Not such a long way to Tipperary

St Patrick's Day is on 17 March and this reminds me that many New Zealanders have some Irish ancestry. I do - my father's name is Patrick and I have ancestors on both my maternal and paternal lines from various parts of Ireland including Clare, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Tipperary.

Heading home

Check out Ireland Reaching Out. This is the "national reverse genealogy programme" working to reconnect millions of people who have Irish ancestry back to their place of origin. 2013 is the year of The Gathering, an initiative to attract people of Irish roots back to Ireland and to get them interested in the actual places and communities their ancestors left from.

Mr Rupert George with his home-made Irish harp, 1959 Mr Rupert George with his home-made Irish harp, 1959. Ref: EP/1959/0930-F

Dig in to the paperwork

There are now many great free websites where you can begin to trace your Irish family history. The National Archives of Ireland has the entire 1901 and 1911 census records digitised and searchable and has also recently made the Tithe Applotment books available.

They are a vital source for genealogical research for the pre-Famine period, given the loss of the 1821-51 Census records. They were compiled between 1823 and 1837 in order to determine the amount which occupiers of agricultural holdings over one acre should pay in tithes to the Church of Ireland. The Family History Collection had these books on microfilm and they were very difficult to use. These large digitisation projects have certainly made a complete difference for those tracing their roots in Ireland.

Also free is the huge Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints FamilySearch site. This includes the Tithe Applotment books 1814-1855, Ireland Prison registers 1790-1924 and Ireland Landed Estate Court Files 1850-1885, all with images plus Irish civil registration indexes.

These are all searchable by name and in the Tithe Applotment books you might find the amount of tithe ancestors paid, in the prison registers, details of the name, occupation, marital status, name and address of someone who has committed a crime, name and address of next of kin, plus information on the crime committed and the names of victims of crimes. Many estates went bankrupt during the famine and the Landed Estate Court files include details of bankrupt estates with maps showing lists of tenants.

Wellington Irish Society, 1956 Wellington Irish Society, 1956. Ref: 1/1-034149-F

How we can help

The search stations in our Reading Rooms have access to Ancestry Library Edition and Origins Total Access and they both include Irish material. Also available are The Irish Times 1859-2007 and findmypast Ireland, which includes the Irish Prison Registers 1790-1924 and Petty Sessions Order Books 1851-1912. This database site also has directories, tithe defaulters lists as well as civil registration birth, death and marriages indexes.

A recent addition to the hard-copy Family History Collection here in the National Library is the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine . Weighing in at 4 kilograms, this massive 710 page work was published by the Cork University Press. The Great Irish Famine occurred between 1845 and 1852 and it is a pivotal event in the history of the country. Probably a million people died and over a million people left the country, resulting in a great diaspora.

Cover of the Atlas of the Great Irish FamineAtlas of the Great Irish Famine , 2012. Photo by Margaret Hurst.

The book is more than an atlas and contains many articles by experts in arts, archaeology, geography, folklore, history, economics, Irish and English languages and literatures. They analyse the experiences and patterns in different areas of Ireland and illustrate this with images, maps and graphs.

The Family History Collection has guides, cemetery indexes, reference books and maps that are useful for Irish family history and there are also books in the published collections of the National and Alexander Turnbull Libraries that may be useful for background reading such as social histories.

Have a great time searching.


Some more free and useful sites

National Archives of Ireland

Irish Times

Roots Ireland

Irish genealogy

Irish genealogy church records

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

National Library of Ireland

By Margaret Hurst

Margaret is the Family History Librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

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