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Searching Records in Ireland

Present-day Ireland is administratively divided by county; ‘tis a pity that at the time your ancestors emigrated from the Emerald Isle, the key geographical and administrative divisions of Ireland were instead townlands and civil parishes. Knowing the present-day county in which your ancestors once lived is not sufficient for you to conduct a successful records search. See our page on Property Records for information on how to search for an ancestor's townland of residence.

To further complicate your task, Dublin Castle's Record Tower was destroyed early in the 18th century, and the Public Record Office (PRO) was consumed by fire in 1922; nearly all civil records were destroyed, but thankfully not all records were stored in the PRO. Surviving records may include property records, civil records of births, marriages, and deaths, non-Church of Ireland parish records, and census data. Even if the originals of what you're looking for perished in the 1922 fire, you may discover that transcripts, abstracts, and fragments of the originals were stored at another location and have survived to this day.

With many civil records nearly obliterated by these disasters, the importance of townland and parish records has increased. However, records kept by governmental divisions other than townlands and parishes can also be useful. At various times in Ireland's history, geographical units such as baronies, poor law unions, dioceses, probate districts, and counties compiled and maintained records on their citizenry. These can realistically be truly helpful only if your ancestor's surname is rare or unusual, but every such source could lead to something further and can be worth checking out.

There are seven primary kinds of records you can search upon your arrival in Ireland. It would be wise to budget enough time to conduct a thorough search of each, instead of having to leave the country abruptly, when your search is only half complete. The key record categories are:


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