestor's name, when and where they were born, married or died you are likely to find information in these records.

  • Birth records 1864 to 1916
  • Marriage Records 1882 to 1940
  • Death Records 1891 to 1965

The General Registrar Office are also working to provide access to marriage records back to 1845 and deaths back as far as 1864. 

Ireland XO top tip

Use in conjunction with parish records to find out more about your ancestors.

The Military Archives

The Military Archives is the official repository of the Irish Defence Forces, the Department of Defence and the Army Pensions Board. It includes records about domestic and overseas missions and personnel.

The Military Archives have an immense amount of documentation and they are committed to an ongoing project to digitise and make this information freely available online, over time.

What records do they hold?

As well as a vast collection of maps and other military documentation there are two collections that are particularly relevant for helping you research your Irish family history are the Military Service Pensions Collection and the  Bureau of Military History (1913 - 1921)

The Military Service Pensions Collection includes documents relating to the supporting administrative and other records that were gathered to assist the Department of Defence in deciding on the merit of each pension applied for.

The Bureau of Military History provides access to over 1,700 witness statements that refer to the revolutionary period in Ireland between 1913 and 1921. These were recorded in a first person manner and provide a fascinating insight into, not only the events of the time, but also the feelings and opinions of those who were directly involved in this period of change and revolution.

What genealogical information can you expect to find here?

  • Genealogical information relating to the applicants of pensions
  • Details of families of deceased applicants
  • Places of residence
  • Military career details including any decorations.
  • Photographs
  • Oral histories told by or relating to individuals
  • Vocal recordings

Ireland XO top tip

One of Ireland XO’s favourite parts of the online Military Archive collections is the interactive world map which shows the applications for pensions from all around the globe. Click on the red dots to read more about the applicants and to see pdf scans of their original applications. Read about applications from Australia, USA, UK, Canada and even Ghana! Applicants from around the world.

Of course using any of these archives requires determination, patience and perhaps a little help! If you are struggling to find information using the above resources, leave a message on the Ireland XO message board and we will do our best to help you out.

Interested in finding out about more FREE resources -  have a look at our top picks for this year.




We hope you have found the information we have shared helpful. While you are here, we have a small favour to ask. Ireland Reaching Out is a non-profit organisation that relies on public funding and donations to ensure a completely free family history advisory service to anyone of Irish heritage who needs help connecting with their Irish place of origin. If you would like to support our mission, please click on the donate button and make a contribution. Any amount, big or small, is appreciated and makes a difference. 

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