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7 Essential Rules For Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by Elaine Hannon
Posted by IRISH ROOTS on 01 August 2017

7 ESSENTIAL RULES WHEN RESEARCHING YOUR IRISH ANCESTORS

The following are some tips and what to watch out for when researching your Irish ancestor;

WHERE TO START ON YOUR RESEARCH.

When you start the research on your family, begin with yourself and work your way back through the male line.  For example: if you are researching your grandmother’s family start with her father and work your way back researching the male line.

THE GOLDEN RULE WHEN DOING YOUR FAMILY RESEARCH.

Remember to work on only one family line at a time or otherwise you find yourself getting mixed up with your family trees and forgetting where you were in your research. 

SORT OUT THE FACTS FROM THE FICTION.

Always remember to interview older family/relatives.  Were there any stories passed down through the family.  Make sure to sort out the facts from the fiction.    Gather any original documents that the family have, such as birth records, marriage records, death records, census records etc.

WHERE TO START THE FAMILY RESEARCH, WHEN YOUR IRISH ANCESTOR EMIGRATED TO ANOTHER COUNTRY.

If your ancestor emigrated and you do not know their parent’s names, and the place where they were from in Ireland; you will need to continue the research in the country where they emigrated to, to identify this crucial information.  

When you start researching Irish genealogical records/sources, you need to be 100 per cent sure that the person you are researching in Ireland is your ancestor; and this can only be done by knowing their parent’s names and the place where they resided in Ireland.  There are sometimes exceptions to the rule, for example: if your ancestor had an unusual first-name or surname, and you know their parent’s names; you may be able to identify their exact place of birth in Ireland, with just that information.

HOW DO YOU SPELL YOUR IRISH ANCESTOR’S SURNAME?

Up to the early 1900’s, a lot of Irish people could still not read or write.  Their accent also made it difficult to interpret their surname when asked, especially when they emigrated to another country; so the spelling of their surname may have changed.  So make sure to allow for spelling variations of your ancestors surnames when researching.

If you are interested in knowing more about the origin of your Irish surname and the spelling variations, I would recommend the following read “The Surnames of Ireland” by Edward MacLysaght.  

You can also check the spelling and origin of your surname on the Index to Surnames on John Greham’s website:  https://www.johngrenham.com/surnames/

DO YOU KNOW THE EXACT YEAR YOUR IRISH ANCESTOR WAS BORN?

Many people did not know their exact age and if they were lucky to know their year of birth, they may have lied about their age, for example: they lied about their age so that they could enlist in the army, either making themselves a few years younger or older. 

If your ancestor died, the informant of the death, if they were not related, may not have known the deceased person’s age. The informant would have guessed what age they thought the deceased was.

Census records are also known for recording birth years incorrectly.  It is always important to make allowance for your ancestor’s age or year of birth.  A good tip is to add and minus about 5/10 years either side of the given year of birth when researching your ancestor.

WHAT WAS YOUR ANCESTOR’S EXACT ADDRESS IN IRELAND?

If you are unsure of the spelling of a place name or townland where your Irish ancestor lived in Ireland, always allow for spelling variations of the place names and townlands. 

You can search for the correct spelling of the place name/townland on the index to Townlands of Ireland, on the following website “The IreAtlas Townland Database” http://www.thecore.com/seanruad/

Elaine Hannon has run a successful business in Genealogy (Elaine Hannon Genealogy) since 2011, providing professional genealogical research to clients in Ireland and all around the world.  Her expertise is in genealogical research for the whole of Ireland, heir hunter, probate, adoption – tracing birth parents and connecting, record retrieval service, records required for citizenship through Descent/Irish Passport.  Elaine is a member of Accredited Genealogists Ireland (formerly the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI). http://www.ehgenealogy.com/

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