Top 5 Irish family history websites (€/£/$)


Top 5 Irish genealogy databases

My selection of the best pay-to-view and subscription sites for researching family history in Ireland.

My selection of the best pay-to-view and subscription sites for researching family history in Ireland.


1900s postcard of Mitchelstown, Co Cork, Ireland.Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland, early 1900s
1900s postcard of Mitchelstown, Co Cork, Ireland.Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland, early 1900s

Major Irish genealogy databases were relatively slow to develop. While monster one-stop shops became available to family historians researching ancestry in the UK or USA, Ireland's online offers remained stayed small and, for the most part, uncommercial.

This started to change in 2009 and, from a slow start, Ireland's pool of online family history resources has grown dramatically, even if there are still many 'black holes'. On the positive side, many of the essential record collections are available free.

There remains, however, no single one-stop shop solution to finding the best Irish genealogy databases, free or otherwise. It remains the case that Ireland's family history records are as scattered in cyberspace as they are on the ground.

I think it's fair to say that while the majority of church records remain the preserve of just one commercial database provider (RootsIreland, see below) there will remain no single 'monster' site for Irish records.

For the present, here's my selection of the top six subscription or pay-per-view Irish genealogy databases.They are listed in alphabetical order.


Ancestry

There can't be many family historians unaware of this giant beast! While, Ancestry's collection of Irish genealogy databases is small compared with its offering for US and British resources, it has grown enormously quickly – especially since it added the Civil Registration Indexes (1845/1864 to 1921 in Northern Ireland and to 1958 in the Republic) and a good sized collection of Roman Catholic parish records. See the relevant pages of this site for more information.

The Irish materials are held in Ancestry's Ireland & UK collection. Among the 80-odd Irish record sets are the records of Irish immigrant arrivals in New York ports 1846-1851, Tithe applotment books (free elsewhere), Irish flax growers, Convicts transported to Australia 1788-1868, Royal Constabulary lists and Griffith's Valuation.

Ancestry has a number of monthly and annual subscriptions available. If you're not sure whether this is the best subsciption for you, take a free 14-day trial or select the 14-day pay-per-view option before deciding. 


British Newspaper Archive

In its huge database, the online British Newspaper Archive (BNA) holds more than 530 newspaper titles. Of these, more than 100 are Irish publications, and more are being added on a regular basis.

The majority of the editions were published in the mid-19th century, and none continues into the 20th.

Subscriptions are available on a monthly or annual basis (£12.95 and £79.95 respectively) for access to the entire holding.

The BNA is the sister site of FindMyPast (FMP) and its newspaper database is automatically included in an FMP Ireland, UK or World subscription at no additional charge. See below.


Find My Past

Dublin-based FindMyPast Ireland was launched in May 2011 and was a big step forward for Irish genealogy. After a slowish start, its collection has grown considerably.

The piece de resistence of the launch offer was the inclusion of the Landed Estates Court Rentals, which had never been online before. This collection can be an extremely useful resource, probably better appreciated by the more advanced genealogist than the beginner.

Since its early days, FindMyPast Ireland has unveiled a string of collections including the Petty Sessions Books and Irish prison registers, plus the civil registration indexes of births, marriages & and deaths. Another giant on the site is its collection of Irish newspapers. These are 'shared' on the site, at no additional charge, by FindMyPast's sister company British Newspaper Archives(see above).

FindMyPast Ireland also has a good number of directories and many other useful resources, some of them of a niche nature.

The Ireland collection is available on its own only via FindMyPast Ireland. The monthly fee  is €9.95 (November 2015).

It's also automatically included as part of a World subscription via any of the FindMyPast 'territories...see the flags below and choose the most appropriate 'territory' according to your location.

Researchers can choose from annual or monthly subscriptions or pay-as-you-go credits.

FindMyPast Ireland

FindMyPast UK

FindMyPast USA

FindMyPast Australia/NZ

The Ireland collection is available on its own only via FindMyPast Ireland. The monthly fee  is €9.95 (November 2015).

It's also automatically included as part of a World subscription via any of the FindMyPast 'territories...see the flags above and choose the most appropriate 'territory' according to your location.

Researchers can choose from annual or monthly subscriptions or pay-as-you-go credits.

FindMyPast Ireland

FindMyPast UK

FindMyPast USA

FindMyPast Australia/NZ

Irish Newspaper Archive

This site features a database of over 2 million newspaper pages from 43 publications that date back as far as 1738. The ongoing programme of uploads aims to have every county of the island of Ireland represented by a newspaper on the site.

In addition to local titles, the database also holds a collection of major Irish 'nationals', including the Belfast Newsletter and Freeman's Journal. It also holds editions of the Irish Examiner (previously known as the Cork Examiner) from 1849 to 1949.

As an archive of old news titles, this site is rather different to most other Irish genealogy databases. It puts our ancestors' lives into a social and political context and gives us the rich detail of historical events they lived through.

With birth and marriage records, local news matters, obituaries from the Famine of 1847-1849, reports of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 or the Easter Rising of 1916, it's quite reasonable to expect that some events in your ancestors' lives may have been captured. Find out how to get the best from historical Irish newspapers.

At November 2015 subscriptions to Irish Newspaper Archives cost €30 for one month and €178 for one year. The day-rate is €10.


RootsIreland

From the Irish Family History Foundation, RootsIreland.ie contains the largest online collection of Irish parish register transcriptions including those from Baptist, Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian and many other smaller faith groups.

The site itself does not hold images of any register entries. However, transcriptions of most Roman Catholic entries (those dating up to 1880) are linked to the respective register on the National Library of Ireland's website of unindexed images. In this way, RootsIreland can be used as an index to the RC registers.

Map of Ireland.RootsIreland.ie holds records for all the counties/areas coloured green.

It also holds transcripts from the civil records of birth, marriage and death for at least half of all the historical counties. These are not just index entries; they are transcriptions of the full bmd certificates.

The database also holds census records. Some of these may be free elsewhere... see Irish Genealogy Toolkit's Census pages).

Taking the site as a whole, no records are held pre-1700 or after about 1920 but there are big differences between counties. To find out what is available in the locality you're interested in, check the 'Geographical Sources' list for each county.

By November 2015, all areas of the island except Kerry, South and West Cork, and Dublin City have some level of representation on the site. (Records for these areas are freely available at IrishGenealogy.ie.)

Having long been a pay-to-view site based on advance credit purchase, RootsIreland switched to a subscription model in Autumn 2014. Under the new regime, its search restrictions are rather tiresome but the change to subscription has largely been welcomed.


The fee-charging Irish genealogy databases listed above hold a selection of vital records covering the entire island of Ireland.

If your ancestors came from Counties Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, LondonDerry or Tyrone, be sure to also see my selection of the best websites for Northern Ireland genealogy research.