Irish Roots

John Grenham


One side effect of the destruction of so many Irish records in 1922 is the obligation to think laterally, and sometimes counter-intuitively. When we think of the Irish Diaspora, for instance, we often assume they are marginal to our own direct ancestry here in Ireland. But the fact is that the emigrants were the brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles of our ancestors, the ones who stayed behind, and the records kept of them in the countries they went to are often better than anything that survives in Ireland.

One example: Scottish civil death records start in 1855, 10 years before their Irish equivalents, and unlike the Irish records, which give absolutely no family information at all, the Scots took full details of the parents of the deceased, including ages, birthplaces, marriage details and the number of children in the family. The record is very close to being a full census entry, in other words. Given the to-ing and fro-ing that went on between Scotland and the northern counties of Ireland over the course of the nineteenth century, it is a racing certainty that most people now living in Ulster have someone in their family recorded in a Scottish death record.

When you consider that there only 4 out of 41 Catholic parishes in Donegal have baptismal registers that start before 1845, the significance of the Scottish records becomes clear: you probably won't find your Donegal great-great-grandfather's parents' names recorded in any Irish record. But if he had a brother or sister who migrated to Scotland, you'll find those names, and more, in a Scottish death record.

The Scottish General Register Office has made all of its records available on-line at the wonderful www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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