Tips for Overcoming Common Challenges in Irish Genealogy

The ancestors of many people around the world have Irish roots. Yet, Irish genealogy research can be relatively easy to perform.

For many reasons, you may run into brick walls when researching your Irish ancestors. But don’t give up! There are some things you can do to help overcome these challenges.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

When researching your new Irish genealogy records, it is essential to ask questions. The more information you have, the easier it will be to trace your family tree back to Ireland.

But be careful not to rely too much on family legends. While they may have a grain of truth, verifying all of your research is essential. Your great-great-grandfather may not have been a fearless pirate or St. Patrick himself, and your ancestor’s farm might not have been a majestic mansion but a simple hovel.

Many records that would be useful for Irish genealogy researchers have been lost or destroyed over time. This is due to various reasons, including wars, natural disasters, fires, and religious conflicts.

One great way to overcome this obstacle is to search for substitute record types. For example, if you can’t find the answer to your question in county records, try searching for similar information at the state or national level. You might be surprised at how often this strategy works! This webinar by 2017 RootsTech presenter James Tanner offers an excellent overview of how to bust through brick walls in your genealogical research.

Keep an open mind

If your Irish genealogy research could be better, it can feel like banging your head against a brick wall. This is why it’s essential to keep an open mind. The answer you’re seeking may have vanished with time, or it could be hiding in the most unlikely or unusual places.

You should rethink your research approach or look at the evidence you have differently. For example, you should search land records more comprehensively than before. The Tithe Applotment Books and Griffith’s Valuation are essential to record collections that should be reviewed continually.

If you find that an Irish ancestor immigrated to North America, you can learn much about their home county in Ireland from the census records they left behind. Consider consulting local newspapers. These can contain nuggets of information, including social and political history. You might even discover that an ancestor was involved in some historic event, which you can then prompt their memory about.

Don’t be afraid to be wrong

When researching genealogy, getting a few things wrong is not uncommon. Maybe you were looking for your ancestor in the wrong county or town, or perhaps you got their name confused with another family member with the same name. These mistakes can be frustrating, but they should not stop you from pursuing your family history.

One of the most important things to remember when researching Irish genealogy is that more is needed to know that your ancestors came from Ireland. You need to narrow down their location, at least to the county and preferably to the town or village. This will help you find more precise records.

Searching for relatives in their FAN (friends, associates, and neighbors) is also good. You can find these in census records, trade directories, and criminal records. The names of these people might reveal a crucial clue about your family’s story. This is especially true if your ancestor was an immigrant. They had to rely on their FANs to help them settle into a new country, and many immigrants named their friends in the United States after their home village.

Be patient

In Irish genealogy, it can be frustrating to discover a brick wall in your family tree. However, don’t give up! Keep searching and think outside the box. You never know when something will fall into place that opens up a new line of research.

The Irish were notorious for creative spellings, so look beyond the obvious and explore alternative names. For instance, a girl may have been named Mary Riley, but she could also be listed in records as O’Reilly or even Olivia.

Determining an ancestor’s county, parish, and townland is essential. This will help you track them down in historical records. It will also inform which archive repositories to search.

Many families of Irish immigrants traveled in a chain pattern, with one person leaving the country to earn money for the next family member. This can make it hard to distinguish family members in immigration and passenger lists, especially if they share the same name. Taking a DNA test can help with this problem. Ancestry, for example, offers a Genealogy community where you can compare your results with other Irish descendants.

Don’t be afraid to try something new

Sometimes, when you hit a wall in your Irish genealogy research, trying something new is the best way to find the solution. You may need to take a DNA test or visit the library and ask for help from an experienced researcher. Whatever you do, don’t give up!

Another strategy is using local and county resources that may have more information than national records. For example, a county genealogical guide can be invaluable when looking for church and civil registration documents or pinpointing an exact birthplace. You could take a genealogy workshop or join an online community.

And remember, family and friends are often great sources of information. You might discover that a neighbor or coworker is related to your ancestor through their name in a census, trade directories, or criminal records. Or, they provided a vital clue when they accompanied your ancestor on their travels. Or, they might have passed along a family legend worth investigating.