How to trace your Irish roots


17 March 2020
We have handy historical hints and extremely useful genealogy websites to help you trace and celebrate your Irish roots

Irish history is endlessly fascinating and the stories of our ancestors who have roots in the Emerald Isle are no less intriguing. This St Patrick’s Day, to help you trace and treasure your family stories, we’ve gathered together a selection of handy historical hints to kick start your research and some extremely useful genealogy websites for you to explore.

Did you know?

Content continues after advertisements

The island of Ireland consists of four provinces:

Ulster (in the North)

Connaught (in the West)

Leinster (in the East)

And Munster (in the South)

And the island of Ireland consists of 32 counties:

When searching family history you’ll likely want to study a map showing pre-1974 county boundaries.

The counties in Ulster are Londonderry, Antrim, Tryone, Down, Armagh and Fermanagh.

Counties in Connaught: Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon and Galway.

Counties in Leinster: Monaghan, Cavan, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Louth, Offaly (Kings), Kildare, Dublin, Leix (Queens), Wicklow, Kilkenny, Carlow and Wexford.

Counties in Munster: Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, Kerry, Cork and Waterford.

There are about two and a half thousand civil parishes on the island of Ireland and about 1,000 Roman Catholic parishes. The smallest administrative unit is called a townland, and there are more than sixty thousand townlands on the island.

The holy grail...

If you can find out the name of the townland that your ancestor came from, you’re extremely fortunate. This will provide you with the place that your ancestors came from, perhaps down to just a few dwellings – just what you need to plan your genealogy road trip!

5 fab websites for tracing Irish family history

Before you make that trip, you’ll want to do some research online to learn as much about your Irish ancestors as you can. Here are some useful websites to get you started.

Ask About Ireland – has maps for the 19th century townlands of Ireland.

National Archives – has 1901 and 1911 Census records for the whole island.

Irish Genealogy – has birth, marriage and death records for the whole island (births up to 1919, marriages up to 1944, and deaths up to 1969)

NI Direct – for BMDs for more recent times for Northern Ireland

GRO for BMDs for more recent times for the Republic of Ireland

Keen to learn more about your Irish roots?

Sign up for our FREE newsletter and get news, research tips and how-to guides direct to your inbox. Join today.


Images in the public domain from the British Library Flickr collection.