Don’t neglect your own Country’s records, in the hunt for Irish ancestors….

Many American clients try to jump directly to Irish records, when often all that is known is a name and possibly a year of birth. To find evidence of the birth of someone in Ireland it is necessary to know the name of at least one of their parents. Rather, in order to find the correct someone, we need a parent’s name. If that someone has a very unique and unusual name and we find only one instance in Irish records, one might proceed to investigate that family as potentially of interest. But obviously the more common the name, the more important it becomes to have some distinctive criteria to identify your ancestor. A John Kelly born to a Patrick Kelly and Minnie Mouse is going to be easier to identify than John Kelly born to Patrick and Bridget Kelly.

To succeed in your search, it must be appreciated that much of your ancestor’s lives were lived in the US and as such, important clues lie in American records. Look for any source that will give you the parents’ names. This may, perhaps, be a will, where the familial relationship between the executor and the person drawing up the will may be spelt out. If you are lucky, you might have a parent/child relationship expressly spelt out.

An alternative source, in American records, would be a marriage or death certificate. Almost always, these records will name the parent (of the bride/groom or the deceased. The gold standard would be where the mother’s maiden name is included in the relevant record. Problems arise when an ancestor has settled in a US state where the vital records do not begin until after the time period of interest to you has passed. Do not give up at this point. Many death records are held at county, as opposed to state level. Look for the county official who may help you in your searches, be it town clerk, county historian, librarian, archivist. There is no guarantee that the record will exist at county level, but it is always worth checking.

By Carmel Gilbride