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35 Ways To Trace Your Irish Ancestors by Nicola Morris
Posted by IRISH ROOTS on Thursday 29 March 2018

35  Ways To Trace Your Irish Ancestors by Nicola Morris

1. Griffith’s Valuation, also known as the Primary Valuation of Ireland was compiled between 1847 and 1864 and recorded the head of each household who was responsible for paying the rates on their property. This is Ireland’s most comprehensive 19th century census substitute. 

2. Griffith’s Valuation can be found online at and Search for the person who would have been the head of the household at the time of the valuation.

3. The Valuation should record the occupier (head of household), their landlord (immediate lessor), the type of buildings and number of acres of land.

4. The occupancy of a property can be traced forward from Griffith’s Valuation using the Valuation Office Revision books. These are updated versions of Griffith’s Valuation that record any changes in the ownership or occupancy of a property.

5. The Valuation Office Revision books can be used to determine when the head of a household died and his property passed to his widow or one of his sons.

6. The Valuation Office Revision Books can be accessed on site in the Valuation Office in Dublin at the Irish Life Centre, Abbey St Lower, North City, Dublin 1.

7. The Valuation Office House, Field and Tenure books, published at, were generally compiled before Griffith’s Valuation. Not all of these books survive, but those that do may identify an earlier generation of your family, details of their tenure or description of their house.

8. At the Valuation Office Union Maps date from the 1880s and 1890s and are linked to copies of Griffith’s Valuation for each townland. The maps detail the exact boundaries of each holding.

9. The Tithe was a religious tax that was levied for the upkeep of the established church, the Church of Ireland. The Tithe was only applied to certain types of agricultural land, and is not a comprehensive land survey.

10. The Tithe Applotment books record the head of the household and the extent and value of their land. Occupiers of urban dwellings were generally excluded.

11. The Tithe Applotment Books were compiled between 1823 and 1838 and survive for nearly every parish in Ireland. They have been published online at but this is not a reliable database, as some townlands and parishes are listed in the wrong county and names were incorrectly transcribed.

12. The 1796 Flax Growers List recorded 60,000 households in receipt of a spinning wheel. The majority are found in Ulster, but the entire country is covered, with the exception of Dublin and Wicklow. Flax Growers List

13. The 1796 Flax Growers List recorded the name, parish and county of the recipient and can act as proof that a family were residing in a specific parish in the 18th century.

14. The Calendars of Wills and Administrations are an annual list published from 1858. If your ancestor left a will or an estate that was administered by the courts they should be listed. The Calendars up to 1922 are online at

15. The Calendars can record address, occupation and date of death, a useful substitute for deaths that were not registered with the civil authorities.

16. Prior to 1858 wills and administrations were listed by Diocese or proved in the Prerogative Court. These lists have been published online at

17. The majority of wills and administrations proved prior to 1901were destroyed in the 1922 fire in the PRO and in many cases the Calendars are the only evidence that survives.

18. Will Registers were copies of wills made by the local court. The surviving registers from 1858 have been digitised and published by the National Archives of Ireland (NAI). Wills and Testamentary Records

19. The original of a will proved after 1901 should survive and a copy can be ordered at

20. Surviving wills or will substitutes prior to 1858 have been listed in the Index of Irish Wills 1484-1858 published on

21. Many 19th and early 20th century genealogists made abstracts of wills that have since been destroyed. These abstracts can be found in the NAI and Genealogical Office of the National Library of Ireland (NLI).

22. The most significant collection of will abstracts was created by Sir William Betham and a large number of wills listed in Vicar’s Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland were copied by Betham and are now on microfilm in the NAI.

23. Virgina Wade McAnliss’s Consolidated Index to the Genealogical Office, in the NLI, lists many other will abstracts in the NLI collection.

24. Some Church of Ireland couples married by licence. The Diocesan Calendars of Marriage Licence Bonds can establish a year of marriage, unfortunately, the original licence no longer survives.

25. A marriage licence suggests the possibility of a marriage settlement. Details of marriage settlements were often lodged in the Registry of Deeds.

26. The Registry of Deeds was established in 1708 as a repository for memorials of deeds documenting the transfer of property.

27. A marriage settlement may name the bride and groom, the parents of the bride and it was often siblings of the bride and groom who acted as trustees to the settlement.

28. The transfer of property set out in the terms of a will or administration may also be recorded in a memorial in the Registry of Deeds.

29. Some deeds of transfer or mortgage of property can refer to earlier leases, potentially identifying older generations of a family.

30. Leases for land were often made for a number of lives. If a lease can be located, it may name the children, nieces or nephews of the tenant as lives on a lease. A lease from the 17th or 18th century may be the only record that identifies two generations of a family in this period.

31. It was not compulsory to lodge leases in the Registry of Deeds. Some of these documents were retained in the office of a landed estate.

32. In order to locate a collection of surviving estate papers, you need to identify your ancestor’s landlord. The landlord should be recorded in Griffith’s Valuation.

33. Search, and the main catalogues of the NLI, NAI and PRONI for evidence of surviving estate papers.

34. Some landlords Irish estate papers may be found in repositories in England and might be located using the Discovery Catalogue at the British National Archives.

35. Estate papers may not be held in the county or country that they relate to. Estate papers for the south may be found in Belfast and papers for northern estates may be found in Dublin or London.

The above is from '100 Ways To Trace Your Irish Ancestors' by Nicola Morris which appeared in issue 100 of Irish Roots magazine.  To access this issue, to subscribe or to view/purchase back issues of Irish Roots magazine please visit our online store at Irish Roots Online Store

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