Civil Registers

General civil registration of births, deaths and marriages did not begin in Ireland until 1864. These registers are extremely useful and are generally well kept. (Registration of Protestant marriages began in 1845).

Church Records

Before the introduction of civil registration, individual churches maintained registers of births and marriages, and in some cases, deaths.

Griffith’s Valuation

Griffith’s Valuation was a survey carried out between the years 1848 and 1864 which detailed every householder and occupier of land in Ireland. It is an invaluable record as it amounts to a census of the heads of households for this period.

Tithe Applotment Records

This is a record from the 1820s and 1830s of all landholders who paid tithe (levy or tax) to the Church of Ireland. The tax was payable by all denominations. These books are a very useful source of information relating to pre-famine rural Ireland.


In 1659 Sir William Petty listed the names of those with title to land and also the number of people in each townland. He also listed the principal Irish names, their frequency and distribution. It was not until the early nineteenth century that the modern census began using the ten year cycle. The 1901 census is the earliest complete census of Ireland available. It provides the name, age, occupation and marital status of every member of each household and their relationship to the head of the household. The 1911 census is similar in content to the 1901 census, but there are some additional details which make it more worthwhile. These include the length of time that people have been married, the number of children they have and how many are still alive.

Gravestone Inscriptions

Just like birth, marriage or death records, gravestone inscriptions are an important link with our ancestors, often providing additional or incidental information and, in the case of a family inscription, indicating relationships. In those cases where no other written information is available a headstone inscription may be the only tangible link with a forbear.

Registry of Deeds

The Registry of Deeds is intact from 1703 and contains six different parts:-

  • Sales Assignments or Conveyances
  • Rent Charges
  • Leases
  • Mortgages
  • Marriage Settlements
  • Wills

This registry is a complex source to use as there are literally thousands of documents. The information held can vary greatly; for example a certain lease may show only one name, while another might provide information on three generations of a family. In order to make the best use of this source it is important to have a fairly accurate date of the sale, lease, mortgage, marriage or death of the testator (person who made the will).


Wills have always been among the most useful documents for search purposes. In addition to the names of the testator, the executor(s) and the witnesses, they often provide the names and relationships of the beneficiaries.

Irish Directories

Irish directories are an excellent genealogical source and some go back to the middle of the 18th century.

Estate Records

Many Large estates throughout the country kept records of the payments made by tenants for rent. Often these prove to be a useful research tool.

Shipping Lists

The information contained in these lists varies greatly from one shipping line to the next. The list may contain only the name of the person, the name of the ship and the departure. Some shipping lines recorded more detailed information such as where the passengers originated.

Voters’ Poll and Freeholders’ Records

These are lists of those entitled to vote. However, their use is very limited as only a small proportion of people possessed sufficient property to be allowed to vote.

Flax Growers List

This list was completed in 1796 on a parish basis. It names farmers who received, or were entitled to receive, a grant for the growing of flax. These grants were generally in the form of machinery such as looms or spinning wheels.

Militia, Yeomanry and Munster Rolls

Records were kept of the men who served, or were available to serve, in the various military forces. They were usually compiled on a county basis and as with some other records, their contents tend to vary. Generally they detail the person’s name, the type of weapon they used or the service they performed.

Newspapers can also be helpful at times in providing lists of births, deaths and marriages. Printed genealogies are available for some families and may also be worth consideration.

Administrative Divisions Of Ireland

Through the centuries there have been many types of administrative division in Ireland. Chief among these are: counties, baronies, parishes, poor-law unions, registration districts, electoral divisions and local government areas. In practice, though, successful genealogical research is really dependent on the oldest and most fundamental divisions – the county, parish and townland.


With its roots in the English system of local government, this division was begun in the twelfth century and completed by 1606. County boundaries usually reflect the lordships of major Gaelic families. In all, there are thirty -two counties in Ireland.

Civil Parish

Each county is sub-divided into civil parishes which were based on the early Christian and medieval monastic settlements. A civil parish is a number of townlands linked together. There are over two thousand five hundred civil parishes in Ireland.


Townlands are the smallest sub-division in Ireland. They were originally based on the area that could support a fixed number of cattle, thus they vary in size depending on the land quality. Altogether Ireland has some sixty- nine thousand townlands, with an average size of three hundred acres.