When researching your Irish genealogy, an ancestor’s military service can reveal valuable information about your family tree. Records of their contribution to the country can offer unique insights into the lives they led and help you uncover more of your family’s story.
Keep reading for an overview of the different types of Irish military records and how you can access them. We’ll share the information these documents reveal and how they can link you to other fascinating details of your family’s past.
Ireland has always had a strong presence in military affairs, from the Norman invasions of the 12th century to present-day involvement in international peacekeeping missions. This means many records are available for those who want to research an Irish military ancestor. Here are a few ways to find these documents online.
The National Archives of Ireland are the best place to start your search for ancestors who were members of the Irish military. They hold records for various military bodies through the Military Archives website.
You can also use this resource to search for other entities relevant to your research. For example, try searching the National Archives for documents from the Royal Irish Constabulary (the police force of the Irish Republic from 1822 to 1922), Northern Ireland, or the British Army.
The Military Archives house documents for the Defence Forces, the Department of Defence, and the Army Pensions Board. Available records include:
You can also access artefacts like the Collins Papers through the Military Archives. This collection, named for recipient General Michael Collins, holds correspondence between Irish Republican Army (IRA) members. These documents offer insight into the time before and during the Irish War of Independence. It’s important not to discount these historical documents, as your ancestors may turn up in unexpected places.
The military records collections mentioned above have been digitised for research purposes. However, other collections you may want to access are unavailable online.
For example, collections like soldiers’ services records are only available to the individual’s next of kin. You can request access to these records by emailing the Military Archives’ Duty Archivist.
Additionally, the Military Archives include some records you can only access by appointment in the Reading Room. You can contact the Duty Archivist to arrange an appointment.
The records held in the Military Archives of Ireland can tell much about your ancestors’ lives. To start, you can find their rank, unit, service number, and dates of service. You may also find information on their next of kin, medical history, and pension.
Additionally, you can use military records to confirm basic information about your ancestors. If you haven’t verified details like your ancestor’s birth year or full name, military records may contain the evidence you need to move forward confidently.
The information in military records will depend on when your ancestor served. For example, if they served in the army of the Irish Free State in the 1920s, their records will likely be quite different from someone who served in the Ulster Defence Regiment in the 1970s. The National Archives of Ireland has more information on the types of records available for different periods.
If you’re unsure whether your ancestor served in the Army, there are a few ways to find out. One is to search their name in the National Archives of Ireland’s online catalogue. This will bring up any records that mention your ancestor by name.
You can also try searching for your ancestor in the various collections and publications available in the Military Archives. These include The Irish Volunteer (1914 to 1916) and its successor, An tÓglach Magazine (1918 to 1933), Military Service Pensions, and Irish Army census records.
Irish military records can provide clear documentation of your ancestors and the lives they led. Between the National Archives and other resources, it’s easy to find and use these records to piece together your family’s story.
If you’re interested in searching Irish military archives, the Irish Family History Centre can help. Our expert genealogists can guide you through the process of finding your ancestors and connecting the dots in your family tree. Contact us today to begin the journey of tracing your Irish roots through the generations.