Researcher gives tips on looking up Irish ancestors

August 24, 2003|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

FRANKFORT - Researchers should know where to look in Ireland before they begin their journey into the past to find lost ancestors.

David E. Rencher, accredited genealogist and Ireland Fellow with the Utah Genealogical Association, had some useful information on Irish research Aug. 2 at the Kentucky Genealogical Society seminar at Kentucky History Center. His talks centered around Irish immigration and research of records in Irish Presbyterian and Catholic churches, and government agencies.

Some records were destroyed, but there are many government records in towns and cities in Ireland. He also said all counties have cities by the same name, and commented on the importance of the jurisdictions and where to locate records. Family records can be found in different places in most of the jurisdictions, he said.

There are five types of boroughs in the country - corporation, freeman, county, potwalloping and manor. Corporations are major cities. Freeman is a place where people have the right to vote. A county has a borough. Potwalloping defines people who have the right to vote because they have boiled a pot there. A manor is a borough that has a lord of the manor overseer.


Parishes, which often are church-affiliated, and range in size from 20 to 108,791 acres are other places to find records. There are 2,445 parishes that include church and civil records.

Other places to find records include a poor law union that administered relief to the poor, a barony that relates to tribes, records in the 32 counties in Ireland, diocese systems that relate to the Church of Ireland and the Catholic Church, and five provinces that are ruled by kings with one being the king of Ireland.

Rencher said the Genealogical Society of Utah in Salt Lake City has several publications on Irish research including a guide to records, "Smith's Inventories of Genealogical Sources" and Presbyterian and Catholic church records. He also said there are no death records in the churches because the people are usually buried in the church cemeteries. Churches do keep records of births, weddings and baptisms.

Probate records before 1922 were destroyed, but some copies still exist, Rencher said.

Family surnames familiar to Kentucky seen in documents in Rencher's research included Bailey, Kirkpatrick, Johnson, Alexander, Holland, Finney, Price, Ellis, Bandy, Thompson, Crowe, Cochran, Gibson, Russell, Wright and Hopkins.

To begin research, Rencher advised to start with family and home sources, identify where ancestors originated, look for surnames in compiled family histories, check for original records or get copies of transcripts from original records.

North American research

Rencher said the Irish settled in every state with the exception of Arizona. They came through the Appalachian Mountains and went, south, north and west. The Irish were wanderers. They didn't stay put but searched for an area they liked better.

"To understand why the Irish ended up where they were is to look at their work, religion and other family members," he said. "There is always a reason why a person moved around."

The immigrants came into North America through Quebec and Halifax in Canada, and Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, but the preferred destination was New York. From the seaports, they went into all the states and across the country.

Most left eastern seaports in Ireland, but often they went to Liverpool, England, where vessels left more frequently.

Records were kept by the homeport when the people left, and then again when they arrived. Tax, land transfers and probate records are good sources in the United States. Some probate records have names of the people, their parents, spouses, children, other relatives and neighbors.

Rencher suggested doing a neighborhood research. Catholics traveled in chain migration. One or two would come, and they would send for others later. Presbyterians came as whole families and groups of families or by church.

Catholics came as early as 1654 and some church records show the name of where the person lived in Ireland and where they came to in America. Presbyterians began migrating between 1720-1740 but the major wave came between 1760-1780. Some records of those people are available.

Another source is tombstone inscriptions. Some list name, date of birth and death, where the person was born, spouse and children.

Vital records, wills, ordinance survey lists, newspapers, estate papers, school records, census and ship passengers lists for ports in America also are good sources. Military and medical records are the most overlooked sources. Bible records can be used to prove birth records.

Central Kentucky News Articles