Wellington City Libraries

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This page aims to be a guide to beginning research on Irish genealogy, at the library and online.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

(Last updated 22nd November 2014)

Books & Magazines

How-to introduction books

Syndetics book coverBog Irish Micks : the O'Brien family from Scariff : a family history, by Kath Woodley.
"Over 12 years of research has gone into this book which traces the Scariff O'Brien roots from Brian Boru to the present day. 500 photographs and maps, 250 pages of facts, memories, stories and letter transcriptions. There are 78 colour pages. Counties Clare and Roscommon ancestors are uncovered. A CD Rom is included with complete family tree, Gedcom,250 extra newspaper cuttings, films, recordings of singing and orchestral works, extensive bibliography, 45 birth/death/marriage certificates and some mystery photos. Early Wellington, Patea, Waverley and Morrinsville, New Zealand included." (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverScottishness and Irishness in New Zealand since 1840, by Angela McCarthy. (2011)
When, how, and why did the Irish In NZ identify themselves and others in ethnic terms? What characteristics did the Irish and the Scots attribute to themselves and what traits did others assign to them? Did these traits change over time? This book is highly readable social history both for those who have roots in the Irish Diaspora and anyone interested in immigrant identity and nostalgia.

Syndetics book jacket Tracing your Irish ancestors : an essential guide to researching and documenting the family histories of Ireland's people, by Ian Maxwell. (2009). 2nd edition.
The purpose is to highlight the most important documentary evidence available to the family historian wishing to research their Irish ancestry. It is aimed primarily at researchers whose time in Irish repositories is limited, and who want to know what is available locally and online.... Irish ancestral research is influenced by the destruction of so many of the major record collections. To make good this loss, duplicates, copies and abstracts of the lost records have been assembled over the years by archivists across Ireland so that today, in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) alone, researchers have access to more than 53 shelf kilometres of records! ...The library also has the first edition.

Syndetics book jacket Tracing your family tree in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales : the complete practical handbook for all detectives of family history, by Kathy Chater. (2006).
With over 500 photographs and charts this well illustrated book is for the beginner and experienced searcher. Ireland is placed within the wider context, but it remains a worthwhile consultation for all that. The approach is practical, covering details of techniques and methods you might choose with a myriad of lists, checklists, and hints. It also covers tips on recording your data, and using the most methodical research techniques.

book jacket from Syndetics Irish migrants in New Zealand, 1840-1937 : 'the desired haven', by Angela McCarthy. (2005).
"A study of individual experiences of migration through personal correspondence of emigrants from Ireland to New Zealand". (publisher) This is more of an academic approach than the average granny hunter may expect but the appendix and bibliography are definitely worth a look through for new sources.

book jacket from Syndetics A genealogist's guide to discovering your Irish ancestors : how to find and record your unique heritage, by Dwight A. Radford and Kyle J. Betit. (2001).
Aimed at the beginning level to introduce the reader to coverage of Irish sources such as civil registrations, emigration lists, tax, estate and land records, military records, and cemetery, census, and church data includes the historical significance of the record types and what sort of information can be found within. It also has a useful section on locating Irish immigrants in other countries, including New Zealand which is helpful (many beginners assume you need to drive straight to Ireland but some non-Irish sources can provide valuable data.) (drawn from Amazon)

book jacket from Syndetics Irish records : sources for family and local history, by James G. Ryan. (1999).
The strength of this reference books is in the history on each county and parish, explaining in detail all the records available for research in those areas. Examples and pictures are provided of certain documents, and information is discussed on the meaning of each.

Trace your family tree, [writers, Jacinta Thomler & Craig Thomler ; editor, Ed Dawson]. (2006)
Although a general book, this includes sections on primary UK & Ireland sources and documents.

Tracing your Irish ancestors : the complete guide, by John Grenham. (1999)
Although a little dated, this falls into the "comprehensive" guide catagory and is therefore well worth a detailed perusal. (Reference)

The statistical atlas of England, Scotland and Ireland, , [edited] by G. Phillips Bevan. (1882)
A fascinating thematic atlas reflecting surveys on agriculture, crime, education, law, marine, military and naval, Poor Law and pauperism, politics, population, religion, etc.
To consult this book ask at the Second Floor Desk, Central Library. It cannot be borrowed.


Irish Roots

Other family history magazines held by the library will also contain occasional articles relating to Irish genealogy. Ask for help finding these articles at the reference desk on the 2nd floor of the Central Library.

Essential Irish Websites for Genealogy

Remember! A huge amount of the information online is American-authored. Bear this in mind when subscribing to some sites which advertise the ability to search zillions of international names (content will be skewed towards the needs of overseas users).

  • FamilySearch, includes both Ireland and Northern Island.
  • Ireland on GENUKI
    As well as national family history resources, provides county level access.
  • Irish origins
    Features the definitive version of Griffith's Primary Valuation of Ireland records and maps, the most important Irish genealogy research source prior to the 20th century, as well as the one-of-a-kind Irish Wills Index (1484-1858), the 1851 Dublin City Census, Irish Royal Garrison Artillery Records....
  • National Archives of Ireland
  • Cyndi's List for Ireland and northern Ireland
    Major internet directory. The best overall genealogical website directory.
  • Genealogy links.net
    As the name suggests this posts links, links and more links. From Antrim to Wicklow, and passing through Donegal and Limerick, approach it geographically, or via the wealth of topical links.

Ancestry Library Edition

This major database is now available for free on the library computers. To see what Irish records there are on Ancestry Library Edition, select all databases and then filter by location (Ireland). (You can filter again by county if you wish.) Some items to note are :

  • Griffith's Valuation, 1848-1864. (1.3 million Irish records)
  • Irish Records Extraction Database
  • Tithe Applotment Books, 1823-1837
as well as specialist lists such as Irish flaxgrowers 1796, 1766 Religious Census.

The database is particularly strong in US records, so if your family contains any Irish branches who emigrated there, searching will become addictive.

Births, Marriages, Deaths etc.

These records were kept in the Parish Registers. [Note that the official parishes and registers are Church of Ireland, although the majority of the population was Roman Catholic.] Although centralised to the Public Records Office from 1876, some parishes with good storage facilities were allowed to retain their records, and others were copied before being sent. Alas, the Office was burned in 1922 which destroyed around half the unique parish registers which had been sent there. Therefore what records remain can be 'hit and miss'. Civil registration began in 1864. The index can be found as part of the International Genealogical Index.

When beginning, the simplest access for this is:

  1. Via the free Church of the Latter Day Saints Family History Search Service. You can either just rely on the index, or go one step further to the actual register (which does contain more information).
  2. Via Irish Times Irish Ancestors search service. There is a cost to go beyond the index, but as long as you're careful with your search (not too general so that there are a lot of extraneous entries) this can prove to save a lot of time and be worth the investment.
  3. The Representative Church Body Library is the Church of Ireland's principal repository for its archives and manuscripts, and holds records from some 830 parishes in the Republic of Ireland. They are not yet available online. More information on the Church Body library....
    1. Individual clergy in parishes can still be contacted for some records.
    2. Records following 1864 if extant, will be at Office of the Registrar General, Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.
    3. Microfilms of Old Parish Registers ordered via the Family History Search Service (Church of Latter Day Saints, Hataitai). There is a small viewing cost to order the microfilm, but this is a viable way of tackling from a distance. To order you need to quote the film number .
    4. More information, including family records for other denominations (including Roman Catholic)...

More common death sources are the cemetery transcription records, and wills, both of which are included in the Irish Times Irish Ancestors search service index.

Census Information

The 1911 Census is now available online at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/. All thirty-two counties for 1911 are now available on this site. Corrections and improvements will be ongoing.

The Irish census for 1901 is also now available online for free. Earlier censuses were done but the records were destroyed in 1922.

Helpful census information is available from Fianna

Hot tip

Because virtually no census information survives from the 19th century, one of the best substitutes is The Griffith's Valuation. Otherwise known as the Primary Valuation of Ireland, this was to determine the amount of tax each person should pay (based on the value of all privately held lands and buildings in rural as well as urban areas). It is, effectively, the only detailed guide to where in Ireland people lived in the mid-nineteenth century and what property they possessed or on which property they lived.


The UK National Archives holds military papers for Irish soldiers. The best guide to navigate these records is a Fianna's Finding and Using Irish Military Records.


The surnames of Ireland, compiled by Edward MacLysaght(1969).
Essential reference source to track down name variations.

The library has several books on Irish first name and surnames - Irish name search.

Places and Maps

Ireland Ordnance series maps compiled by the National Archive of Ireland.
Extensive range of fact sheets, to the various series.

Ireland's history in Maps
Excellent resource enabling searching by county/region etc but also linking with surnames.

Irish Land Records Fact Sheet, by Kyle Betit.

Shipping to New Zealand

Ships and passengers to New Zealand.
Excellent site with many further helpful links.

White Wings, by Henry Brett. (1924). 2 vols.
If you're looking for more details about the ship and voyages, then this is a great starting place. Most ships have a photograph, and approximately one page of information.

More information can be found on our The colonial clippers.

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