My top 10 free Irish genealogy databases online
Free online genealogy resources for tracing Irish ancestry.
Best free Irish genealogy websites
The free Irish genealogy websites and databases detailed in my list are my personal, and completely independent, selection of sites for family history research. These are the genealogy databases that I have found most useful in my own research and which I confidently recommend.
Although these sites, which are listed below, are reasonably easy to use, the navigation or layout of such big genealogy databases 'improves' with familiarity.
So you might do best to try to find out how the site works BEFORE you start hitting the Search button.
Each of these sites provides fabulously useful information and some even provide free access to data that other sites charge for. Hard to believe, but you'd be surprised how often this happens.
Not only do these sites provide free Irish genealogy info, you don't have to supply personal details or register with them. So they're free in every sense. Enjoy!
This list of free online genealogy research resources is in alphabetical order:
- Ask about Ireland.
One of a new generation of free Irish genealogy resources to have come online in the last few years, Ask about ireland brings the indexes, full returns and maps of Richard Griffith's Primary Valuation of Tenements to your computer screen.
The Valuation, as it is usually known, is one of the most important surviving 19th-century genealogical sources and plays a part in nearly everyone's Irish ancestry research as it records the names of householders in each county at the time this island-wide land survey was carried out. More about Griffith's Valuation here.
The Ask About Ireland site has improved considerably since its initial launch and it now among the most popular free Irish genealogy resources available.
This site is owned and managed by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. It has two main functions:
- To act as a portal to most of the state-run genealogy records via one simple search mechanism. This can be especially useful for those new to Irish genealogy who may not otherwise discover some of the collections available. It delivers a rather ploddy user experience, however.
- To gather Irish church register records and present them in a free to access database. It performs this function brilliantly, but so far only for some parts of counties Kerry, Cork, Dublin and Carlow. If you have family from the relevant area, consider yourself blessed!
An enhanced version of the Irish civil registration indexes collection is due to be added to the site during 2014. It will provide free access to this most important collection of records.
- Ellis Island
From 1892 to 1954, over twelve million immigrants entered the United States through the portal of Ellis Island, a small island in New York Harbor.
Many of them were from Ireland.
If your ancestors left Ireland before, during or shortly after the Great Hunger (1846-1849), you won't find them on this site.
But if they set sail in one of the subsequent waves of emigration, you may be lucky to find their details among the passenger manifestos displayed on this site.
Those details show the address where the immigrant was headed and, sometimes even more importantly, they will usually record the traveller's place of origin in Ireland.
- Failte Romhat
Although this is a personal site, containing family history information about the publisher's ancestors, it also carries quite a few searchable databases and other useful resources.
Among these are Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland 1846, the Flax Growers' List 1796 (a.k.a. the Spinning Wheel Entitlement List), and the Landowners List of 1876 which contains the names of landowners in ireland with more than one acre of land. A searchable index to Griffith's Valuation is also available.
This free Irish genealogy website also has many links to resources of particular interest to any family historian with links to Co. Cork.
- Family Search
A regular winner of worldwide polls for Best Genealogy Websites, Family Search is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and contains a huge and freely searchable archive.
Among its data are 1880/1881 census records for the US, UK and Canada, which can be extremely useful for those seeking family who had left Ireland by that date.
But perhaps the most important resource for Irish genealogy research is the searchable civil registration index. This includes births, marriages and deaths for the entire island from 1864 (1845 for non-Catholic marriages) to 1921. From 1922 to 1958 inclusive, it covers only the Republic of Ireland.
Find out more about the indexes, and how to use them to obtain birth, marriage and death certificates, on my Irish Civil Registration page
Genuki (an abbreviation for Genealogy UK and Ireland) is another exceptionally useful and free Irish genealogy resource, providing links to hundreds of sites that will be useful in your ancestry research.
Its aim is to serve as a virtual genealogical reference library and most of the information is provides relates to primary historical material.
On its pages you'll find all sorts of websites listed, most of them tightly targetted ie the sites of archives and local libraries, sites confirming the availability and location of church records, sites dedicated to specific surname interests, historical events, locations etc.
The database can be entered from an All-Ireland page before proceeding to individual county pages.
- National Archives of Ireland's Genealogy site
The most popular resources on this free Irish genealogy site are the fully digitised 1901 and 1911 census returns. In addition to a searchable index, you can downland images of the census returns, including the household returns and the enumerator's returns.
(For details of what information the different returns contain, see my pages: the 1901 census and the 1911 census).
Other resources freely available are the Tithe Applotment Books. This collection dates back to the 1820s but not everyone will find records of their ancestors; find out more about the TABs here, before you search the records.
The site also holds a collection of World War One Soldiers' Wills, the calendars of Wills and Administration 1858–1922, Census Search Forms and 'Census Fragments'.
- National Library of Ireland.
I've included the National Library's online presence here despite its not having a searchable database of genealogy records.
It earns its place in this list of free Irish genealogy websites because here you can find details of the National Library's microfilm holdings of Roman Catholic parish registers.
These microfilms can only be viewed in person.
However, even if you don't intend to visit Dublin, this list is important because it provides an at-a-glance view to the Catholic church records that survive.
For example, the Library's baptism and marriage records for Killian parish in Co. Galway date back to 1804.
For the parish of Clarenbridge in the same county, baptism records date back to 1854 while marriage records go back to 1837.
This means that a researcher looking for a Catholic ancestor born in 1810 in Killian should find a baptism record, but if that same ancestor were from Clarenbridge, there would be no surviving records.
Armed with this information, the genealogist knows to look elsewhere for this ancestor.
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 Irish genealogy and history 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. In March 2013, these collections were joined by the Revision Books of Griffith's Valuation (more about the Revision Books).
You can also download several very useful advice guides specific to Northern Ireland 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.
- Townlands Database
This Townlands database is a revised version of the well-known 'Sean Ruad' IreAtlas database and holds details of all 60,000+ townlands as appeared in the Index of Townlands used in the 1851 census. It details the name of the County, Barony, Civil Parish, Poor Law Union and Province for each location.
It's hosted on the website of Shane Wilson (along with many useful and free resources for anyone tracing ancestors in Dublin).
It's an important – and free – Irish genealogy database because it helps you to find the various jurisdictions in which any given Irish townland is located.
Since each jurisdiction keeps different kinds of records useful to genealogical study, it is critical to know the jurisdictions which covered your ancestor's birthplace or home.
An alternative Townlands database to consult is held on IrishAncestors.ie, the website of the Irish Genealogical Research Society. This Townland database is based on the Index of Townlands used for the 1901 census. As well as including the Province, County, Barony, Poor Law Union and Civil Parish, it offers the DED – the District Electoral Division. This is a very useful extra when searching the 1901 and 1911 censuses.
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Online records are a great option, but they're not always free to use.
See my personal selection of the best pay-to-view/subscription sites before parting with any money! Click image.
The Giant's Causeway
Situated on the Antrim coast, the Giant's Causeway is the number one tourist site in Northern Ireland. It is also a nature reserve and a World Heritage site.
It was formed about 60 million years ago as a result of volcanic eruptions. As the lava cooled, it hardened and formed layers of basalt rock.
These subsequently cracked to form some 40,000 mostly hexagonal columns of basalt rock. Some of these columns are 12m high.
Loch Hyne, near Skibbereen in County Cork, is Europe's only inland sea lake. It became Ireland's first marine nature reserve in 1981 and is
popular with hikers, some of whom climb the hill behind to catch this superb view.
It is also attracts kayakers, both beginners and the more experienced.
Dublin's O'Connell Street
Since the late 18th century, O'Connell Street (previously known as Sackville Street) has been Dublin's main north-south thoroughfare.
It was originally designed as an elegant boulevard, a place where formal state parades could be held and where fashionable 'Society types' could promenade.
It has changed quite a bit since then, not least because many of its original buildings were blown up in the 1916 Easter Rising and the Irish Civil War of 1922.
Today, it can, at times, seem little more than a grand alley of fast-food litter, untidy bus queues and traffic fumes.
But it is one of Europe's widest streets (49m wide at the bridge end) and home to a handful of fine old buildings including the General Post Office with its impressive Ionic columns.
It is also the main route of Dublin's St Patrick's Day parade and a national focus point for state occasions, and people still arrange to meet under the Clerys or Lir clocks .
Along the central plaza is an eclectic collection of statues and monuments to the great and the good of Irish history.
Among them are the O'Connell (1882) and Parnell (1911) Monuments; an 1893 statue of Fr Mathew (1790-1856), a friar from Tipperary who crusaded against the abuse of alcohol and founded the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association; and an 1980 statue to Jim Larkin (1867-1943) who led the Dublin General Strike in 1913.
It is also home to the Spire of Dublin, a 120m pin of stainless steel erected in 2003, which claims to be the world's tallest sculpture.