Trace Your Irish Ancestors with Four Historical and Geographical Tips
Let’s trace your Irish ancestors! Irish research tips are a must-have for this historically violent little island. Senior Researcher at Legacy Tree Genealogists, Kate Eakman, shares with you four historical and geographical tips to get you off to the right start.Kate Eakman is a Senior Researcher for Legacy Tree Genealogists, a worldwide genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in breaking through genealogy brick walls. To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit the Legacy Tree Genealogists website.
Trace Your Irish Ancestors: 4 Tips
Irish research can be difficult. Although the island is small–about the same size as the state of Indiana–its violent history and many divisions makes research complicated. In addition, many United States records simply report our ancestors were from Ireland with no indication of the county of their birth. However, knowing a little bit about the history and geography can provide the necessary clues. Here are four tips that can help you trace your Irish ancestors from the United States back to Ireland.
Tip 1: Understand the Island of Ireland Today
There are two distinct political entities on the island of Ireland: Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The dividing line was drawn by England in 1922. This is an important date to keep in mind when searching for more recent Irish ancestors.
The Republic of Ireland, or Eire, is an independent nation made up of the southern 26 counties of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is predominantly Catholic, with about 3% of the population identifying itself as Protestant. Indices and links to copies of the civil birth records for the years 1864 to 1915, marriages between 1882 and 1940, and death records between 1891 and 1965 are available for free from the IrishGenealogy website. (These records include those of the Northern Irish counties up to 1922.) Official copies can be ordered from the General Records Office in Dublin.
Northern Ireland, also known as Ulster, is a part of the United Kingdom–although it is self-governing like Canada or Australia. Although the counties of Northern Ireland are not officially used today, it is comprised of the traditional counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Londonderry (also known by the more traditional name of Derry). Although most Americans believe that Northern Ireland is a Protestant nation, the reality is that today there are almost an equal number of Catholics as there are Protestants in Northern Ireland. Civil birth, marriage, and death records can be ordered from GRONI (General Records Office Northern Ireland).
Tip 2: Turn to U.S. Census Records
From the 1880 U.S. Census through the 1920 U.S. Census, Irish ancestors who immigrated to the United States, or whose parents were natives of Ireland, simply reported they were natives of Ireland. However, since the 1930 U.S. Census was taken after the creation of the Republic of Ireland in 1922, it often noted the specific country from which ancestors originated.
In this sample (below) from the 1930 U.S. census, we can see John O’Reilly was born in “North. Ireland,” as were his mother and her parents. His father, however, was from the Irish Free State, or the Republic of Ireland. This information tells us where to search for John’s birth: in one of the six counties of Northern Ireland. His mother’s birth record will also be from Northern Ireland, and probably his parents’ marriage record also, since it is more traditional to marry in the bride’s hometown than the groom’s.
There is the potential that a much larger search will be necessary for John’s father’s birth record unless the marriage record can be found and it specifies in which of the 26 Republic of Ireland counties he was born.
If your Irish ancestor, or the child of that ancestor, is listed in the 1930 U.S. census, pay close attention to where they reported they and their parents were born. You might find a very helpful clue in that census report.
Tip 3: Look to Religion for Clues
While many people associate Roman Catholicism with Ireland, there are many Protestants living in Northern Ireland and fewer in the Republic of Ireland. Knowing your family’s historical religious preference can provide a small hint. If your family has always been Catholic it is likely they were Catholics in Ireland. However, as we have already noted, with almost all of the Republic of Ireland expressing a preference for Catholicism and about 45% of the citizens of Northern Ireland claiming allegiance to the Catholic faith, you can see a Catholic religious heritage is not particularly unique.
However, if your family history includes the Episcopal faith, or there is something that references “the Church of Ireland” in your family’s records, then your family was most likely Protestant when they lived in Ireland. You are also more likely to find your Protestant ancestors in Northern Ireland (with the understanding that there are Protestants throughout the Republic of Ireland).
If your family is or has been Presbyterian, there is a very strong likelihood your family is actually Scots-Irish with your ancestors immigrating to Ireland from Scotland, bringing their Scottish religion with them. You will find most of these ancestors in Northern Ireland.
Tip 4: Move on to Military Records
World War I (1914-1918) was particularly brutal to the Irish. More than 30,000 of the 200,000 men who enlisted were killed in this war. Songs such as “Gallipoli” and “The Foggy Dew” mourned the loss of so many young Irish men in foreign wars, especially since the 1922 Irish War of Independence followed closely on the heels of World War I.
If one of your Irish ancestors fought and died in World War I, you can find his name and more at the website Ireland’s Memorial Records. Many (but not all) of the memorials include the county in which the soldier was born, as seen below:
Another website, Ireland’s World War I Veterans 1914-1918, has created a PDF list, updated every three months, which contains over 35,000 names of Irishmen who fought in World War I. If you know or suspect your Irish ancestor may have served in World War I and survived the experience, this is an excellent place to find a clue about his origins.
Although it can be difficult to find the correct place in Ireland for your family’s origins, there are some important clues, both historical and geographical, that can help you pinpoint a place to begin your search in Ireland.
Trace Your Irish Ancestors: In Conclusion
The 1930 U.S. census can provide an important clue to trace your Irish ancestors, as can your family’s religious heritage. If an Irish ancestor served in World War I, you may be able to determine the county in which he was born. A knowledge of the differences between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well as their location and the counties within those two countries, can help you contact the proper vital records office for those all-important vital records. So, go n-éirí leat! Good luck!
The team of expert genealogists at Legacy Tree Genealogists can help bust through your brick walls. They do the research and you enjoy the discoveries!
Afghanistan and Iraq Casualty Databases Now at Fold3
There’s a saying that “past is present,” and nowhere is that truth more apparent than family history. Sometimes we get very stark reminders that the same things that affected our ancestors–war, poverty, conflict and the like–affect us today.
Fold 3 has added new databases with “names and related personal and service information for over six thousand men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.” These databases are:
- Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Casualties “Operation Enduring Freedom” (OEF) is the operational codename given by the United States government to the War in Afghanistan which began in 2001 and is currently an ongoing conflict.
- Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Casualties “Operation Iraqi Freedom” (OIF) is the operational codename given by the United States government to the conflict in Iraq from 2003-2010.
- Operation New Dawn (OND) Casualties “Operation New Dawn” (OND) is the operational codename given by the United States government for U.S. involvement in Iraq after Operation Iraqi Freedom ended on August 31, 2010.
According to the press report, “Every casualty links to a Memorial Page with a summary and personal details including full name, branch of service, pay grade and rank, unit, casualty location, date of death, age, residence, and more. In addition to searching for a name, you can also search on other details such as unit number, rank, date of death, or city of residence.”
These databases aren’t just posted here for distant descendants to come learn about their fallen relatives, but for us today to memorialize their lives. Anyone who creates a free Basic Fold3 registration can add to a Memorial Page by clicking the “Add” or “Edit” buttons within any of the sections: Pictures & Records, Personal Details, and Stories. On the final “About” page, you can connect to other pages on Fold3 and describe your relationship to the service member. You can also share these memorial pages with others by email, via a website link, or on Twitter, Facebook, and dozens of other social networking sites.
If you lost someone who is mentioned in these data-sets, here’s an opportunity to take some time to honor them online by adding to their Memorial page.
We All Have a Family History Story to Tell
Here’s an inspiring example of a quick and easy way to tell your story. Every one of us is deeply connected to history through our family stories. In fact, exploring your family history story can help you learn more about your place in history and what makes you, you.
Tell Your Family History Story with Animoto
Were you one of those kids sitting in history class bored to tears? Was the common teenage mantra “what’s this got to do with me?” running through your brain? While the teacher’s lecture may have seemed disconnected, nothing could have been further from the truth. Every one of us is deeply connected to history through our family stories. In fact, exploring your family history story can help you learn more about your place in history and what makes you, you.
(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thank you for supporting the Genealogy Gems blog!)
We all have a story to tell about our place in history and Animoto is an easy and powerful way to tell that family history story. I’ve been sharing my thoughts on creating family history stories on my Genealogy Gems Podcast and in videos on my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. One of my listeners and viewers, Doug Shirton, has enthusiastically embraced the idea of video storytelling and recently shared his video with me.
Doug says “I have been wanting to do a video for a long time…Animoto was so easy.” Take a few minutes and get inspired by watching Doug’s video Genealogy Journey; Doug Shirton by clicking here.
I love the elements that Doug wove into his video. Not only did he include individual photographs of himself and his ancestors, but he also dragged and dropped into his Animoto timeline a full page family tree chart. Doug used the “Rustic” video style (one of my favorites) which is perfectly suited for his old-timey photos.
He also used music in an innovative way to tell his family history story. Rather than settling on just one song, he used portions of multiple tracks. This technique moves the viewer through the emotional levels he was striving to convey.
Adding Music to Your Family History Story
All great movies have a soundtrack! Animoto allows you to choose from their music library or add your own. Adding music to your family history video is very simple. To add additional songs, simply click the plus sign under the timeline. Animoto’s “edit song and pacing” feature makes it easy to get everything to fit perfectly.
MUSIC SEARCH TIP: In addition to being able to upload your own songs, Animoto’s robust music library is brimming with songs that will help you hit just the right note. In addition to the filter boxes, don’t miss the handy search field at the very bottom of the list of filters. Enter a keyword to suit your mood and then scroll back up to the top of the page to pick from the results.
Choosing the Focus of Your Family History Story
Family trees are very far-reaching indeed. So many direct line and collateral lines, often spanning the globe. Doug was wise to select one family history story within his tree: his Ontario, Canada pioneer ancestors.
Focusing on a particular line of your family, or a single story makes creating your video more manageable for you and, frankly, more enjoyable to watch for your viewer. Keeping your video fairly short is also a good idea. Doug’s is just 4 minutes and I recommend going no longer than five. This is particularly important when you plan to share it on social media where attention-spans are short.
Family History Story Ideas
Here are a few ideas of stories you could explore:
- The story of your most recent immigrant ancestor
- A family history story that runs through your family tree, such as three generations of musicians
- How one of your ancestral families survived a natural disaster like the Johnston Flood or the Great San Francisco Earthquake
- The history of a first name that was used over multiple generations in your family
The idea here is to select a family history story that is short, thematic, and compelling to watch.
Need More Ideas?
Visit my How to Create Family History Videos page for more ideas and step-by-step instructions for videos with Animoto, There’s no better time than now to tell your story! We would love for you to share your family history story video on our Facebook page.
Here’s the book that will help you cultivate and record your story: Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
MyHeritage 10 “Don’t Miss” Features You Need
I’m going to share with you my 10 “DON’T MISS!” features of MyHeritage. If you don’t currently use the site, this is your chance to see what it can do for you. If you do use it, let me introduce you to some of the GEMS you should be using. Scroll down to watch the video replay and get the show notes.
Watch Episode 63
Episode 63 Show Notes
10 Awesome MyHeritage Features You May be Missing:
1. Instant Discoveries™
Want to get started fast? After you add what you know about your family, you can start taking advantage of instant discoveries. You’ll find Instant Discoveries in the menu: Discoveries > Instant Discoveries.
There are three types of Discoveries:
- All Discoveries
- Person Discoveries
- Photo Discoveries
I particularly like Photo Discoveries:
- Finds photos of people in your tree
- Consolidates into packages of up to 10 photos from different family sites.
- Photos will originate only from family sites where the privacy setting for allowing photos to be copied from Smart Matches™ is enabled.
Click the View Discovery button for a batch of photo discoveries. Click “View original photo” to see a larger version and who else is tagged in it. By default, all photos in a Photo Discovery will be
copied to your tree when you add the discovery. Exclude specific photos by clicking the checkmark to deselect it. Click Add to add all selected photos to your tree.
To reject a Photo Discovery, click Reject this Discovery at the bottom of the list of photos.
Rejected discoveries will not be offered again. After applying a discovery, your tree will change,
and new discoveries will need to be recalculated (up to 24 hours.) Unlike SmartMatches, once a person or photo discovery is added, you can’t “undo”. You’ll need to remove them manually.
PremiumPlus and Complete subscribers have access to unlimited Discoveries.
2. Tree Consistency Checker
No tree is perfect! That’s why MyHeritage provides this handy tool that accelerates your ability to find and correct problems.
You’ll find the Tree Consistency Checker in the menu under My Family Tree > Consistency Checker.
MyHeritage’s Consistency Checker flags three types of issues:
- Errors: Obviously incorrect. (red triangle icon)
- Warnings: Possible but unlikely. (orange circle icon)
- Notices: Maybe OK but worth a look. (grey square icon)
To adjust what the tool searches for, click the gear icon to change the settings. The Consistency Checker searches for 37 types of issues. Make adjustments as desired.
As you review the found issues, you can:
- dismiss individual issues
- hide issues
- dismiss checking for this issue.
3. U.S. Yearbooks
After starting with what you know, the next logical and honestly one of the most fun record to go after is yearbooks! MyHeritage has over 250,000 yearbooks. To find the yearbook collection, go to the menu Research > Collection Catalog > U.S. Yearbooks Name Index, 1890-1979. To find even more school related records head the to grey column on the left side of the page and click School & Universities.
Description from MyHeritage: “This collection contains almost 290 million records…A student or faculty member often appears in a yearbook several times. Part of the work conducted to produce this collection merges all occurrences of the same name in a yearbook into one record with references to the pages where the person is mentioned. Records in this collection will list the person’s name, often their gender, school’s name and location, and likely residence based on the location of the school. Additional work was done to identify the grade of the students to be able to infer their age and an estimated year of birth for some of the records.
The same person will often occur in previous or subsequent editions of the same yearbook and these related yearbooks are presented at the bottom of the individual’s record – to assist the researcher in finding other books where their person of interest might be found.
This collection is a name index produced by MyHeritage from the U.S. Yearbooks, 1890-1979 collection and is based on the same set of yearbooks…In case you didn’t find what you were looking for, we encourage you to check out the U.S Yearbooks 1890-1979 collection to search the entire free-text index of this amazing collection.”
Yearbook Search Tips:
- Review the entire yearbook carefully for handwritten notes.
- Look for people in their social circle.
- Take a look at the Advertisers
- Keep in mind that yearbook content had to be submitted early, often by early spring. Events occurring after that may be missing.
- Copyright: “Most yearbooks are NOT covered by U.S. copyright laws. Yearbooks published before 1963 and without a copyright notice (©) are not covered by copyright restrictions.” (MyHeritage Knowledge Base)
5. U.S. City Directories
In the menu: Collection Catalog > U.S. City Directories
561,503,516 records in 25,468 directories
Description of the collection from MyHeritage: “City directories contain an alphabetical list of adult residents and heads of household, often with their spouse, with addresses and occupations and additional information. This collection is a huge genealogical compilation from 25,468 city directories published in 1860-1960 across the United States, created exclusively by MyHeritage using advanced machine learning technologies developed specifically for this purpose.”
“City directories, like census records, contain information that helps genealogists establish residences, occupations, and relationships between individuals. The added benefit of city directories is that they were published annually in many cities and towns throughout the United States.”
MyHeritage says that this collection will be updated soon to include pre-1860 directories as well as a large and unique set of directories published after 1960.
In the video I showed you how I use Snagit to capture clippings. Learn more by watching episode 61. Get SnagIt here.
5. Family Statistics
There’s a ton of data in your family tree, and MyHeritage has the tech tools to help you see it in many forms. One of the coolest and most fun is Family Statistics. You’ll find it in the menu under Home > Family Statistics. Here you’ll find stats on:
- Living or Deceased
- Marriage Status
- Common Last Names
- Common First Names – Male
- Common First Names – Female
- Places of Birth
- Places of Death
- Places of Residence
- Age Distribution
- Average Life Expectancy
- Oldest Living People
- Youngest People
- Lived the longest
- Lived the shortest
- Birth Months
- Zodiac Signs
- When Were People Born
6. MyHeritage PedigreeMap™
PedigreeMap™ is a free feature on MyHeritage. It allows you to visualize and navigate information found in the Place field of the ancestors in your family tree from a geographic perspective. You’ll find PedigreeMap in the menu under Family Tree > More > PedigreeMap.
Use MyHeritage’s PedigreeMap to help identify errors and migration patterns over time.
At the center of the PedigreeMap screen, you’ll see a map of the world with circles indicating the locations listed in your family tree.
- Gray circles = aggregations of locations in the same country or state
- Orange circles = specific locations
To the left of the map you’ll see your ancestral places in list form, sorted by the number of references in your tree and grouped by country or state. By default, PedigreeMap™ will display places associated with your extended family, with you as the central person. In the field where you as the central person are name, type in the name of any family member to change the view to focus on them. Then use the filtering options in the bar at the top of the map to change which groups of people in your tree are displayed (ancestors, descendants, etc.)Click the funnel icon for even more filtering controls.
PedigreeMap™ Top Tips:
- Click Heat Map in the bottom right corner. This displays concentration areas for your family. It is especially useful when combined with filtering by year and type.
- Click Not Found in the list on the left to quickly find family members who need Place information added.
- Look for grey exclamation marks which indicate that the place name needs more clarification.
- Because PedigreeMap™ is based on Google Maps, it can be best to use the current country so you can accurately locate it on the map. For example, you could list the country as “Poland (formerly East Prussia).”
7. MyHeritage Relationship Report
Have you ever found a person in your family tree and lost track of how you are related to them? MyHeritage’s Relationship Report makes it quick and easy to visualize your connection to any person in your tree. In fact, it will show you the relationship between any two people in your tree.
You’ll find the Relationship Report in the menu under Family Tree > More > Relationship Report. Simply enter the names of the two people and click the Display Relationship button. Change the detail drop down menu to show the amount of detail you want.
8. Confirm or reject a Theory of Family Relativity™
The Theory of Family Relativity ™ helps provide theories about how you and your DNA matches might be related by incorporating genealogical information from MyHeritage’s records and family trees. Of course, some theories might not be accurate.
Until recently, you didn’t have the option to confirm or reject theories. Now you can review theories, marking the ones you have already processed so the new ones are easier to notice.
Status Options: Pending, confirm, or reject.
Go to the DNA Matches page and use the filters to see only those DNA Matches that have a Theory of Family Relativity™.
Theories can be confirmed or rejected in two places:
- Review DNA Match page, which includes a summarized view of the theory.
2) Full theory view.
In the list of DNA Matches, once you’ve confirmed a theory, it will be displayed in the DNA Match card. Change your mind? Click View theory and then undo your confirmation or rejection, returning the theory to pending status.
Learn more about DNA at MyHeritage. Watch episode 42 on Genetic Groups at MyHeritage.
9. MyHeritage Photo Tools
Some of the most exciting advances coming from MyHeritage recently have been in the area of family photos. Currently they offer three outstanding tools:
- Photo Enhancement
- Photo Colorization
You try them a few times for free. Complete plan subscribers get unlimited usage. You will find the photo enhancement tool in the menu under Family tree > Enhance Photos. It works much the same way as colorizing your photos.
Use the Comments section under the photo to share information and collaborate with others.
How to colorize a photo at MyHeritage: Under Family Tree in the menu select Colorize Photo. Click the Upload photo button and select a photo from your computer. You can drag and drop it onto the screen. In a few seconds your colorized photo is ready.
After colorizing your photo you can:
- Share the colorized photo to Facebook
- Share to Twitter
- Copy link to clipboard
- Download the photo
Go back to your photos and click the photo. You can compare the before and after. You can click to view the photo full size and use the zoom tool for an even closer look. Click the edit icon to edit the photo title, date, and place. Click Apply to save the changes. You can also make manual adjustments to the colorization.
Animate photos: You can upload a photo by going to the menu: Photos > Animate Photos. If you plan on enhancing or colorizing the photo do that first. Then from the photo page click the Animate button for that image. Currently you can animate one face at a time in a group photo. Closeup faces animate better than smaller faces in a bigger photo. Once the animation has processed you in the animation window, you can download the video or select different types of animations.
Photo Tools as Research Tools: Sometimes colorizing and enhancing your photos can help you spot more information in the photograph than was originally visible. You can colorize both photos and documents to improve clarity, readability, and visibility.
Learn more about photos at MyHeritage: Watch Lisa’s video Fabulous Photo Discoveries at MyHeritage
10. Commitment to Privacy
MyHeritage recently published the following announcement about their commitment to privacy:
“Earlier this year, prior to MyHeritage’s acquisition by leading private equity firm Francisco Partners, we issued a press release in which we promised to expand MyHeritage’s strong privacy framework for the benefit of our users.
These show notes feature everything we cover in this episode. Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF. Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here.