The earliest Irish newspapers were published in Dublin at the end of the seventeenth century. It was not until the mid-eighteenth century, however, that they became widespread and began to carry information of genealogical value.
The period of their prime usefulness is from about this time, c. 1750, to around the mid-ninteenth century, when other sources become more accessible and thorough. Obviously, not all areas of the country were equally well served, particularly at the start of this period. Publications tended to be concentrated in particular regions, as follows:
The most important eighteenth-century publications were
From the early nineteenth century, a great proliferation of publications began to appear; unfortunately, the custom of publishing family notices fell into disuse in the first decades of the century, and did not resume until well into the 1820s.
After Dublin, Cork was the area of the country best served by newspapers, with many publications following the lead of the Corke Journal which began in 1753. As well as publishing notices relating specifically to Cork city and county, these papers also carried much of interest for other Munster counties, notably Co. Kerry, and, like the Dublin papers, re-published notices relating to Munster which had originally appeared in other publications. An index to newspaper biographical notices exists, relating to Counties Cork and Kerry between 1756 and 1827.
There was a great deal of overlap between the earliest Clare newspapers, the Clare Journal from 1787, and the Ennis Chronicle from 1788, and those of Limerick, where the first publications were the Munster Journal (1749), and the Limerick Chronicle. As well as Clare and Limerick, both groups of papers had extensive coverage of Co. Tipperary, and in the case of the Limerick publications, this coverage also extended to Kerry and Galway. The Molony series of manuscripts in the Genealogical Office includes extensive abstracts from the Clare papers. Details of a more accessible and far-ranging set of abstracts will be found below.
This area was covered by a single publication, Finn's Leinster Journal, which began in 1768. Although the advertisements are useful, early biographical notices are sparse. The earliest have been published in The Irish Genealogist (1987-88).
The earliest newspapers here were the Waterford Chronicle, (1770), the Waterford Herald, (1791), and the Waterford Mirror (1804). Few of the earliest issues appear to have survived. For surviving issues before 1800, The Irish Genealogist has published the biographical notices (1974, and 1976-1980 incl.) Notices to 1821 are included with the abstracts for Clare-Limerick.
Belfast and Ulster:
The single most important newspaper in this area was the Belfast Newsletter, which began publication in 1737. It had a wider geographical range than any of the Dublin papers, covering virtually all of east Ulster. Outside Belfast, the most significant publications were the Londonderry Journal, from 1772, which also covered a good area of Donegal and Tyrone, and the Newry Journal and Strabane Journal, of which very few, if any, early issues survive.