Best genealogy sites for Northern Ireland research
Websites for tracing Irish ancestors in the North.
Choosing the best genealogy sites for Northern Ireland genealogy is tricky because so many websites relevant to research in the Republic of Ireland are equally relevant north of the border.
Castle Coole is a magnificent neo-classical house located near Enniskillen, co. Fermanagh.
For clarity's sake, therefore, I chose four databases that specifically target Northern Ireland genealogy research and would suggest that anyone tracing Irish ancestry in the six counties also takes a look at my other lists of (both free to use and pay-to-view) online resources.
Links are at the bottom of the page.
All of the websites or databases below have earned their place in this short list by offering free access to a good proportion, if not all, of their information.
The sites are listed here in alphabetical order.
- Ancestry Ireland
The site of the Ulster Historical Foundation, offers a good number of items of genealogical interest.
Among these are detailed civil parish maps and lists of townlands per county, a small selection of ebooks, and a searchable database containing birth, marriage and death records, plus gravestone inscriptions and street directories.
Established in 1923 following the partition of the island into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland is the official repository for public records for the six counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry (Londonderry), Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone.
This free site offers databases containing details of those who signed the Ulster Covenant (1912), records of pre-1840 Freeholders, and the first phase of the Will calenders (1858-1900) project. Since March 2013, it also provides free online access to the Revision Books, which continued the work of Griffith's Valuation from the mid 19th century to the 1930s.
You can also download several very useful advice guides specific to Northern Ireland genealogy research such as National School Records.
Of course, the site also includes details of which microfilms or paper records are available for viewing at PRONI for each church and for which years.
- Ulster Ancestry
While the business of much of the site is to target potential customers, it also has a large and very useful selection of free databases.
These include muster rolls (dating back to 1631), local directories, gravestone inscription, clergy lists, some marriage records and a significant number of ship passenger lists.
Fascinating stuff. And the organisation is to be applauded for placing it online for free access.
- Ulster Directory
While the ebook of the Belfast and Ulster Directory for 1852 has to be purchased, the more recent edition of this Directory, published in 1910, can be searched from this page.
A list of 160 towns is linked to individual pages giving brief details of the town (market day, number of inhabitants), information about post office officials and local places of worship (and their clergy), plus a list of adult inhabitants, their occupations and, in some instances, their address.
This directory is unlike most others published before it which tended to list only gentry, local officials and tradespeople.
Although much of the information about individuals is now freely available on the 1911 census, the different format (plus additional information about the 'social structure' of each community) means this database remains a useful addition to Northern Ireland genealogy resources.
Don't limit your Northern Ireland genealogy research to sites that are dedicated purely to Northern Ireland.
Genealogy records for Antrim, Armagh, Derry (Londonderry), Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone are also held in the Republic.
So take a look at some of my recommendations for best genealogy websites in the south, too.
Did your Northern Irish ancestors serve in the military?
For many Irishmen, the British Army offered an escape from the drudgery of poverty with a bit of adventure thrown in for good measure.
At some points of the 19th century, about one-third of the British Army was made up of men from Ireland, so don't ignore this important avenue for Northern Ireland genealogy research.
The best website for British military records is Find My Past.
Its collection dates from 1694 to 1994 and includes Army lists, roll calls, attestation documents, Chelsea Hospital records and Ireland's Memorial Records of the Great War, and much more besides.
The Belfam contains an excellent photo gallery and other details of life in Edwardian Belfast which will be of interest to anyone with connections to the city.
Did your ancestors work in the
Irish Linen industry?
If your Northern Ireland genealogy research has unearthed ancestors who worked in the cloth industry, you'll be interested to know how Irish linen was made and how the trade developed into such a major employer.
Find out how the flax plant is transformed into this world-famous lustrous cloth and how the linen trade became such an important part of the landscape, especially in Ulster.
Emerald Ancestors is a subscription-only site worth noting for Northern Ireland genealogy research.
Its database includes a selection of parish baptism registers covering the period 1796 to 1924, and parish marriage registers from 1823 to 1901 for the six counties that now make up Northern Ireland.
The death records collection is made up of graveyard inscriptions, burial registers and a comprehensive index from the Irish Wills Calendars for the six counties plus Donegal, Louth and Monaghan.
In addition, it holds extracts from the 1841 and 1851 Irish census. A one-month subscription costs £9.99, six months £29.99; one year £49.99.