Records Available

Census records

The British administration in Ireland carried out censuses of the United Kingdom and Ireland every 10 years from 1821 until 1911. In 1922 the records for 1821 to 1851 were largely destroyed by fire at the Public Record Office (PRO) in Dublin. Later, all census records from 1861-1891 were destroyed, by government order. The surviving returns from 1901 and 1911 provide a valuable snapshot of social, economic and cultural life in pre-independence Ireland.

Both the 1901 and the 1911 Irish censuses for all of Ireland are available online. These records are an important resource to Irish Genealogists, particularly because nearly all earlier census records from 1821 did not survive, unlike these records in the UK and the USA. This makes researching your relatives in Ireland a great deal more difficult.

These records, however, can be searched in a number of ways, most commonly by name and location, it is important to be aware of variations on spelling of names and possible alternative spellings. In my research I have found many alternative ways of the spelling of surnames. An example is the McAllister Family from Co Armagh, variants on their name include: McCalister in 1901 & 1911 census returns, McAlister in a civil registration of birth, McAllister in church records and M’Alister in a civil registration of a marriage. (The names invariably entered by others on the various records all traced back to one family)

When searching the census by location, you need to understand to the administrative divisions that were used in Ireland.  Locations were based on townland or street name, District Electoral Division (DED) and county. It is important to have a good idea of the town land or the street name where your family lived, to be able to narrow down a search for them, for instance in their county of origin. If you know for example your McCarthy ancestors came from Co. Cork, but you do not know exactly where, as this is one of the most common surnames in Cork there is very little chance of being able to locate them without the information detailed above. If your family surname was for example Adam also from Co Cork, there is a good chance of locating them, as only 14 people of this name were recorded in the 1911 census for Cork: three families in total. If you have all the relevant details this site is free to use see link below:

There are various census substitutes available to genealogists in Ireland such as land valuations and surveys. One useful online resource is “Ask about Ireland” site, detailing Griffith’s Valuation Survey:

This was the Valuation of all the property and land in the country for tax purposes over a period between 1847 and 1864. The Valuation office produced the results. It lists every landholder and householder in Ireland.

Again, it is important to be able to narrow down the townland and DED when using this site.

Land Records/Property Records available:

Revision Valuation Books

These Revision Books enable you to track all changes of occupancy for a particular piece of land.

Tithe Applotment Books

These record a tax paid towards the upkeep of the Church of Ireland. Tithes were abolished in 1838. The Tithe applotment book gives the name of the town land, landholders name, area of land and tithes payable.

Trade Directories and Occupations Records

Trade Directories only cover a specific class of people – traders, merchants, professionals, gentry. These Directories give a fairly accurate indication of occupations and addresses.

Occupation Records

List members of the Army, Clergy, Barristers and Attorneys, Medical Doctors, Police, Post Office records, Railway Records, Teachers etc.

Immigration/Travel Records

The vast majority of records relate to North America and Australia.

Wills and Testamentary records

Before 1858 the authority to prove Wills was vested in the Church of Ireland. Each diocese had a court with a Testamentary jurisdiction which would deal with the estates of those who died. Above these Courts was the Prerogative Court of Armagh which had jurisdiction over larger estates or property in more than one diocese. Again these original records were largely destroyed when the Public Office of Ireland went on fire in 1922. Only manuscripts indexes to the wills and administrations survived.

From 1858 Probate jurisdiction was transferred from the Church to civil authorities (12 District Registries) divided across the thirty two counties. The new Principal Registry in Dublin’s Four Courts took over from the Prerogative Court of Armagh.

Again much of the original records were destroyed in 1922. The annual calendars (published in 1858, they note brief details about each Will proved and administered) have survived. Almost all Will Books (containing official transcript of wills) survived from 1858 other than Dublin and the Principal Registry.

Registry of Deeds

Was established in 1708 to regulate property transactions. They relate mainly to the professional and mercantile classes, large land holding farmers, as well as the aristocracy and gentry. These are held by the Property Registration Authority of Ireland prior to 1970 mainly held in manual or microfilm format and can only be accessed in their office.

Civil Records

Civil registration in Ireland for non Roman Catholic (RC) marriages commenced in 1845. In 1864 civil registration for all births, marriages and deaths started.  Non Roman Catholic refers to other religious groups such as the Church of Ireland (Anglicans), Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Quakers, Huguenots, Lutherans and a variety of other religious beliefs in Ireland.

Again as with the census records when civil registration started it was decided to collect this information based on existing administrative divisions. As a result all births, marriages and deaths were registered in their administrative divisions known as a ‘Poor Law Union’ (PLU) or ‘Superintendent Registrar’s District’ (SRD). Records for all of Ireland were held in Dublin until 1922 following the division of Ireland registrations for 6 counties in the north of Ireland were transferred to PRONI – the Public Register Office of Northern Ireland – which is in Belfast, and for the rest of the 26 counties to the GRO Ireland – the General Register Office of Ireland in Dublin.

There are over 160 PLU’s in Ireland; many based natural catchment areas – normally a large market town and its rural hinterland. For example New Ross registration district in Co Wexford would take in large parts of Counties Kilkenny and Carlow.

There was a legal obligation for all births, marriages and deaths to be recorded, and for these to be registered with full details supplied within three months for births (but less so for marriages and deaths). The responsibility for registration of births was with the parents of the child and deaths with the officiating clergyman, while registration of marriages was generally the responsibility of the clergyman.

There was a fine for the non-registration of any of the above events; as a result to avoid payment some of the birth, marriage or death days were moved to suit date of registration. Although in some cases there may be a considerable gap, in one case this researcher found a marriage registered in 1930 which actually took place in 1922 with children born to the couple between 1922-1930.  Even with the threat of a fine as there was a cost to register the event a certain percentage of the population did not register a birth or marriage simply because they could not afford to do so.

Church records

Most Roman Catholic Parish registers include baptism and marriage records, but very few have complete burial records. The National library have published the earlier Catholic church records these are available online at  The majority of registers commenced during the first half of the 19th Century. However Urban areas can commence earlier from late 18th century and the poorer areas of the West and North have later starting dates. Research can be undertaken for other religious denominations.