Irish genealogy: the best resources for tracing your Irish ancestors


23 August 2021
Nurse visiting a family at Arranmore Island, Co Donegal, c1906-14. Courtesy of National Library of Ireland on British Library Flickr
Are you one of the millions of people around the world with Irish roots? Discover the best Irish genealogy records with Family Tree's family history guide.

Irish genealogy records

Ireland's census

Ireland's earliest surviving census is 1901 - and earlier fragments survive for 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851. Explore census records at National Archives of Ireland, which also has details of census substitutes. See this National Archives of Ireland blog for details of the information each census contains.

Births, marriages and deaths for Ireland

The General Register Office is the central repository for Irish births, marriages and deaths from 1864 (non Catholic marriages from 1845). Explore the historic indexes at IrishGenealogy.

For pre 1870 parish registers, see this National Archives mircrofilm guide, explaining which Church of Ireland parish registers still exist. National Library of Ireland has microfilms of surviving pre-1880 Roman Catholic parish registers for the whole of Ireland. Search church records online at Irish Genealogy.


General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) holds records for the following in what is now Northern Ireland: births and deaths from 1 January 1864, non-Catholic marriages from 1 April 1845, all other marriages from 1 January 1864. You can see full details at NIDirect and then search online or at the Belfast search room. 

Around two-thirds of pre civil registration records for the whole of Ireland - Church records - were destroyed in a fire in 1922 (see final section below). FamilySearch has a very informative guide to what church records are held where.

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Online Irish genealogy records

Ask About Ireland

Ask About Ireland is the home of Griffith's Valuation, an important land record source. See the 'records for the Irish counties' section below for more information. 

Census at the National Archives

The census section of the National Archives holds original returns for 1901 and 1911 censuses. All 32 counties are available and can be searched from this site.

FindMyPast Ireland

FindMyPast Ireland is home to millions of Irish records from the 13th century onwards. These include unique prison and court records, land and estate records, and a collection of 2 million Irish directories. 

Irish Genealogy

Visit Irish Genealogy for images of original registers for births 1864-1916, marriages 1870-1941, and deaths 1878-1966.  You can also explore a large searchable record of pre 20th-century church records.

Where to find records for the Irish counties

Ireland is made up of four provinces, which between them contain 32 counties. The provinces are:

  • Connacht
  • Leinster
  • Munster
  • Ulster

With so many different historic counties to consider, it can be difficult to know where to begin your research. The below resources should get you off to a good start.

The various Irish counties explained

FindMyPast have an excellent blog and video that list each of the different counties, with resources including wills, service records, Poor Law records, cemetery indexes and census forms. 

Griffith's Valuation 

One of the most important sources for Irish family history is Griffith's Valuation, a boundary and land valuation survey that was completed in 1868. This resource is particularly useful in light of the fact that so few census records survive. 

You can see the dates when the survey for each county was completed on the Griffith's Valuation Wikipedia page, and these range from 1853 through to 1868. You can explore the Valuation at several places, including AskAboutIreland (which has transcripts, maps and original images, FindMyPast, Ancestry and RootsIreland.

Northern Ireland ancestors

Although Northern Ireland no longer uses the county system for adminstration, records held at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland can help you to trace ancestors in the post-1836 counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, and the parliamentary boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry. These were established by the Grand Jury (Ireland) Act 1836.

Societies and associations

Genealogical Society of Ireland

The GSI is for anyone interested in Irish family history. It runs a busy programme of publications, lectures, meetings, archival and scientific research, and database creation. The society meets twice a month and members also stay in touch via a newsletter and annual journal. 

An Daonchartlann/Archive is an advice and help centre at Loughlinstown, offering expert help to visitors.

Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland

Originally known as the Huguenot Society of London, the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland has a dedicated Irish section with its own website. The Irish section arranges events, lectures, walks and meetings, and an AGM - usually held in May or June each year. There is also a Huguenot Archive in Dublin, which is open to the public and to members by arrangement. 

Irish Family History Society

The Irish Family History Society was established in 1984 and is open to anyone interested in tracing their Irish roots. The group promotes the study of Irish family history and genealogy through its annual journal, news sheets, lecture series and projects. It also encourages the repatriation of overseas material on Irish emigrants.

North of Ireland Family History Society

Founded over 40 years ago and with particular reference to the nine counties of Ulster, the society has eleven branches, plus a research centre in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim. 

The society runs more than 100 events each year and also offers a range of courses, from beginner to advanced. Members receive a newsletter and copies of the journal North Irish Roots, plus access to the member section of the website, which has resources such as maps and articles.

Genealogy resources at archives and libraries

Dublin City Library and Archive

Situated on Dublin's Pearse Street (closed for refurbishment at the time of writing in summer 2021), this library and archive has church records, civil and census records, land records (including Griffith's Valuation) and indexes of births, marriages and deaths up to the 1950s.

General Register Office of Northern Ireland

The GRO of Northern Ireland is responsible for the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths for Northern Ireland. You can use its services online by registering here. The GRO holds all local register books for Northern Ireland from 1864 (for births and deaths) and from 1922 (for marriages). It has also has records of birth, marriage and death for Northern Ireland (Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Derry (Londonderry) and Tyrone). 

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast is a key resource, as the official archive for Northern Ireland. At the time of writing (summer 2021) admission is my appointment only. The record office has a range of archives for local and family history, including maps, estate records, school records, church records and public and private records. Find links to these on the PRONI website.

National Archives of Ireland

Situated on Bishop Street in Dublin, National Archives of Ireland is, at the time of writing, open to the public by appointment only. Here, you can explore tithe appointment records for the 1802s-30s, the 1901 and 1911 census returns and valuation records for the 1840s-60s. 

Please note the Archives does not hold civil records of births, marriages and deaths. 

National Library of Ireland 

This large library on Kildare Street, Dublin 2, has many resources for family historians, including Catholic Parish Registers, property records, directories and heraldic records. Visit the National Library of Ireland website for advice on using the library's records for genealogy.

Valuation Office

Based at the Irish Life Centre in Dublin, the Valuation Office has a manuscript archive containing rateable valuation information of all property in the state from mid 1850s until the early 1990s. This acts as a 'census substitute' from the 1850s through to the first useable census in 1901, as it can be used to show who occupied a particular property over the years.

Beyond 2022 project

This ambitious project aims to do what seems impossible - create a virtual reconstruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland, which was destroyed in the opening engagement of the Civil War on 30 June 1922. Seven centuries-worth of records were destroyed in the blaze but thanks to substitute materials held in repositories around the world, these can once again be enjoyed. 

The results of the project will be launched on the centenary day in 2022, as an open access and freely available resource. Memory institutions around the world have shared their records and expertise to help make the dream of anyone with Irish ancestors a reality. 

Enjoy this Beyond 2022 video and report

For lots more family history tips and inspiration, read Family Tree magazine