Ethnic holidays, such as St. Patrick's Day for those of Irish ancestry, often spur an interest in family history.
According to the New York Times, the Irish diaspora in the United States alone numbers more than 36 million people, more than eight times Ireland's population. And this isn't even counting the descendants of Irish immigrants in countries around the world.
In large cities with many Irish descendants, such as New York and Boston to name just two, the day is celebrated by great parades. Traffic lane lines are painted green and green beer is served in bars. Parade-goers and others celebrating often wear green hats, ties or other items indicating their ancestry, such as pins or T-shirts reading "Kiss me. I'm Irish."
Many bars and restaurants will feature corned beef and cabbage or other Irish delicacies, along with that once-a-year green beer.
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, MyHeritage is offering free access to its Irish collection of some 600,000 Irish immigration records to the Port of New York, covering the years 1846-1851, which includes the Irish Potato Famine period. Immigration records and passenger manifests offer a wealth of family information. Read more here.
For those wishing to delve further into their Irish roots, there are some challenges:
- In the early 19th century, Dublin Castle's Record Tower was destroyed.
- During WWI's paper shortage, the government ordered the destruction of the censuses for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891.
- Most civil records (including the censuses of 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851) were burned in a 1922 fire at the Ireland Public Records office. The oldest censuses accessible today are 1801 and 1911, which are filmed and available at FamilySearch.org.
To go back in time and find your family, you will need the town or parish of origin. Although that 1922 fire destroyed the 19th-century censues, the parish registers of the Church of England, other important collections and records kept in other offices survived. These include vital civil records (birth, marriage, death), additional religious records, later censuses and property records.
Irish research can be somewhat complicated in that there are various geographical levels of records: towns, dioceses, counties, parishes and more. While civil vital record registration began in 1864, non-Catholic marriage registrateion began in 1845. Religious records are organized by denomination, so it's important to know your ancestor's religion in 18th century Ireland. At the time, 85% were Roman Catholic, 5% Church of England and 10% Presbyterian. Prior to 1864, church records are the only source of family information.
Many Irish immigrants went to Australia and New Zealand, the US and Canada, so useful resources include passenger arrivals, naturalization records, gravestones, military service records, obituaries, land deeds, family Bibles, wills and other items.
Community was very important to these immigrants, and many settled in clusters with their countrymen, so searching for cousins, siblings, friends and neighbors who may have immigrated with your ancestor, or who may have belonged to the same parish church, community or neighborhood associations may prove very useful.
Here are some additional information sources:
IreAtlas Townland Database: Can't find your ancestral town on a map? Enter a place and get a list of all parishes, poor law unions and townlands in a certain area.
Irish Newspaper Archives: Digitized, indexed online Irish newspapers.
Irish Family History Foundation: Network of genealogy research centers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Island. Computerized 40 million Irish ancestral records online. The Index is free; fee for detailed records.
Irish Origins: Subscription site for Irish Wills, 1851 Dublin City Census, military records and online Griffiths Valuation.
National Archives of Ireland: Free searchable databases including Ireland-Australia Transportation Database and helpful aids to other record series, digital 1901 and 1911 censuses.
Emerald Isle Ancestors: Vital records for about 1 million people in Ulster's six counties. Indexes and some transcription.
Irish Family Research: Some exclusive 19th century materials, gravestone transcription.
Failte Romhat: A personal website offering free online Irish databases including 1876 Landowners, 1796 Flax Growers, 1824 Provincial Directory, cemeteries, photos and more.
Famine Irish Collection: Immigrants to America during the famine (1846-1851). More than 600,000 records of passengers to New York; about 70% from ireland.
Enjoy St. Patrick's Day with friends and family!
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