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Irish Genealogy                                                                                              

Free Guide to Sources for Irish Family Research  

It is our pleasure to offer this guide to Irish genealogy sources so that we can share our passion for Irish genealogy with you and help you get the most from your time in the library or archives. For many years, family research has been a passion as much as a hobby with us at ballybegvillage.com and along the way we have corresponded with and met wonderful people. We have been researching for many years and are sometimes surprised to learn that accessible records have not been utilized by researchers.  This sometimes arises when the description of various records becomes too detailed and confusing.  The following list of sources will be added to as we remember them. Do feel free to remind us of any we have forgotten to include. We have also included some information on Irish land division - an area that often causes confusion for the researcher. Most County Libraries have Local Studies sections and will either have copies of the documents and maps relative to your area of interest, or they will be able to point you in the right direction.  The County Libraries will also be able to direct you to the sources for Church records and civil records for your county. The National Archives and the National Library are the primary depositories of material in Ireland. These are both located in Dublin, and a search on 'Google' or 'Yahoo', etc.  will find their websites.  (Since this page was compiled more and more sources for Irish research become available online.  However, the information here is VIP and must not be overlooked.)

Do remember, however, that one of the best places to start your Irish genealogy research is with an elderly relative.  All too often when asked why they never told their stories, grandparents and great aunts/uncles will reply, "Well, nobody ever asked me!" So... Go ahead, ask them!


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     Documents and Records for Irish Genealogy

 Documents and Records

Census of Ireland 1659

Hearth Money Rolls

Civil Survey of Ireland

Tithe Applotments

Griffith's Valuation of Ireland

Valuation Maps

Cancellation Books



House Books

Ordnance Survey Maps

Civil Registration Records

Census of Ireland 1901 & 1911

Catholic Church Records

Church of Ireland Records

Guide to Irish Land Divisions



Census of Ireland 1659

The Census of Ireland of 1659 is important in that it lists the major landowners of the time and also lists the number of Irish in each parish.  It also lists the principle Irish names and the numbers of such names in each barony. Nice to see the family name if it is in there, but there is no way of linking to it directly.

Hearth Money Rolls: 1664

In the years after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, a tax was levied on all houses with fireplaces. Each fireplace in the house (usually 1) was taxed.  The record of people who were liable for this tax became known as the Hearth Money Rolls. This record is of limited use for the family researcher but is certainly worth looking at to ascertain if your family name is listed in this document from 350 years ago.  Available in the National Archives and at most  County Libraries. Check with them to see if it is available for your county.


Civil Survey of Ireland 1659

The Civil Survey of Ireland was a survey of all land in Ireland and contains lists of the principal landlords of every townland  before the Cromwellian confiscations of 1641.  Some information regarding the topography of the various parish boundaries is given. It is of limited use to the family researcher but interesting as a historical document as it defines the parishes  mentioned and sometimes uses townland divisions that are long forgotten. It also lists mills and castles in the area in the 1650s. Check with the County Library of the county you are working on. Failing that, you will find a copy in the National Archives at Bishop Street, Dublin.

Might not be available for all counties.


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Section from OS map


Clonmel, Co. Tipperary 1890s


Tithe Applotments              Ordnance Survey Maps

Some form of tithe taxation ( 'one tenth') on farm produce had been in existence for many centuries, but in the 1700s it appears to have been given a more organised format. This tax on all farm produce was used for the upkeep of the Protestant Church of Ireland which was the  'Established' church in Ireland. This tax had to be paid by Catholics as well as Protestants even though the Protestant community were greatly in the minority.  Needless to say, this caused great resentment among the Catholic majority, and tithes were responsible for much agrarian strife.  Around 1834, a record of those who were liable to pay tithes was compiled and this became known as the Tithe Applotments. This document is in many County Libraries and is available on microfilm at the National Archives. Very valuable document in that it records every landholder in the country in the years before the Great Famine of 1845-1850. Here you can expect to find the name of the occupier of a plot of land, the type of land, (boggy or mountain pasture etc) name of townland, and the name of the townland and parish. This differs from Griffiths Valuation in that only agricultural land holders (and not town and city property dwellers) were recorded in this record.

Available at National Archives and possibly at the County Libraries.










During the 1830s and the early 1840s, a cartographic survey of all Ireland was carried out resulting in wonderfully detailed maps at a scale of 6 inches to 1 mile.  This scale allowed for every house and field boundary in the country to be recorded on the maps.  The maps also recorded archaeological monuments, streams, wells, ponds, mills, etc. It was these maps that were subsequently used to record the  information from Griffith's Valuation of Ireland (see below). The copies of the Ordnance Survey map which have been preserved are often clearer than the valuation maps (see below) available. They often reveal detail which has been obscured on the valuation maps. The amount of information in these O.S. maps is extraordinary.  As well as determining where your ancestor lived, you can very often  figure out where the nearest well was to your ancestors' house, where they went to the mill, where they went to church, the nearest school, where they visited with neighbours, etc.  These are maps of the very roads your grandparent or great grandparent walked on.

A further edition of the maps was published in the early 1900s. It is informative to compare the earlier pre-Famine  edition with this later edition.


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           Griffith's Valuation of Ireland

In 1850, towards the end of the Great Famine, an ambitious project was undertaken that has had a major positive consequence for those researching Irish families, even though it was never intended as a 'family research' document.  This was a valuation of all the property in Ireland and was instigated as a means of raising taxes (rates) to support the system of Poor Law which had been  in place in the country for the previous ten years or so. It was this Poor Law system that ran the workhouses and some hospitals of Ireland. It also administered outdoor relief to the needy and oversaw many of the Famine Relief projects that had been in place during the 1840s. A Board of Guardians -some elected and some appointed - ran the Poor Law in each Poor Law Union (See guide to Irish land divisions). In Griffith's Valuation, every acre of land, every large house, every farm house, every cottage on every street and road in Ireland is listed with the size of the property, the rateable valuation, whether or not they had outbuildings (offices) etc.

 (Click here for important information regarding Griffith's Valuation)

Most importantly, the name of the person who owned or leased the land is given along with the lessor.  Sometimes the lessor is the landlord and sometimes the lessor is someone subletting part of their property. The size of the house can be ascertained by the amount of valuation applied to it.  What is even more exciting is that there is now easy access to the valuation maps that go with the valuation. These are available at the Valuation Office in Dublin. (I am informed that Griffiths is now  available online) A consequence of the blowing up of part of the Four Courts in Dublin at the outbreak of Civil War in 1922 was that all the censuses for Ireland taken during the 19th century were destroyed along with other priceless records. In the absence of these censuses, Griffith's Valuation has become the primary tool available to researchers.  Fortunately, it is freely available and all County Libraries will have their own county records on the shelf or on Microfilm.  Failing that, the valuation is certainly available in the National Archives. 


Valuation Maps                                          

The Valuation Office in Dublin is at Irish Life Buildings, Lower Abbey Street.  Here you can get copies of the section of valuation map that corresponds with the townland you are researching.  Each entry in Griffith's Valuation has a map reference number and using this number you can pinpoint the house of your ancestor.  Once you have this information you can trace the ownership of the property down through the decades by consulting the Cancellation Books (See below).


Great old Pictures of Mitchelstown and Kilworth in County Cork.

Cancellation Books                                                                                          

House Books

The Cancellation Books are invaluable in tracing the history of a property and, by so doing, tracing the history of a family.  The books are stored in the Valuation Office at Irish Life Centre, Lower Abbey Street in Dublin. Here you can consult the books yourself and colour copies of each page can be made for a fee.  The colour copy is essential as the entries were made in different coloured inks down through the years;  not in any random fashion but in a very organsied way with each colour matched to the year the entry was made.  Some caution is needed when interpreting the information in these books as the entries were sometimes made in the years after the change of ownership took place.

An often overlooked record, but one which really links researchers with the home of their ancestor, is the House Books.  These House Books together with the Field Books and Tenure Books were the original notebooks recorded by the surveyors when compiling the  Valuation of Ireland.  In the House Books you will find the exact measurenments of the house in question. The three above mentioned records are also kept at the Valuation Office, Irish Life Centre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin.


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Genealogy Ireland Irish Family Research

Irish Genealogy

Church  Records

Guide to Irish Land divisions.

Civil Registration and Census of Ireland 1901 & 1911

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