Ireland Feature

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Ancestor-Hunting in Ireland

Over 46 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, and the desire to trace those long-lost roots back in the "auld sod" can run deep. Here are some pointers for how you can make your trip to Ireland a journey into your past.

Before You Go

The more you can learn about your ancestors, the more fruitful your search is going to be once you're on Irish soil. Crucial facts include:

The name of your ancestor

Names of that ancestor's parents/spouse

His or her date of birth, marriage, or death

County and parish of origin in Ireland

Religious denomination

The first place to seek information is directly from members of your family. A grandparent or a great aunt with a story to tell can be the source of important clues. And relatives may have documents stored away that can help with your sleuthing—old letters, wills, diaries, birth certificates, photos.

If family resources aren't leading you anywhere, try turning to the Mormon Church. They've made it their mission to collect mountains of genealogical information, much of which it makes available free of charge at familyresearch.org; plug in the name a relative, and you may find records that include parents' names and places of origin.

On the Ground in Ireland

National Library of Ireland. Ancestor hunters have long traveled throughout Ireland to comb parish church records, but most of these records are now available on microfilm in Dublin at the National Library of Ireland. The library is a great place to begin your hunting; you can consult a research adviser there free of charge. Kildare St., Dublin, Dublin 2. 01/661–2523. www.nli.ie.

General Register Office. Civil records—dating back to 1865—are available at the General Register Office. Records for Anglican marriages date from 1845. 8–11 Lombard St. E, Dublin, Dublin 2. 01/8638200. www.groireland.ie.

National Archives. The Curracloe Beach has census records and, like the National Library, provides free genealogy consultations. Bishop St., Dublin, Dublin 8. 01/407 Ext. 2300. www.nationalarchives.ie.

The Mellon Centre for Migration Studies. For Northern Ireland, you can find information at the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster American Folk Park. Ulster American Folk Park, 2 Mellon Rd., Castletown, Omagh, BT78 5QY. 028/8225–6315. www.qub.ac.uk/cms/.

Public Record Office (2 Titanic Blvd., Queen's Island, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, BT3 9HQ. 028/9053–4800. www.proni.gov.uk.)

None of these places has actual records available online, but their websites provide information about genealogical research.

If you'd rather not spend your vacation in a record hall, you can hire a professional to do your spadework. The Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (www.irishgenealogy.ie) will present you with a "package of discovery" upon your arrival.

The Irish Times newspaper also has ancestor-hunting resources (www.ireland.com/ancestor). And the National Library provides references for professionals.

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