02 April 2010


The Surnames of Ireland
Guide to Irish Parish Registers
Directory of Irish Archives
New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, Second Edition
Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, Third Edition
Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History, Revised Edition
    Irish Church Records
      There are quite a few guidebooks on Irish genealogy research available these days. I am constantly asked which ones I recommend. And, surprise, I DO have a definite opinion! I have shelves upon shelves of genealogy related books, but there is one shelf for those books I could not live--or research--without.
     For years, I searched in vain for records that do not exist (I should call this blog "Learn from My Mistakes"). Years ago, I discovered two books that turned me into a more efficient, and better informed, researcher. The first was John Grenham's Tracing Your Irish Ancestors. Not only is Grenham's text on the type of records very concise and informative, his county by county source lists and Roman Catholic register charts are invaluable.
     My equally favorite book is Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History by James G. Ryan. This is a big, heavy tome, but it is worth 100 times over its weight in research value. Ryan's book is especially helpful to those searching records of Church of Ireland and Protestant denominations, along with Roman Catholic records. The print is large, and his layout is very easy to follow and search. The layout is very "visual" and organized.  It is a wonderful county by county guide of what records of all sorts are available in Ireland, and of where those records can be found.
     When I travel to Ireland to research, I leave these two books home. First, I would not want to lose them. Second, they add to the luggage weight. Instead, I copy the pages relevant to the area I am researching. When my trip is done, I throw out the pages, thereby saving room for souvenirs. Another travel tip: I buy many books in Ireland, which I ship home rather than pack in my luggage. It is fun to get a package from yourself after arriving home, and these days the postage is cheaper than airline luggage weight surcharges. Do compare prices at bookshops, however, as one shop in Dublin would have charged 45 euro for the same set of books for which the store across the street charged me 16 euro.
     James Ryan also edited Irish Church Records. It is a nice companion to his aforementioned Irish Records, in that it includes essays by various experts on the various denominations found in Ireland. He includes information on Quakers and Huguenots that is invaluable.
     A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland by Brian Mitchell is another must-have. Maps, maps,maps--need I say more? Mitchell also authored A Guide to Irish Parish Registers,which presents its information in chart form.
     One fairly slim volume that you might consider taking to Ireland with you is Directory of Irish Archives by Seamus Helferty and Raymond Refausse. This directory contains addresses, hours, phone numbers, and more for over 200 archives, libraries, museums, schools, and religious institutions. Might be smart to check online or call the institution you wish to visit first, though, in case hours have changed.
     I am always asked about books treating the subject of surnames. I caution these researchers not to rely on these surname origin books for a definitive place of origin for their own ancestors. However, it is fun and informative to know a bit of the history of one's surname. The most intelligent of these type of books are MacLysaght's The Surnames of Ireland and Bell's The Book of Ulster Surnames. A fun resource is O'Laughlin's The Book of Irish Families Great and Small, which includes family crests. Not to sound like a broken record, but these surname books don't replace research, and should not be used as a definitive guide to your family's origins.
     So---Go dust off a bookshelf and make space for your Irish research library!