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Best genealogy sites for Northern Ireland research

Websites for tracing Irish ancestors in the North.

Northern Irish family history sites

Choosing the best sites for genealogy research in Northern Ireland is tricky because so many websites relevant to research in the Republic of Ireland are equally relevant north of the border.

For clarity's sake, therefore, I chose a handful of 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 and pay-to-view) online resources.

There are links to those lists at the bottom of the page, under the heading Related Pages.

Each of the websites or databases below has earned its 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.

  • AncestryIreland

    Ancestry Ireland is the site of the Ulster Historical Foundation, one of the major genealogical research agencies operating in Northern Ireland.

    Castle Coole is a magnificent neo-classical house
    located near Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh.
    View of Castle Coole, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
    The organisation specialises in undertaking Irish and Scots-Irish research and runs both study programmes and a membership association called the Ulster Historical and Genealogical Guild.

    The Records section of AncestryIreland 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, street directories and much more.

    There are also a handful of free to search and view collections. See the full list here.

  • Eddie's Extracts

    All manner of records can be found within Eddie's Extracts. As its name suggests, it's a collection of records that Eddie (Connolly) has extracted from a number of sources, principally newspapers.

    These include notices of births, marriages and deaths; rolls of honour (war dead), court reports, inquests and books. It's particularly strong on Presbyterian records, but really, anyone carrying out genealogy in Northern Ireland ought to take a good look at Eddie's collection. And it's all free, too.

  • Emerald Ancestors

    Emerald Ancestors is a subscription-only site worth specialising in records for genealogy research in Northern Ireland.

    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 as well as 'church censuses' and school registers. A good overview of its holdings can be found here.

    A one-month subscription costs £9.99, six months £29.99; one year £49.99 (as at June 2013).


    At the end of March 2014, the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) launched its online family history service. While this is free to search and some researchers will find some of the details returned by the free search to be useful, most people will need to access additional information. For that, they'll need their credit card. Fortunately, the fee structure is within the realms of bearable.

    See the Northern Ireland civil registration records page.


    Established in 1923 following the partition of the island into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is the official repository for public records for the six counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry (Londonderry), Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone.

    Great view from the medieval walls of Derry-Londonderry.
    View from Walls of Derry.
    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/Cancelled Books, which continued the work of Griffith's Valuation from the mid 19th century to the 1930s. More about the Revision Books.

    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 Ulster Ancestry site is to target potential paying 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 site owner 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's genealogy resources.

    The site also has some pedigrees and a good range of 1862 Directories, for both Ulster and the Republic. And all free.

Related pages

Don't limit your family history research to sites that are dedicated purely to Northern Ireland. Genealogy records for Counties Antrim, Armagh, Derry-Londonderry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone are also held in the Republic.

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Did your Northern Irish ancestors serve in the military?

WW1 soldier

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 when searching for ancestors from Northern Ireland.

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.

Medals from Boer War and WW1

Edwardian Belfast

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 research in Northern Ireland's genealogy collections has revealed 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. flax flower

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.

Enniskillen Castle, Co Fermanagh.

Enniskillen Castle, Co Fermanagh

Top Ten Bubbles

See my personal selection of the very best free online databases for Irish genealogy research. Click image.

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By Claire Santry, Copyright© 2008-2015 Dedicated to helping YOU discover your Irish Heritage.
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