How To Research Your Irish Ancestry—Tips From The Experts

A person celebrating their Irish ancestry

At the moment, over 32 million people – a whopping 9.7 percent of the total American population – claim they have full or partial Irish ancestry—are you one of them? There have been several waves of Irish immigration into the US since 1820, and it’s possible that your Irish ancestors were part of these groups.

So, when building a family tree, you’d, of course, want to explore the Irish branches of your family tree, and guess what? You don’t actually have to fly to Ireland to research Irish ancestry; many records are available online, so you can do it from the comfort of your home!


Here’s how you can go about it.

Start With the Online Records

As we mentioned, you don’t have to cross the ocean to research your Irish ancestors; there’s tons of information available online. You can go through these sources one by one or carry out a more targeted search if you’re looking for some specific information.

Here are the websites we find most helpful:

  1.– This is one of the largest collections you’ll find online, and it has everything from free parish registers, as well as censuses, and even the Church of Ireland’s records.
  2.– This one will lead you to some excellent Irish civil records, including birth, marriage, and death indexes.
  3.– This is one of the best websites for your census-related requirements since it offers fragments of lost and destroyed censuses, as well as helpful substitutes. You’ll also find other important collections here, such as Irish wills, crew lists and shipping agreements, and so on.
  4. You can, of course, also check since they’re known for their large collection of overseas records.

Try To Locate Your Ancestor’s Place of Origin (Within Ireland, Of course)

Of course, you know that your ancestors were from Ireland, but do you know exactly where in Ireland they were from? This is key information because it’ll help make local search a lot easier for you.

So, for starters, you need to find out if your ancestors had ties to the territory of Ireland or Northern Ireland. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that for the period you might be researching, this was just one country, but Northern Ireland split and became part of the UK in 1921. So, when you’re searching for documents at the country level, keep this significant fact in mind.

You’ll also come across the term “Irish Free State” when you’re looking at naturalization and immigration documents. This was basically Ireland’s name between 1922 and 1937 when the Irish Free State was established based on the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. The Irish Free State basically replaced both Southern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Next, you’re going to want to look at provinces to find documents at the provincial level. Today, there are four provinces that you’ll see on the Irish map: Muster, Leinster, Connaught, and Ulster (mostly part of Northern Ireland). However, there was once a fifth province, Meath, but at some point in history, it was incorporated into Ulster and Leinster.

Also, during your research, make sure you understand the different counties—there are 32 in total—you can look at this county-by-county guide to find the genealogy records you’re looking for.

Trinity College Library in Dublin

Search With Different Name Variants

Sometimes, you may struggle to try to locate your Irish ancestors in US records because of the Americanized name variants used.

There are some differences in Gaelic and American spelling styles, which can become quite the hurdle in your Irish ancestry research. But if you know what the Gaelic name variations indicate, it’ll simplify your research significantly. For instance, Mac is Gaelic for son, and O’ refers to “grandson of,” so if you see these in name during research, you can identify relations between family members.

Also, you may see Mc instead of Mac in certain places, but that just confirms that your family’s origins are definitely in Ireland because there is no massive difference between the two, but Mc usually originates out of Ireland, while Mac is usually.


That being said, there are no spelled-out rules for this, and it may take a lot of trial and error to get it right. If you’re not quite sure how to go about this, let us do the legwork for you.

At DavisDNA And Family Research, we offer probate research services and can help you find ancestors through online DNA consulting.