Tracing your Irish lineage
Updated: Sep 8, 2018
If you are part of the Irish diaspora, you may be wondering how to trace your line back to Ireland. Whether you are residing in America, England, Australia or anywhere else, these steps should help you get there.
Ask everybody in your family about what stories they have regarding your Irish heritage and log them down, preferably on your phone at first. This will keep the notes at hand whenever you may need them. Make sure to ask for names, including the names of siblings, aunties, uncles etc. These will be helpful in the long run, trust me!!
Take notes of all stories and facts including conflicting ones, this info can be confirmed or disproven at a later date.
Hopefully, someone may already know where in Ireland you hail from. But even with this, do not take this as canon! Family stories are like a game of Chinese whispers, many things get skewed and misinterpreted over the years. Wait until you get concrete proof in the form of a record, and if no records can be found, then go on the stories.
With the information you have, start researching the records in your home country. Starting with yourself, follow the line back to your the first ancestor to step off the boat. Marriage certificates provide the most information, giving at least the fathers name and their occupation and sometimes more depending on the country and year.
Census records may give an immigration year.
Find your irish born ancestor in every census taken and pay attention to household members. Relatives may join them over the years and if you cant find useful information in one person you may do so from another.
Passenger lists often provide lots of information including last known address or country of birth.
This record is from www.Familysearch.org from the New York passenger lists 1820-1891.
Marriage records can also show the town someone was born in, this is shown in this Australian marriage record from Family Search.
mentioned in the record of Thomas Simpson and Kathleen Hamilton
Name Thomas Simpson
Birth Date 1863
Spouse's Name Kathleen Hamilton
Spouse's Birth Date 1875
Spouse's Birthplace Enniskellen, Ireland
Spouse's Age 26
Event Date 06 Feb 1901
Event Place Burnie, Tasmania, Australia
Father's Name Ole Simpson
Mother's Name Anne Elisbet Petersen Simpson
Spouse's Father's Name John Lennox Hamilton
Spouse's Mother's Name Minnie Armstrong Hamilton
This shows two sisters travelling together, giving the home county as Wexford, and listing mothers name and address. Using this information I have found the mother in the 1901 Irish census, which also reveals the name of the father.
So, as you can see in certain cases it can be easy to trace your family back to Ireland.
However not all records have the same detail that these records have. Some just list Ireland as a place of birth and that is when you have to start looking at relative's passages to said country.
If you find your relative in a census that lives with cousins, siblings or even parents then search for all their passenger arrival records.
In a marriage certificate, search for any records pertaining to the parents, and keep an eye out for the witnesses, if they share the same name search for their immigration or marriage records too.
If all else fails, burial records or gravestone transcripts can sometime list town or county of birth.
Check further posts for which websites hold the records you need to get started.