Irish ancestors (1800s)

This guide was last updated in 2014

Leading genealogist Nicola Morris tells you how to track down your 19th-century Irish ancestors online using essential records

When Julie Walters came to Ireland to find her ancestors, she discovered that land is at the heart of Irish family history. Ireland was a largely agrarian society. Most families were tenants at will, farming their land over generations without the security of a lease or fixed rent. The relationship between tenant farmers and the land that they worked, but did not own, informs much of the history of 19th century Ireland from the Tithe Wars to the Land Wars.  

A substitute for the destroyed 19th century census returns, the records associated with the administration of land in Ireland act as valuable sources for Irish genealogy. Land records document the passing of land from husbands to widows or fathers to sons. They demonstrate the economic standing of a family, whether they farmed the rich land of Munster or subsisted on the bog and mountain land of Connacht.

As well as being a vital source for genealogical research, these records can open the door to stories of eviction, emigration, famine and even political mobilisation. Here are a few of the essential land records that should progress the story of your family in Ireland.

Image credit: Alamy

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