Professional genealogist explains how to tap the resources of libraries in Ireland for Irish Genealogy.
Since the days of the Egyptians and the library at Alexandria, there have been repositories for books and other written materials. This RecordClick genealogist loves them, and for the thrifty researcher, many of resources are free whether they are in the United States, Eastern Europe, England, or Ireland.
Some of the massively huge libraries, such as the Library of Congress or the main branch of the New York Public Library, can boggle the mind. Most libraries are modest, serving small towns and rural areas. If, however, that small town or rural area is where a special family lived, the library is a good place for a family history researcher to find out about where their ancestors lived. Even in some place, or especially in some place, like Ireland.
One of the good things about using the library system in Ireland is that it is more organized than the United States. Here, libraries and their organization can vary a great deal among large cities and small towns. This can present some interesting and challenging experiences for a genealogist.
Being smaller in size geographically, the library system in Ireland and Northern Ireland are a bit more structured. Administrators and librarians are aware of family historians seeking their Irish Genealogy heritage. The four websites of the most interest include:
- The National Library of Ireland
- Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive
- Ask About Ireland, Public Libraries
- Northern Ireland libraries
The National Library of Ireland was established by the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act in 1877. The current institution was established in 2005 under the national Cultural Institutions Act in 1997. Located on Kildare Street in the center of Dublin, the facility is home to printed material, including books, periodicals, newspapers from all over the country, and maps. Its manuscripts division holds 1 million items spanning almost a thousand years. The photo collection of more than 5 million images spans subject matter from topographical views to studio portraits and early tourist photos.
Dublin has a number of branch libraries. The Central Library is located at the Ilac Centre on Henry Street. A list of its holdings that might be of interest to genealogists can be found at Dublin Heritage. Databases include:
- Electoral Rolls, 1908
- Electoral Lists, 1939-40
- Directory of Dublin Graveyards
- Ancient Freemen of Dublin
- The library has Dublin parish records including baptisms, marriages and burials and a listing of local and family history associations.
Seeking out Irish Genealogy ancestors outside of Dublin can be a bit challenging for a genealogist. While the libraries may or may not have unique resources, they are staffed by individuals who know the area and have knowledge of the governmental and religious entities. The Ask About Ireland website lists the libraries, but it can be a bit confusing at first. To find a library, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on library buildings. A drop down menu will appear listing all of the libraries. The history and location of the building and contact information are provided. Also included are:
- Date the library opened
- Its address, phone number, email, and URL
- The type of service and type of building housing the library with pictures
- Explanation of the computer and printing services available
The Northern Ireland Libraries website is easy to navigate. All the libraries are listed from Antrim in County Antrim to Woodstock in County Down. There are pictures of many of the libraries along with a Google Map showing the location. Information includes services and facilities, hours, and an email address.
When going through the list of libraries, keep an eye out for the term “Local Studies.” There are five Education and Library Boards in Northern Ireland covering different areas. Each maintains a Local Studies Service at one of the larger libraries. The facilities have a section on local history, genealogy, and local activities. Staff is available to assist researchers. The libraries include:
- Irish & Local Studies Library, Armagh
- Local Studies Ballymena
- Local Studies Downpatrick
- Belfast Central Library
- Mellon Centre for Migration Studies
The Mellon Centre for Migration Studies may be of particular interest to genealogists. The library is located at the Ulster American Folk Park and is the home of The Irish Emigration Database (IED). The IED is a computerized collection of primary resource materials on Irish emigration to North America in the 18th and 19th centuries. It includes family papers and letters, government reports, shipping news and advertisements, passenger lists, and vital records. The IED is free to visitors of the Centre and at all branches of Libraries NI and at the Search Room of the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). Irish Genealogy.
So you might be interested in doing genealogical research in Ireland or Northern Ireland, but you can’t make it to the library? RecordClick has a network of global professional genealogists who may be able to help you in your ancestor search. We can assist you in organizing your materials and help you determine what records are available to augment information or take you back a generation.