Getting started

Your research begins with you and your immediate family. Ask questions of family members you think might know a little bit more about your family history. Consult old photographs on which names and dates may be noted, newspaper clippings, old letters, family Bibles as well as family gravestones. Try to establish approximate dates (of births, marriages and deaths) as well as names (forenames and related family names) and places of residence. This information will point the way to relevant records. Religious denomination is also important in determining which records are relevant to your research.

Begin with census records and civil records

Although a census of the Irish population was taken every ten years from 1821 to 1911, the earliest complete surviving Census is for 1901. The 1901 and 1911 Census are both fully searchable online, free of charge on the National Archives website.

State registration of all non-Catholic marriages in Ireland began in 1845. In 1864, civil registration of all births, marriages and deaths commenced. These records are held at the General Register Office in Dublin. An index to records of civil registration in Ireland from 1845 to 1958 is available on the Family Search website.

If you are starting out on the ancestral trail we recommend that you read our information booklet Family History Research: Sources at the NLI  Family History Research Sources at the NLI.pdf (0 MB, Adobe PDF), or visit our Genealogy Advisory Service which offers free advice on resources for tracing your family history.