Irish Roots

Novermber 23rd, 2009

John Grenham


One aspect of almost all the records we use to do genealogical research is persistently ignored. Those records were created by a country that no longer exists, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. After three generations, the blind spot on both sides is perfectly understandable, but that country is the direct ancestor of both our Republic and their Kingdom, and there are important consequences that researchers cannot ignore.

On the negative side, there are no official records of migration from Ireland to Britain, any more than there are official records of migration from Scotland to England. Anyone browsing the 1911 Dublin census can see that the Irish Sea was then an internal trade route, not an international boundary.

More importantly, there are many record sources in what is now the UK that have major relevance for Irish research. Examples are legion:

  • » There are records of 22 million passengers leaving UK ports between 1890 and 1960 in the National Archives at Kew, searchable online at www.findmypast.com. Southern Irish ports covered include Cobh (Queenstown), Dublin and Galway. In many cases, the records include information on precise places of origin and parents’ names, invaluable even the person emigrating is only indirectly related.
  • » Nineteenth-century post office workers are recorded in the British Post Office Archive – the catalogue is online at www.postalheritage.org.uk.
  • » An attempt to run a micro-credit scheme in the poorest parts of Ireland in the 1830s and 1840s is documented in detail in the Reproductive Loan Fund papers in the English National Archives, now searchable at www.movinghere.org.uk.
  • » And of course, more than a third of the soldiers in the British Army were Irish, and their service and pension records, again in the National Archives, and partly online at www.ancestry.co.uk, can provide vivid and detailed family information.

Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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