8 Days of Irish Research: Start With American Records

Welcome to 8 Days of Irish Research, where I hope to spend the next 8 days sharing with you information and tips on how to (hopefully) find your link to Ireland and your ancestors.

8 Days of Irish Research

Starting your Irish research can seem daunting, and I will be frank, the research can be hard. For some people it can take a decade to find the link to Ireland that they are looking for. For others, it is a lifelong journey that they hope one day will have an answer. This first post in my 8 Days of Irish Research will focus on where you should start, and that is with the American Records (or the records for the country you live in).

Naturalization Records:

Start with American RecordsThe link to Ireland can be found in various records in the country of Immigration, and nothing should be skipped while researching your Irish ancestors. If your ancestor became a naturalized citizen (of the United States) in 1906 (or after), I definitely recommend getting a copy of his naturalization papers: the declaration of intention, petition (can also be called second or final papers) and the certificate.1


Another place that has proven to be successful for some is gravestones. That’s right, if you know your immigrant ancestor it is time to visit their final resting place. It could very well give you the townland and the county of origin, or it just might have the county. Either way, it could be a good clue to start with.

Town Histories:

Town histories can also be very useful when trying to find the place of birth for your ancestor. Do a bit of research on the towns they lived in. See what clues you might find from that research.

Church Records:

If your immigrant ancestor was not married at the time of arrival and they married in the US, find the church they attended and look for their marriage in the church register. At one point, the catholics were writing to the old country to make sure the bride and / or groom was baptized in the catholic church. If they got a reply from the Irish Church, a notation can be found in the marriage registers.

Census Records:

Though the census records will not give you an exact townland, it can give you clues. If you see Irish Free State, your family is from the Republic of Ireland. That takes 6 counties out of your list. Better yet, if it states No. Ireland, you now only have 6 counties to research in.

Also, the 1920 US Federal Census asks when you were naturalized. This would be a great place to start your search, when looking for naturalization records.2

These are just some of the places to search, I have created a checklist of records that should be consulted for the purpose of finding the ancestral town of origin. Feel free to download the checklist and use it in your personal research. I recommend laminating it and using a dry erase marker as you go through the checklist. Feel free to make notations on the list as you go along. Once you finished going through the list, you can scan a copy to save with your notes on the research if you wish. Finally, erase and start over on your next immigrant ancestor.

The checklist is ©Terri O’Connell 2016, so please do not copy and share with others. You can share the link to this blog post (http://wp.me/p4MYYT-2xo) with your friends so they can download it as well.


  1. United States Naturalization and Citizenship Wiki, FamilySearchWiki. [Accessed 1 Nov 2016] 

  2. Clues in Census Records, 1850 – 1930. National Archives, [accessed 1 Nov 2016] 



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