Module Nine: Working with Other Resources

Working with Other Resources

In this module you will learn about additional Irish record sources which may be used in your research.

"I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me those who are to come. I looked back and saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond. And their eyes were my eyes."

- Richard Llewellyn

Where Else Can I Search?

We have looked at the most important records in Irish research: Civil registration, birth records, U.S. and immigration records, census records, Griffith's Valuation, Tithe Applotment, Valuation Lists and other land records. What are the other resources that we can use to continue our genealogical research?

Other resources include:

  • Newspapers
  • Gravestones and monumental inscriptions
  • Family histories, local histories and historians
  • Wills
  • Estate records
  • Contacting family in Ireland
  • Molecular genealogy

These are more advanced subjects in Irish genealogy, but we will look at each one briefly.

Working with Newspapers

Newspapers may contain genealogical information, but their availability makes them difficult to use. More are becoming available online, and it is worthwhile to do a Google search for your ancestor and location. "In comparison to other countries, Ireland was slow in developing a newspaper industry. An occasional newspaper was printed in the mid-1600s. Ireland's major city and provincial newspapers began in the 1700s. Town newspapers began by the 1800s" (Family History Library, 1993. Research Outline: Ireland)

Read more about Irish newspapers on FamilySearch.

Finding Information on Gravestones

Gravestones, or monumental inscriptions, can sometimes be good sources of genealogical information. The stone may record date of birth, death, and family relationships. More are being transcribed and are available on the web.

"Gravestone inscriptions can be a useful source of family history information. Gravestones may give birth, marriage, and death information. They may also give clues about military service, occupation, or family members buried in the same area. Sometimes they give more information than the parish burial register or civil certificate of death. Gravestone inscriptions are especially helpful for identifying ancestors who are not recorded in other existing records" (Family History Library (1993). Research Outline: Ireland).

The History from Headstones website provides access to a searchable database of gravestone inscriptions in Ulster (Northern Ireland).

Other inscriptions may be found online by geographic area. Do a Google search to see if gravestone inscriptions have been recorded for your parish.

Using Family and Local Histories

Important information about your ancestors may be found in family histories and local histories. Family histories or biographies may have information about the ancestor's place of origin in Ireland, and relationships that can lead you to additional information. Local histories may contain information about your ancestor, and may also provide valuable information about the area and social and economic conditions of the area.

Grenham's Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, has information on family and local histories, organized by county.

Information about family histories related to Ireland can be found on the FamilySearch wiki website.

It is worthwhile to check on local history groups for your area of interest. These groups work to preserve local records, and they may publish magazines with valuable genealogical information. On a trip to Ireland, I was able to meet with local historians, including a shanachie (Irish storyteller/historian), who provided valuable information about the area, my familly, and local legends.

Some local history groups are listed at Irish Genealogy Toolkit.

Using Irish Wills

Most original Irish wills were destroyed in the Public Records Office in 1922, but many copies and abstracts exist. Diocesan and prerogative indexes are available on microfilm from the LDS Family History Library. All of the prerogative wills (1537-1800) were abstracted by Sir William Betham, and the Betham extracts are also available at the Family History Library. As you may imagine, Irish wills are more common for the wealthy, and less common for the average Irish farmer. The textbook for this course, Grenham's Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, has a chapter on wills which provides extensive information on the subject.

The FamilySearch wiki website gives a good description of available Irish wills. has access to a database of Irish wills at

Using Irish Prison Records

Over 3.5 million Irish prison records are available online at These records are for the period from 1790 to 1924. Crimes ranged from stealing potatoes to drunkenness to assault. Civil disobedience was common enough that most families may find information here. For more information about the contents of these prison records, read Irish Prison Records.

Using Irish Estate Records

Irish estate records are the records of landed Irish gentry. These records may contain information about farm laborers and craftsmen. "Estate records are another valuable set of property records. Most Irish lived on large estates owned by a minority of the population. Land owners usually hired agents to keep records of transactions involving their families and/or their tenants. Estate records vary in content and duration and may include deeds, leases, rent rolls, and account books, among other records." (Family History Library, 1993. Research Outline: Ireland). To find the estate records, you need to know the name of the estate holder. This information can be found on Griffith's Valuation.

"Estate records can be difficult to track down and, where they survive, are of variable quality but they can provide spectacularly good detail. These records offer the best opportunity to trace Irish ancestors into the 18th and even the 17th centuries. They include information about the wealthy families who once owned great swathes of Ireland. Genealogy researchers find them useful because these families employed vast numbers of retainers, i.e., domestic staff, farm hands, craftsmen, etc and were also landlords, granting leases to tenant farmers and labourers." (

You can find a list of landholders in Ireland in 1876 online. In 1876 a list of landowners who held at least one acre of land was published. The survey had been commissioned in 1873 by the Local Government Board and required the Poor Law Unions across Ireland to gather together lists of landowners from local rate books. The last of the returns to the Board was dated November 1872. When collated, some 32,614 owners were listed alphabetically by province and county, alongside details of the extent of their land and its current valuation. The 1876 list is available, free online.

What if your family were not landholders? An interesting article on Chasing the Poor and the Landless is found online.

Contacting Family in Ireland

If you have been able to find the location for your ancestors, you may be able to contact living relatives in Ireland. You can use a Google search, Irish phone book search, or send letters or e-mails to individuals with the same last name in the same parish in Ireland.

If you have followed your ancestor's plot of land in Griffith's Valuation, the subsequent Valuation Lists, and found the current occupier at the Valuation Office, then you may be able to see if relatives still live in the same parish.

Understanding Molecular Genealogy

Molecular genealogy is the use of DNA testing to provide information about your ancestry. It is often used when traditional genealogical research hits a brick wall. Its use has been especially valueable to African Americans seeking information about the location of their ancestral homeland.

In Smolenyak's (2004) Trace Your Roots with DNA, the author explains "How then can we use DNA to trace our genealogy? We know that all of our DNA came from somewhere, but that's not much help if we can't put our finger on the right slot in our family tree. Fortunately, there are two kinds of DNA that follow a straight line instead of a meandering path - DNA found on the Y chromosome and the mitochondrial DNA. By a happy coincidence, the straight line for the Y chromosome is the same as the surname line in many cultures, and the straight line for mtDNA tracks the often-elusive female line." In other words, DNA testing can be conducted on the straight paternal line (father to father), and the straight maternal line (mother to mother). In addition, admixture tests can give you an overall percentage of your genetic ancestry.

To learn more about molecular genealogy and DNA, read

Recommended reading on the subject is Megan Smolenyak's (2004) Trace Your Roots with DNA; and Henry Louis Gates' (2010) Faces of America. Faces of America is also available online as a DVD of the PBS series of the same name.

Molecular genealogy is a new and developing subject, which could be the subject of a course itself. Testing is available through several companies online, including There is an interesting project to find the descendents of Niall of the Nine Hostages, a fifth century High King of Ireland.

Ulster Scots may be interested in the DNA project of the Ulster Heritage DNA Project.

Module Nine Assignments

Assignment One:
Select one of the other resources listed above, and see if it can be useful to you in finding your Irish ancestors.



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