Ever wondered about your Irish ancestors? Curious about where your family came from and why they emigrated? Or do you simply want to trace your Irish family tree and discover how you ended up being where you are today?
Even though our little country is small (about 6 million people!), up to 60 million people all over the world now claim Irish ancestry! So whether you’re Irish or just wish you were, read on to find out why more and more people are turning to Geneaology in Ireland to find their Irish ancestors.
Genealogy is basically the study of your family’s descent and history. With the popularity of the internet, genealogy has now become a major pastime for people the world over. It’s about satisfying curiosity but it’s also a way to preserve family cultures and traditions, to educate kids about their family tree, or maybe to compile a medical history.
As a small nation, Ireland has laid down roots all over the world, which can be attributed to a long and eventful history that reaches back as far as the 7th century, when Irish monks set out to spread Christianity to Europe. But the biggest mass exodus of immigrants from Ireland happened in the 19th century when the country was gripped by the Great Famine. The famine was brought about by a potato blight (crop failure), which destroyed this main source of food at the time.
During this dreadful period, 1 million Irish people died and 2 million emigrated to countries such as England, Scotland, Canada and Australia. But by far, the biggest exodus was to America, where many immigrants hoped for a better life – that was, if they did not die on the coffin ships while on voyage.
This massive emigration from Ireland in the 19th century helps to explain why today, according to the US Census of 2003, 12% of the American population (about 34 million people!) claim to have Irish ancestors! It’s even said that a third of American presidents have had some Irish connection, in fact, did you know that all of John F. Kennedy’s eight great grandparents were born in Ireland!
If you have the urge to find out about your ancestors, then there’s plenty you can do to piece together the jigsaw. It may take considerable time, but most people find researching their family history very interesting, enjoyable and rewarding.
If you would like to do a little bit of your own family research and trace your Irish roots, then the most important thing to remember is that you begin your research on your own immediate family tree in your home country and then work backwards i.e do not start by tracing your roots in Ireland first.
Once you have connected your family to Ireland (with the basic information) you can continue your research in a number of ways. The main sources for Irish family history are :
· General Registers Office (records of births, marriages and deaths from 1864)
· Church registers
· Griffiths Valuation (a record of property owners in Ireland from 1848- 1864 -found in major libraries and records offices)
You can also seek professional help and assistance from a number of Irish Genealogy sites who will help trace your ancestors for you.
How about taking a trip to Ireland to retrace the steps of your forefathers, see where they lived and maybe meet some of your living relatives!
Finding your Irish ancestors and the land they left behind is an emotional and personal journey of discovery and one that can be passed on to future generations for years to come. I’m sure they too, will be grateful for the Irish heritage you have discovered and handed down to them.
If you’ve any more tips, advice or suggestions on tracing your roots, why not let other readers know - leave a comment in the box below.