Online Irish research is definitely improving

Family Searcher
by Nina Brawn

    A statistic I read lately indicated that there are seven times more Irish-Americans than there are Irish in Ireland. It is no wonder then, that Irish genealogy is such a popular segment of family history research. Irish research has been very difficult, but in recent years the government of Ireland has begun to put its resources into online genealogy assistance.

    Like America — many of the significant Irish records (such as their early census records) were damaged or destroyed by fires, etc. Also hampering Irish research is the fact that prior to 1864 there was no civil registration of vital records so unless you knew the parish from which your family originated; you were largely out of luck.
    The National Archives of Ireland has launched a website which links you to the most popular research information: such as the Tithe Applotment Books of 1823–37 which list the heads of households which owned and farmed one acre or more. There are also the 1901 and 1911 census are there, as well as the Calendar of Wills and Administrations from 1858–1922, Soldiers wills from 1914–17. There are plans to add: Nineteenth century census survivals, 1821-51; Valuation Office House and Field Books, 1848–60; and the Census Search Forms for the 1841 and 1851 censuses. These and other information is available at: <http://www.genealogy.nationalarchives.ie/> (< > indicates a website, do not type these symbols into the address bar when searching online)
    The Department of Arts and Heritage has also launched a website which provides the 1901 and 1911 censuses, as well as many church records and great links to other sites and a great deal of information on Irish family history research. Their website is <http://www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/>
    The well-known question-answering search engine About.com has information for background on Irish research at: <http://genealogy.about.com/cs/ireland/a/irish_genealogy_3.htm>
    Perhaps the most comprehensive background information on Irish research is available at <http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/index.html>. This “Toolkit” provides an explanation of, and links to information on civil registration, church records, DNA testing, places of origin, heritage and name origins, symbols and much, much more!
    Another website I found years ago which is sponsored by the newspaper The Irish Times offers surname searches to show the distribution of names in 1848-64 in Ireland, for instance I learned that 48 percent of people with the last name McCaffrey lived in Fermanagh County, I also learned the common variations of the name and its origins. This link is: <http://www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/surname/>
    Perhaps the most exciting of all the new websites is from the Irish Diaspora Project. Ireland is trying to track down where all her emigrants went, and locate the descendants of those emigrants (of which I am one). The project website <http://www.irelandxo.com/> links volunteers in Ireland who are starting this locally based project with descendants worldwide. If you know where you are from you should definitely register with the site, and check it out. And register even if you have not yet solved that puzzle in case your family is discovered in the future.
    Online Irish research is definitely improving and there is great hope for those of us who haven’t been able to bridge the gap between America and Ireland. Good luck!
    Nina G. Brawn has lived in the Dover-Foxcroft area for over 50 years and currently lives there with her husband Fred. Nina was the last of 10 children, has three children of her own and nine grandchildren. She can be reached online at ninagbrawn@gmail.com.

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