Searching without Leaving Home
This page covers records searches you can perform in your home country. You should complete this round of research before taking a trip to Ireland, to make sure that you have the most complete and accurate information before spending money on an Ireland research trip. These other searches comprise:
- Death records – death certificates, wills, obituaries, church records, cemetery records, and probate records
- Census records
- Voter registration records
- Military records
- Bank and insurance records
If you cannot determine the date and place information for your ancestor's period of residence in Ireland, you may be able to develop it from a search in your home country of records relating to the ancestor's death. Death certificates, wills, obituaries, church records, cemetery records, and probate records could give you the birthdate and birthplace, any property owned back in Ireland, names of parents or relatives, and length of residence in this country. Tombstones are another prime source of names, places, and dates; the advantage of tombstones is that they are not as easily lost, misplaced, or destroyed as papers and documents are.
If your ancestor settled in the United States, you can search through U.S. Census information. Since 1790, the Census has been taken taken every 10 years, and from 1850 onward, the census records the country of birth and age of all household members. The questions asked can be slightly different depending on the year the census was conducted; however, all censuses record the birthplace of the respondent and the respondent's parents, and include questions regarding the year of immigration to the United States and naturalization status. You can begin a search of U.S. Census records by visiting the the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Depending on the cities and counties in which your ancestor lived and when, U.S. voter registration information may be available. Voter registration records may be able to tell you full name, address, birthdate, birthplace, and date of naturalization. Check online for these records in the state and county in which your ancestor would have been registered to vote.
If your ancestor carried insurance or held bank accounts, there may be bank or insurance records to search. If he served in the U.S. armed services, you could check for any military records. In addition, other sources to examine are passport records and the records of local immigrant aid societies.
In cities with major ports, you can search newspaper archives for information on ship arrivals and departures; sometimes these lists also included the names of arriving passengers. Look for columns covering local news, or sections on Maritime news or activity.