Family History Resources: Free Records Online in Ireland

Updated on December 10, 2019
eugbug profile image

Eugene is currently tracing his own family history using records held at the National Library of Ireland and National Archives, Dublin.

Who Do You Think You Are? Tracing Your Family History on the Web

Ireland currently has a population of about 4.5 million people, and around 36 million Americans claim Irish ancestry. During the years of the Great Famine, which was at its worst in 1847 and was caused by failure of the potato crop due to blight, one million people died. A further two million emigrated during the following decade—mostly to Britain and the continent of North America, but also to Argentina. Large-scale emigration continued well into the 20th century. Transportation to penal colonies in Australia was also a standard punishment (even for relatively minor crimes), and large numbers of convicts were sent there from the late 18th century onwards. With the advent of the Internet—and the scanning of paper records and computer storage—it is now easier to research details of our ancestors.

Counties and provinces of Ireland - Border between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland indicated by red line
Counties and provinces of Ireland - Border between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland indicated by red line | Source

Basic Facts About Ireland

84,421 km2 (32,595 sq mi)
Total Population:
6.6 million
Republic of Ireland:
4.75 million
Northern Ireland:
1.85 million
Capital city:
System of government:
Parliamentary democracy with a ceremonial/non-executive president. A separate head of government leads the executive
Irish Free State was founded in 1922 and remained part of British Commonwealth
Ireland became a republic in 1949
The country is split up into provinces: Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaght
There are 32 counties (geographical and administrative regions) in Ireland. The province of Ulster in the north of the country consists of 9 counties. Six of these counties are part of the United Kingdom

What Records are Available Online?

Many records have now been scanned and made available in online databases. Access to many of these databases is free and scanned images of original records can be downloaded.

The following information is available:

  • 1901 and 1911 census on the National Archives of Ireland website
  • Church Records on the National Library of Ireland website
  • Civil Records
  • Grave Inscriptions

1901 and 1911 Censuses

The 1901 and 1911 census records records have been scanned and indexed in the past few years and are free to access on the National Archives of Ireland website. Names, ages etc have been indexed so searching and sorting is easy. Some census records pre 1900 were destroyed by the IRA during the Irish Civil War in 1922 when the besieged Four Courts building was set alight. Others were pulped by the government during WWI to provide a source of raw materials for making paper. Orders were even given to deliberately destroy some records. Some pre 1900 census fragments do remain however and these have been made available in early 2014.

How to Search the 1901 and 1911 Irish Census Records

When searching, it is important to remember that spellings of names may vary somewhat and the name you are searching for may be spelled slightly different in the census to what you think it should be. Therefore try not to narrow down a search too much initially. If you know the townland or town where your ancestor was born, the county, and approximate age, you can leave out the name, perform a search and sort the results by age. Usually when I search the records, I select a county and surname while leaving out the first name, and this produces several thousand results. Then I narrow down the list by either sorting the results by first name or age. Basically you need to be patient and try different options while searching.

Using Irish Church Records for Tracing Births, Marriages and Deaths

Civil records in Ireland only extend back to 1864. So to trace your ancestors before that, you need to trawl through church records. These records record births, marriages and deaths extending back to the early 19th or late 18th century. Usually Church of Ireland records go back further. The Anglican Church of Ireland (Protestant) was the official established church in Ireland until it lost this status following an act passed in 1869. These records can be viewed on microfiche at the National Library of Ireland, however it's now possible to also view them online on the National Library of Ireland website. According to the NLI, unlike online census records, these scans wont be indexed or searchable for the moment due to lack of staffing resources, and are simply scans of registers.

Civil Records

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints runs a website called A free search of the civil records index is possible on this site and information is available showing years of birth, death, marriage and sometimes names of parents. It is possible to view prison and court records on a subscription or pay per view basis.
Although civil records in Ireland only extend back to 1864, a record of death often indicates the pre-1864 birth year.

Databases of Tombstone Inscriptions

Headstones are another useful resource to work out the relationship between members of families. Also it can be a poignant discovery to find the grave of an ancestor. The Dublin Headstones Photos database is a collection of tombstone images and inscriptions for the three largest cemeteries in Dublin.

Historic Graves is also a growing database and is updated sporadically as local history groups and school projects add new cemeteries.

Non-Online Records

Other Useful Links

  • The Ordnance Survey of Ireland website has large scale maps that are useful for identifying townlands listed on the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Historical layers can be overlayed with contemporary maps in order to examine changes in infrastructure and buildings
  • Griffith's Valuation was a large scale valuation of property in Ireland carried out between 1847 and 1864. It provides details about tenants and shows the location and boundaries of rented property
  • Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland for 1846 lists tradesmen and businesses in each town.
  • Tithe Applotment Books Tithes were taxes on agricultural produce which tenants had to pay to the Church of Ireland. These records list the names and townland of those who paid the taxes
  • Passenger lists and names of ships arriving at the port of New York. Useful for tracing emigrant ancestors

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Eugene Brennan


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • eugbug profile imageAUTHOR

      Eugene Brennan 

      7 years ago from Ireland

      Hi John, thanks for stopping by!

      Genealogy can be fun, but trawling through records can be painstaking. The people who filled in records with non-legible handwriting weren't very considerate of those of us trying to trace our ancestors!

    • John MacNab profile image

      John MacNab 

      7 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      Very interesting eugbug. Like zillions of other people, I have Irish ancestry. My grandfather was Irish; his family moved to Canada, then back to Ireland and then Scotland where my mother was born. I may take you up on your searching at a later stage. Voted up, interesting & useful.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)