Searching through Irish newspapers for ancestor information is a good news-bad news proposition. The good news is that when you locate some newspaper information, it is frequently very detailed and valuable, and available nowhere else; the information in newspaper articles is generally highly accurate, when compared to other sources from the same time period. Nowadays, many indexes to this rich content are available to the researcher, which means that you may not have to search through original newspapers. Now for the bad news. The search is difficult, time-consuming, and not very efficient. You may have to comb through a wide range of dates to find the desired information or article. Also in the bad news category is the fact that the activities and social interactions of the so-called common man were far less widely reported in newspapers than the doings of well-to-do nobles, landed farming gentry, merchants, businessmen, and professionals.
The voluminous archives of the British Library hold a copy of all Irish newspapers and periodicals published since 1826; this collection is almost entirely complete, and even includes some Irish publications prior to 1826. The NEWSPLAN database project of the National Library of Ireland lists all surviving files of Irish newspapers held in the British Library, the National Library of Ireland, public libraries, universities, archives and newspaper offices. Visit the National Library's website at www.nli.ie to examine these listings.
Articles of Interest
Newspapers commonly printed the following types of articles containing valuable ancestor information:
- Obituaries - these are the most numerous of all newspaper announcements. Obits can give name, address, occupation, place of death, and also yield details about surviving relatives and family relationships.
- Marriage announcements - these announcements may contain, in addition to the names of the bride and groom and dates, the names and addresses of the fathers and occupations.
- Elopement announcements - these were paid advertisements taken out by a husband whose wife had abandoned him. The husband disclaimed responsibility for any debts incurred by his wife, and his address and her maiden surname were generally listed.
- Bankruptcies - another form of advertisement taken out as an announcement to any creditors.
- Business announcements - these advertisements may provide information about the location and nature of a family business, including changes of address or ownership.
In addition to the indexes database of the National Library, you may find it useful to consult the two-volume Index to Biographical Notices Collected from Newspapers, compiled by Rosemary Ffolliott. One volume presents transcripted notices in alphabetical order appearing in nearly all newspapers published in Counties Cork and Kerry, from 1756 to 1827, consisting of approximately 12,000 entries. The other volume presents the same information for Counties Limerick, Ennis, Clonmel and Waterford, 1758-1821 (about 45,000 entries). The National Library and the Cork City Library have copies of this index, and you may also be able to locate microfilm copies of the index through the LDS Church. Taken together, this two-volume index has preserved almost all of the surviving 18th-century notices for the southern half of the country.