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Irish Genealogy: Working With Vital Records. Class Handouts. Administrative Divisions of Ireland. Grenham’s Surname Distributions Across Ireland. Search for a surname by county and civil parish (1851 or 1890) Search against frequency of 2 surnames in a location.

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Irish genealogy working with vital records

Irish Genealogy: Working With Vital Records

Class Handouts

Vermont Genealogy Library

Administrative divisions of ireland
Administrative Divisions of Ireland

Vermont Genealogy Library

Grenham’s Surname Distributions Across Ireland

  • Search for a surname by county and civil parish (1851 or 1890)

  • Search against frequency of 2 surnames in a location

NOTE: This CD is available at our library in the computer room

Vermont Genealogy Library

Reference Books at VT-FCGS Library:

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham, 3d Edition, 2007

Richard Griffith & His Valuation of Ireland by James Reilly, 2000

Irish Famine Immigrants in the State of Vermont by Ron & Janet Murphy, 2000

A Guide to Irish Parish Registers by Brian Mitchell, 1988

A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland by Brian Mitchell, 2d Edition, 2002

A General Alphabetic Index to Townlands in 1851, Genealogical Publishing Co.

A Guide to Irish Family History by Larry O’Keefe

Tombstones of Ireland by Joanne Schmidt

The Great Hunger by Cecil Woodham-Smith

In Search of Your British & Irish Roots by Angus Baxter

A Guide to Your Irish Ancestors by J. Anderson Black

Databases on CD:

Grenham’s Irish Surnames

An Index to Griffith’s Valuation

Vermont Genealogy Library

Abbreviations Used In Many Reference Books

  • ROI & NI – Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland

  • NLI – National Library of Ireland (Dublin)

  • NAI – National Archives of Ireland (Dublin)

  • GRO – General Records Office (Dublin)

  • GRONI – General Records Office, NI

  • PRONI – Public Records Office (Belfast, NI)

  • RC – Roman Catholic

  • P, COI, M, Q, B – Presbyterian, Church of Ireland, Methodist, Quaker, Baptist

  • PLU – Poor Law Union

  • FHL, FHC – Family History Library (Utah) & Family History Center (Local)

  • IFHF – Irish Family History Foundation (website is

Vermont Genealogy Library

Civil Registration

1845 for Protestant marriages

1864 for Protestant births & deaths

1864 for Catholic births, marriages & deaths

Parish Registers

Church of Ireland (COI) - some parish records begin in 1600’s

- most 1750 - 1820

Presbyterian (P) – most after 1800

Methodist (M) - 1747 – 1816 kept with COI

- 1816 – 1878 kept in Methodist churches

Quaker (Q) – begin in 17th Century & continue uninterrupted

Roman Catholic (RC) - some in late 18th Century

- most by 1850

Vermont Genealogy Library

Locating Civil Registrations in Ireland

1864 to 1921 (All of Ireland):

All records at General Record Office (GRO) in Dublin

Index of all Ireland (each 5 yr period = €2.00/$2.62)

Microfilm of original registers (copies €2.00/$2.62)

1921 to Present (Republic of Ireland):

Same as above

1921 to Present (Northern Ireland):

Manual search of B/M/D at the GRONI (£5.50/$8.69)

Computerized search of index up to 6 hrs(£10/$15.80)

Certified copies are (£11/$17.40)

Vermont Genealogy Library

Online Access To Civil Registration Data


    • Index of names with Registration District and FHL Film Number

    • Order for local delivery to FHC in Essex ($7.50, 2-3 weeks)


    • Index of names with Registration District and FHL Film Number

    • Order for local delivery to FHC in Essex ($7.50, 2-3 weeks)

  • Irish Family History Foundation (

    • Excellent Index to the records

    • Immediate transcript of original document

    • Cost of about $8.50 (compared to $7.50 & 2 week wait for film)

Vermont Genealogy Library

Irish Family History Foundation

Vermont Genealogy Library

  • Some Tips on Civil Registration Research

    • When using the GRO indexes (located in Dublin)

      • order is alphabetical by surname

      • keep spelling variations in mind!!

    • When searching for births

      • if looking for a Catholic and you know the location

      • start with parish register first

      • use that data to find the civil record

    • Searching for marriages

      • if both surnames known & you avoid spelling traps

      • look in Registration District for both surnames

      • start w/ 1st child and work back

      • the surnames should be only ones w/ same vol. & page numbers

Vermont Genealogy Library

  • Some Tips on Civil Registration Research

    • “Late Registrations”

      • not unusual for people to avoid registering events

      • later in life they need proof of registration

      • they come forward after 10 – 20 years (or later)

    • How Late Registrations Were Recorded

      • generally recorded in the original volume they would have used

      • births & deaths were recorded in the back of that book

      • marriages were written in the body of the book on that date

Vermont Genealogy Library

Some Precautions When Working With Parish Registers

  • The complexities of historical, political & ecclesiastical land divisions

  • Civil parishes (COI) very often are not identical with Catholic parishes

  • New divisions were often not consistent with pre-existing boundaries

  • Unlike civil registers these parish records are kept in many different places

  • NET: Know the religion, the time period & the geography before starting

Vermont Genealogy Library

Where to Travel for Protestant Records

  • Church of Ireland

    • A Table of Church Of Ireland Parochial Records (NAI, NLI)

    • Only definitive list of which parish records still exist

    • 830 parish registers at the Representative Church Body Library

    • Microfilm of records from 9 counties of Ulster at PRONI, Belfast

  • Presbyterian (scattered in 3 locations)

    • Registers exist at local parish, PRONI & Presbyterian Historical Society

    • Microfilm copies of most local records kept at PRONI

    • PRONI has list of records at PHS

  • Methodist (it’s complicated)

    • PRONI - list for 9 counties of Ulster - surviving registers, dates & locations

  • Quaker

    • Libraries of The Society Of Friends (Dublin & Lisburn, N.I.)

    • FHL as microfilm of ROI copies; PRONI has microfilm of Ulster

Vermont Genealogy Library

Where to Travel for Roman Catholic Records

  • National Library of Ireland (NLI)

    • Microfilmed 1,066 of 1,153 parishes

    • Diocese of Cashel and Emly do not permit use of the records

    • Diocese of Cloyne and Kerry require permission (usually granted)

  • Family History Library (FHL)

    • Microfilmed 398 of 1,153 parishes

Vermont Genealogy Library

Online Sources of Parish Registers

  • ($)

    • Index to FHL records – links to FHL film numbers for ordering (398/1153)

  • (Free)

    • Index of 398 parishes on microfilm with link to order

    • Ancestry’s index is easier to use

  • ($)

    • Indexed transcriptions of RC & COI records as well as some B, M, P & Q

    • By far, the largest collection (same $8.50 for immediate results)

  • ($)

    • Many RC, COI & P registers from Counties Antrim & Down (NI)

  • (Free)

    • Indexed transcriptions for counties Carlow & Kerry + Dublin City & part of Cork

Vermont Genealogy Library

Other Online Vital Records Collections

  • O’Kief, Coshe Mang (16 vols)

    • has 12 RC parishes from Kerry & NW Cork


    • records of five Longford RC parishes


    • volunteers have added gravestone inscpriptions (no data on completeness)


    • Fermanagh Gold has a good collection of inscriptions


    • has a good selection, mostly from Tipperary

(Source: Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, 3d ed., 2007, by John Grenham (pp. 145-6), Genealogy Pub. Co., Baltimore)

Vermont Genealogy Library

Gravestone Inscriptions

  • Less effort made to capture inscriptions & photos than in USA

  • Some good collections exist – varies by county

  • Many buried without headstones

  • Headstone data often extensive

    • name

    • age

    • date of death

    • other deaths in family

    • townland

  • Often earliest records (pre-1800)

  • In North – &

  • In ROI – check ($)

Vermont Genealogy Library

Some Final Thoughts

  • Effective use of Vital Records requires knowledge of land divisions, religion & history

  • Surnames in Ireland are tied to the land – find the distribution in your target county

    - use Grenham’s Irish Surnames CD (available at the library)

  • Don’t forget to check for databases by local/regional entities

  • Searching for ancestors in VRs is best done w/ help from census data

    - Ireland’s 19th Century census records were destroyed

  • Tithe Applotment Books and Griffith’s Valuations are the best census substitutes

    - both are covered in Lecture 3 (on December 15th)

Vermont Genealogy Library