5 top sources for tracing 20th-century Irish ancestors

By Guest, 17 March 2016 - 5:50pm

The centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising provides family historians with even more opportunities to investigate their 20th-century Irish ancestors. Here, genealogist Nicola Morris reveals five types of records that can help you discover more about their lives…

1. BMDs and census records

Castle Place Belfast

Castle Place in Belfast, pictured during the early years of the 20th century – prior to the Partition of Ireland in 1921 (Credit: The Print Collector/Getty Images)

Researching 20th-century Irish ancestors is not always easy and the partition of the island in 1922 means that there are some separate record collections for Northern Ireland after this date.

The indexes for the civil registers of births, marriages and deaths for all Ireland from 1864 to 1958 are available online at FamilySearch, excluding Northern Ireland after 1922. Copies of the original registrations can be ordered here. Records for civil registration for Northern Ireland only are online at geni.nidirect.gov.uk.

The 1901 and 1911 census of Ireland is freely available online at census.nationalarchives.ie and covers the entire country. There is also an Irish Army census, taken in November 1922, which identifies all of the soldiers of the Free State Army, previously Pro Treaty Irish Volunteers, when the force was at its largest. 

2. Electoral rolls

Dublin City Library and Archive

The Dublin City Library and Archive website provides access to numerous electoral rolls

Dublin City Library and Archive has published electoral rolls, which date from 1908 to 1915 and 1937 to 1964, online at databases.dublincity.ie/index.php. These are an excellent source for establishing a family address in Dublin City during this period.

Electoral rolls and digitised street directories can also sometimes be found on the websites of county archives, such as the Cork City and County Archive or the Limerick City Archive.

Some 20th-century street and trade directories have been published online at TheGenealogist. You can use electoral rolls and street directories to trace the occupancy of an address in an urban area.

3. Valuation Office Revision Books

Valuation Office Revision Books

Valuation Office Revision Books for present-day Northern Ireland can be searched online

For rural areas, the Valuation Office Revision Books are available for research in person at the Valuation Office in Dublin, but copies of the books for a specific townland can be ordered online here

Revision Books for Northern Ireland from the 1850s to the 1930s are freely available online via the PRONI website.

4. Irish newspapers

Trams River Liffey Dublin

Trams making their way along the banks of the River Liffey in Dublin (Credit: Sean Sexton/Getty Images)

The collection of 20th century Irish newspapers is poor at findmypast.ie, but there is a far more extensive collection published at irishnewsarchive.com. As the 20th century progressed, more and more of the general population appear in the press and published birth, marriage and death notices.

Newspaper death notices are useful because they often identify surviving family members as well as the married name of female relatives.

5. Roman Catholic parish registers

Easter Rising Dublin

Damage caused in Dublin following the Easter Rising, which took place a century ago this year (Credit: The Print Collector/Getty Images)

Roman Catholic parish registers are largely inaccessible for the last 100 years and parishes are inundated with requests for information that they don’t have the resources to respond to.

However, the records of the county heritage centres, which are published online at rootsireland.ie, are starting to include parish baptismal, marriage and burial records for the early 20th century.

The extent of the records varies from county to county, so check the source lists before you sign up for a subscription.

An extended version of this article will appear in the May 2016 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, published Tuesday 12 April


Alan Crosby's blog: The value of parish magazines
previous blog Article
Alan Crosby's blog: All the fun of the hiring fair
next blog Article
Alan Crosby's blog: The value of parish magazines
previous blog Article
Alan Crosby's blog: All the fun of the hiring fair
next blog Article
We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here