Follow the paper trail:
· Work back from yourself, generation by generation linking each person through documentation where possible. Start with family papers and family stories. Write, or better yet, record older family members – oral tradition is a valuable source of information. Family papers and photographs are the foundation on which to build your research. While family stories and traditions can be a useful source of information you should try and confirm the veracity of the stories through reference to official records or other independent sources.
· Having gathered information from family sources, the next step is to locate public documents referring to your ancestor. These may include birth, marriage or death certificates which are completed by the civil authorities and which record details of these events and other related information.
· Wills, newspaper obituaries, local histories, pension and military records are all potential sources of information which can help provide information to assist in your search. This information is also of value in itself, of course, insofar as it can give background and colour to your ancestor.
· Where your ancestor emigrated from Ireland, there may be passenger arrival or naturalization records which could provide vital pieces of information to help you narrow your search as you go back through the decades.
· Census returns can often provide vital information also and for users seeking census records in Ireland, attention is drawn to the National Archives of Ireland which has computerised the 1901 & 1911 Census of Population returns and have made these available online free of charge.
What do you need to know to begin your search:
At least some of the following information would be essential in order to facilitate a successful search:
· The name of the ancestor whose details may be contained in the record sources in Ireland.
· Their approximate date of birth
· The names of your ancestor’s parents or spouse
· The county of your ancestor’s origin – there are 32 counties in Ireland, 6 of which are in Northern Ireland. Within each county there are various sub-divisions – one of the most commonly used is the parish, which can incorporate a number of townlands. If you have information on the parish or townland your ancestor came from, it would greatly assist in your search
· Their religious denomination
· Details of their trade or employment can be of assistance