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Finding ancestors in Ireland without having done the domestic work in the land where they settled is like looking for a ‘needle in a haystack’.  Unless the name is very unusual it really is necessary to identify a parish and ideally an Irish townland to establish the integrity of the genealogy.

Begin with What You Know

Begin with known details, starting with yourself and work back! Talk to parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, especially grandparents and their siblings if still living.  Older family members have much information without necessarily realising it’s value.

Ask Questions

Use a recorder where possible: significant nuggets of information can slip past in a conversation, their real value unrecognised at the time.  Ask questions re: life events, occupations, employers, geographic movement/settlement, ethnicity, social / economic / religious place in their society, relatives and family interaction, neighbours, customs and culture of their time and place.


Ask family members to permit you a look through their old letters, newspaper clippings, souvenirs, momentos, etc., record everything. Nuggets can slip by unrecognised on first sight.

Organise your Information from the Beginning

Document, record sources and notate as you compile the data, watch for patterns, recurring names & places etc., draw a timeline – this will illustrate the knowledge gaps
See: Free Genealogy Programs

Research Begins at Home

Broaden the research to siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews – that vital piece of connecting information may not be in the records of a direct line but could be hidden in the records of another family member.

Research in the places where they settled for any period

  • Birth
  • Marriage
  • Death
  • Employment History
  • Census
  • Military History – Draft Cards etc.
  • Emigration / naturalisation
  • Land Grants / property records
  • Financial / tax records
  • Cross Border Migration
  • Newspapers / City Directories / Historical Societies / Libraries
  • Graveyards / Cemetery Records

Use primary evidence where at all possible, not all information is transcribed and there can be transcription errors.
See: GenealogyBranches for more detailed info.  Includes links that are $$$ & FREE

Document Everything

Document each piece of information, cite sources, add notes. Record every discovery, even ones that don’t fit in just yet – with notation. Believe me, your memory will betray your trust with time.

Build as complete a profile as you possibly can of the person and their family and any other people i.e. witnesses, sponsors, etc. You may discover these people are significant or may lead to other discoveries

Information from Records

The documents gathered on your ancestor may provide…

  • Date & Place of Birth
  • Date of immigration
  • Port of entry
  • Place of emigration
  • Addresses
  • Occupation
  • Next of Kin
  • Childrens’ Names
  • Parents’ Names
  • Siblings’ Names
  • Placename of family of origin (townland)

Check & Cross Reference

Check and cross reference to ensure integrity of the data being compiled at each step – dates, locations, names. Don’t completely discount discrepencies but note them – they may be very useful at a later stage

When place of origin in Ireland is established – check Irish records.