Lesser Known Irish Sources at the Family History Library

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Syllabus for class taught by Evva C. Benson, British Patron Service Manager at FamilySearch's Family History Library, presented at the NGS 2010 Conference

You’ve used civil registration, census records, church records, and the Griffith’s Valuation, and now you’re wondering where else to go. Here are some sources that can be found in the collection of the Family History Library that might help you.


  • Printed family histories. The Family History Library (FHL) has many family histories for all parts of the world. Use a Surname search in the FamilySearch Catalog to identify these.
  • Country, county, and local histories. The FHL has many of these. Look in the FamilySearch Catalog under Country—History and likewise under the county and place of interest.
  • Have you tried Google?

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The Townlands Index (Ref 941.5 X22ti 1871, Film 476999 Item 2) gives the “No. of Sheet of the Ordnance Survey Maps” in the left hand column. The FHL has these maps, made in the 1830s, on microfiche 6341635-66, although they do not circulate to family history centers. The sheet number in the Townlands Index tells you which fiche of the set your townland is located on. (There is a less detailed set of these maps also on microfiche, FHL 941.5 E7iom v.1-32.) These maps and more are now available on http://www.irishhistoricmaps.ie.

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These are an underused but excellent resource. Journals specific to a locality are particularly useful. Transcripts of records are often printed in periodicals, as well as articles on where to find and how to use various record sources. To find periodicals at the FHL, look in the FamilySearch Catalog under the place of interest and then either Periodicals or Genealogy. To find transcripts of records look in Smith's inventory of genealogical source: Ireland, FHL Ref 941.5 D23 v.1-32. Smith’s Inventory is an index to periodicals and journals collected by the FHL. It is organized by place and then by subject. Also search Hayes’ Sources for the History of Irish Civilization, Articles in Periodicals, FHL Ref Q 941.5 A5ha; Periodical Source Index (PERSI) available at http://www.ancestry.com or http://www.heritagequestonline.com ($); and http://www.ireland.com/ancestor and http://globalgenealogy.com/countries/ireland/articles-ireland.htm.

CENSUS SUBSTITUTES[edit | edit source]

Valuation Lists (also known as Cancel Books, Revision Lists, etc.) 1850s-20th century[edit | edit source]

The FHL does not have these for N. Ireland. For the Republic, they are cataloged under the county and then “Land and Property.” One should know the Poor Law Union and District Electoral Division (D.E.D.) that the place of interest was in. These can be obtained from the 1871 or 1901 Townland Index. One note on using the Valuation Lists is they are arranged backwards. That is, the beginning of the film has the newest books, and the books get older as you continue in the film.

  • Records created by the Valuation Office before the Primary Valuation: Field books, House books, Tenure books, Quarto books.

Find in the FamilySearch Catalog using a keyword search with the words Ireland Tenure Quarto.

Old age pension claims[edit | edit source]

Do a keyword search in the FamilySearch Catalog using the words Ireland Old Age Pension.

The old age pension was introduced in Ireland in 1909 for people over the age of 70. However, because civil (government) registration of births did not begin until 1864 those eligible for a pension often had no way to prove their age. Officials searched the 1841 and 1851 census to determine if an applicant was eligible for a pension although not all applications using the census as proof were accepted.

The pension was 5 shillings for a single person and 7 shillings for a married couple.

The records for those living in the following counties at the time of their application are available on microfilm at the Public Records Office on Northern Ireland (PRONI): Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone.

Some certified copies of census returns used in the pension application process are available on microfilm at the National Archives of Ireland.

Flax Grower’s Bounty[edit | edit source]

FHL film 1419442, indexed on The Flax Growers Bounty List, 1796 by Family Tree Maker, FHL CD series 9 pt. 271 and also http://www.ancestry.com.

Militia Lists[edit | edit source]

Some at FHL, do a keyword search in the FamilySearch Catalog for your parish or county and militia

Church Censuses[edit | edit source]

Some at FHL, look under the county and parish in the FamilySearch Catalog. 1740 indexed at http://www.americanancestors.org and 1766 indexed at http://www.ancestry.com. Warning, these are fragments only, not an index to the entire country.

Freeholders lists[edit | edit source]

Many indexed at http://www.proni.gov.uk, also use FamilySearch Catalog and Smith’s Inventory.

To Find Other Irish Census Substitutes:[edit | edit source]

  1. Search the FamilySearch Catalog.
  2. See register of “Census and Census Substitutes” in the reference area of the FHL.
  3. See http://www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/browse/counties/index.htm for a county-by-county listing of census substitutes available in Ireland (some may be at the FHL).
  4. See Smith’s Inventory of Genealogical Sources.

PROBATE[edit | edit source]

Pre-1858[edit | edit source]

Although most pre-1858 wills were destroyed in 1922, many of the indexes for these wills survive. The indexes are included in: Super Index, FHL 941.5 P25b v. 1-11, FHL films 1145963-65 and 1145972. Following are some collections of wills (not just indexes):

  • Sir William Betham abstracted pre-1800 wills in the Prerogative Court of Armagh before they were destroyed. Look in FamilySearch Catalog under Ireland—Probate records and then Genealogical abstracts of records of the Prerogative Court of Armagh. Indexed in Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland, 1536-1810, FHL book 941.5 P22v 1967, FHL fiche 6026394.
  • The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has received copies of wills from solicitor’s offices, private collections, etc. to “reconstruct” the original collection. There is a surname index to these. Card index to wills in the several collections held at the Public Record Office, Belfast, 1536-1920 on microfilm at FHL. The index is on films 1565605, 1565578, and 1565672-75. Some of the wills found in the index are in the FHL collection. Otherwise, you may purchase a copy from PRONI (http://www.proni.gov.uk).
  • The National Archives, Dublin has also been building a collection of wills. The index can be found on FHL microfilms 1565816-9 and 1471894-8, the CD Index of Irish Wills 1484-1858 produced by Eneclann (FHL CD 451) and http://www.irishorigins.com. Many of the wills indexed can be found in the FHL collection. Otherwise, you may purchase a copy through Eneclann.

1858 Onwards[edit | edit source]

Probate matters were taken over by the government in 1858 and consolidated into a central system known as the Principal Probate Registry. The yearly calendars for this are on film at the FHL. Look in the FamilySearch Catalog under Ireland—Probate records—Indexes and then Calendar of the grants of probate and letters of administration made in the principal registry and in the several district registries, 1858-1920 (this includes a general index to the first twenty years). Most all of the Principal Registry wills and Dublin district wills were destroyed in 1922, but the records kept by the other nine district registries survive.

PRONI has placed the post-1857 will calendars for Northern Ireland online at their Web site.

LAND RECORDS[edit | edit source]

Registry of Deeds[edit | edit source]

Most useful for upper-class, land-owning, Protestant ancestors. Indexed by grantor, or place (barony, townland). Library has indexes and memorials. Look under Ireland—Land and Property in the FamilySearch Catalog, then Transcripts of memorials of deeds, conveyances and wills, 1708-1929. There is a volunteer project on the Internet to index these records at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~registryofdeeds/index.html.

Encumbered Estates[edit | edit source]

During the Famine, many landlords had to forfeit their mortgaged estates due to a decrease in rental income. The Encumbered Estates Court was created to handle these cases. These contain lists of tenants and other items. The PRONI has volumes of Rentals of Encumbered Estates. The FHL has these on microfilms 258793-258850.

Some of these are indexed in: Parsons, Joyce and Jeanne Jensen. Index to Irish films at the Family History Library: includes names from wills, land and court documents, genealogies, pedigrees, and special collections. [Salt Lake City: J & J Ltd., 1995-1999] FHL Ref 941.5 D22pj v. 1-5, films 1559440 item 11, 1696675 item 9, 1145946 item 2, 1145974 Item 8, and 1162455 Item 6 respectively, also FHL CD ROM 601 or the FHL patron desktop.

Estate Papers[edit | edit source]

Records kept by the landlord or his overseer regarding rentals, leases, etc. on his property. First you must determine who owned the property your ancestor lived on. This is usually best done by using the “immediate lessor” column of the Griffith’s Valuation. Then you must ascertain whether there are estate papers for that estate, where they are, and the extent of coverage.

The FHL has few estate records (one notable exception being the Abercorn papers, which cover estates that the Abercorn family owned in Tyrone and Donegal), but it is always worth checking in the FamilySearch Catalog under Ireland—Land and Property or Ireland—Manors. Check under the same topics on the county and parish level as well.

The National Register of Archives (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/) makes available on-line the contents of 44,000 unpublished catalogs to manuscripts and historical records. The private papers (including estate records) of many families may be found in this collection. You can search the register by organization, business, personal name, family name, and place-name (the “seat” of a family, or estates they may have owned). Another important index to estate records is Hayes’ Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilization, FHL Ref Q 941.5 A5h.


Ordnance Survey Memoirs[edit | edit source]

Derry and Antrim have lists of people who emigrated from each parish in the few years before the Memoirs were published (1830s), FHL Ref 941.5 E6mi (40 volumes). (These lists are indexed in William Filby’s Passenger and Immigration Lists Index and in Filby’s collection as found on http://www.ancestry.com.)

Tombstone Inscriptions[edit | edit source]

Look for County—Cemeteries in FamilySearch Catalog, also Journal of the Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead in Ireland under Ireland—Cemeteries in FamilySearch Catalog. The journal has a name and place index. For Northern Ireland and County Donegal, try http://www.historyfromheadstones.com.

Directories[edit | edit source]

Look in the FamilySearch Catalog under the name of the city and then the subject Directories. Also try the county level and national level in the FamilySearch Catalog.

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Newspaper Database at the National Library of Ireland
Irish New Archive is a subscription site with many newspapers, and many are indexed in snippets online for free.

Belfast Newsletter Index[edit | edit source]

On-line at http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/bnl/.

Royal Irish Constabulary Records[edit | edit source]

Indexed in: The Royal Irish Constabulary : a complete alphabetical list of officers and men, 1816-1922, Jim Herlihy, FHL 941.5 N22hj. Also indexed on http://www.ancestry.com. If you find your man in there, the FHL has the original service records on film! See the FamilySearch Catalog “Ireland—Occupations.”

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Many Irishmen were in the British Army and Navy. This means that their military records were and are kept at the National Archives in London and therefore survive. The FHL has many of these on microfilm. Also, try searching the National Archives Catalog at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/default.asp for the name of an Irish ancestor in the military.

School Records[edit | edit source]

The FHL has three of the five districts in Northern Ireland on microfilm. Look in the FamilySearch Catalog for your parish or town.

COLLECTIONS[edit | edit source]

  • Parish registers for North Cork and East Kerry—Casey collection “O'Kief, Coshe Mange, Slieve Lougher and Upper Blackwater in Ireland”, FHL 941.5 D2c v. 1-15, films beginning 8233801.
  • Probate, census extracts, and misc. records: Betham, Thrift, Crossle, Tenison Groves, and many others.
  • Genealogical Office, Dublin Manuscripts—indexed in:
  • The Consolidated Index to the records of the Genealogical Office Dublin, Ireland FHL British Ref 941.5 A3mv v. 1-4
  • Pedigree Index no. 11 pt. 2 FHL British Ref 941.5 A5gp pt. 2
  • Genealogical Office, Dublin Index FHL British Ref Q 941.5 A5g v.1-2
  • Betham’s Index FHL British Book Q 941.5 D22be v. 1-3

And others . . . look in the FamilySearch Catalog under Ireland—Genealogy or [County]—Genealogy, or search FamilySearch Catalog keyword with the name of the collection and Ireland.


General Finding Aids[edit | edit source]

  • Helferty, Seamus and Raymond Refaussé, eds. Directory of Irish Archives, 3rd ed. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999.
  • FamilySearch Catalog—under “Ireland—Archives and Libraries”

Repositories[edit | edit source]