Research Advice


Irish Ancestry Research will answer any specific genealogy queries raised via e-mail. However, if you are just starting out looking into your family history, or you have reached an early dead-end on your ancestry trail, then we have provided some basic guidelines below which might further your progress:


  1. Always the first key task, and definitely the most important, is to talk to each person in your immediate family about the ancestors of interest to you. In particular, the surviving members of the older generations could provide much interesting information. Don’t forget to make contact with any remote uncles or aunts. Even seemingly distant cousins may provide useful titbits pertinent to your family history which others had forgotten about. As well as compiling a list of BMD events (births, marriages and deaths), ask about addresses or residency locations for each ancestor, plus occupations if applicable; these could prove vital later. Encourage each interviewee to relate family tales regardless of their ability to verify the authenticity of the stories or otherwise. Write down a detailed summary of your findings. Categorize each fact as “known”, “probable” or “just hearsay”. Be aware that the spelling of names can have many variants over the years.
  2. Gather together copies of all available family history BMD certificates and other documents such as letters, postcards, diaries, wills, etc. Copies of photographs of elderly or deceased relatives can be a useful source of information. Maybe there is a note written on the back of an old photo, or someone can identify an unfamiliar location where a picture was taken.
  3. If possible, visit family burial plots in nearby cemeteries. Gravestone inscriptions or cemetery clerical records often yield invaluable research data. If the cemetery is near to a church, check if parish records are retained locally. Maybe there will be a register recording baptisms, weddings and burials in the area and any records including your ancestral surnames should be transcribed into your research notes.
  4. Try to sketch out a Family Tree chart using the information gleaned so far. Focus primarily on what is "known", and only add in the secondary probable or hearsay references with caution. Write up a To Do list wherein you must investigate further the latter two secondary categories before promoting the information to your main files. Identify gaps in your expanding family history knowledge. Next, consider re-interviewing your most helpful family members to discuss and better understand your initial findings. However, be considerate if you feel the need to challenge any information previously volunteered, particularly if you have unearthed probable mistruths or even potentially embarrassing new facts.
  5. If your ancestor was alive over 75 years ago, you may be able to find him or her on a nation’s census record. Prior knowledge of your ancestors’ residency location or locality is critical to the successful identification of the relevant section of these voluminous compilations. Depending on the country and the era, the information within a national census could vary from minimal to staggeringly priceless. At the very least, a census record normally records the names and ages of a house’s occupants, household relationships, plus the occupation and place/country of birth of each resident. Unfortunately, public access to some census record databases is still not freely granted, so a search request to a professional researcher with prior paid access is often the cheapest way to locate your particular few pages of interest.
  6. Using confirmed names and probable dates, you may be able to locate missing BMD certificates for your ancestors from the relevant national or regional repository. If this activity proves successful, it could open up new lines of enquiry based upon information on the new-found documents. However, a few words of warning – most BMD archive offices cannot lay claim to a completeness of records, and a common duplicated name could lead an inexperienced researcher on a time-consuming and costly wild goose chase. There are fees to be paid for BMD cert retrieval and copying.
  7. If you know or suspect that your ancestor traveled overseas or resided in another country, then you could interrogate databases which record emigrations or cross-border travel in general. You could also search for historical legal documents such as passport applications or naturalization papers. Military records can be another fruitful avenue of exploration, mainly for male ancestors, using the assumption that your forefather volunteered or was conscripted for national military service. Access to these types of more specific genealogy records can often attract a hefty search fee.
  8. Depending on the country, it is often possible to seek out archived legal records of dwelling or land ownership throughout history. Here again, a prior knowledge of ancestral addresses is vital for successful research. Court papers or local authority valuation records can be useful to track the transfer of property from one generation’s head of household to another. Also, a study of neighbouring homes may identify members of the extended family. In days of old, families tended to live in or build new homes near to the ancestral homestead. Old newspaper archives can also be studied for mentions of your ancestors or their property. We recommend that an experienced genealogy service like Irish Ancestry Research is approached to guide you through this potential minefield of paperwork examination.
  9. If gaps still remain for key events in the lives of your ancestors after trawling through civil record archives, then there may be no alternative but to search out local church or parish records. Some churches only started to archive formal registers a few generations back, but others can boast comprehensive records covering several centuries. Obviously, a proven knowledge of your ancestor’s religious following and parish of residence will narrow down the search. Some church registers have been transcribed by previous researchers, and some have been digitally photographed or copied on to microfilm, making them available to view if you know exactly where to look. However, lots of parish records can still only be studied in full by a manual examination of the original register …. and you need an obliging co-operative archivist to permit this kind of patient genealogy research work.
  10. Even after exhausting all the research possibilities above, there are still ways to improve your family history knowledge. Each country or region has its own peculiarities with regards to other forms of genealogical record-keeping. These materials are often referred to as census substitutes. Irish Ancestry Research is able to advise on or research into these unique documents, upon request. By using modern computer software programs, we are also able to check and correct Family Tree data and produce easy to follow Reports & Charts summarising all your family history information.


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