I’ve just read a couple of articles on the lack of Irish records and discovered a long list of reasons, all disturbing and sad.
In the 1600s Ireland was conquered by the Tudors followed by Oliver Cromwell causing chaos in the Irish record system.
There were fires in the 18th century, starting in 1711 with a blaze in the Custom Office and another in 1758 when the Bermingham Tower of Dublin Castle burned and resulted in a loss of legal and financial records dating from the 13th century to the 17th century.
The motivation to keep records by religious groups was lacking or supressed during the first part of the 18th century when the ruling classes took over 75% of Irish land and the Protestant rise to power created Penal Laws that limited civil rights of citizens.
In addition to Catholics, others including Baptists, Quakers and Presbyterians all suffered during this era and, as a result, very little can be found in the way of records for anyone searching for an ancestor prior to the 1800s.
It was during the civil war in 1922 when a binge of violence brought about the most famous records disaster with a fire that destroyed the first five censuses of Ireland. A great loss for the Irish people.
Would you believe, the Public Records Office actually destroyed the 1813 census because it was considered too inaccurate to keep, so stupidity can be added to the tragic mix of causes. Only a few fragments of the 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851 remain.
In spite of all this misfortune, there’s the fact that the Irish genealogy of ancient times is the very best of any people.
To return to the present and shine the light on Northern Ireland–for anyone looking for existing records a lot of information can be found on the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) website. The office is currently closed to visitors, because the office is moving location to a state of the art building in March of this year called the Titanic Quarter in March of this year.
There are six online records available:
- Ulster Covenant
- Freeholders Records
- Street Directories
- Will Calendars
- Name Search
- PRONI on Flickr
“PRONI is the first Northern Ireland heritage institution to make such collections available on Flickr. Over fifty years of wedding and family portraits, taken between 1900 and 1952 by the Allison Photographic Studios in Armagh, have been brought back to life and made available online, using the photo-sharing website.”
Click on the link to visit the PRONI web site.
Another very comprehensive website Irish Genealogy Toolkit offers a lot of information for people researching ancestors in Northern Ireland. The link Irish Genealogy Toolkit points you to best sites for genealogical research in Northern Ireland, but the site also provides information for research in the Irish Republic. You’ll find free information and information you have to pay for.