Introduction to Genealogy
Irish genealogy is genealogy. The basic principles of good genealogical research apply to all your work. The places may vary but the methods are the same. The key differences are what records are available and where they can be found.

Begin with yourself and work from the present to the past

  • As a good first exercise, gather all of the records and sources that document your life.
    • These sources may be the obvious, such as birth or marriage records, but they may also include pictures, yearbooks, letters, newspaper articles, and even souvenirs pointing to a trip or former residence.
    • Next, record and document the lives of your parents and siblings. Note names, dates, places of events, and people's relationships.
    • Then move on to recording what you know about other ancestors and relatives, even if you cannot document this information right now.
  • Look for records about what you know but cannot yet prove. This is where the research gets more interesting. Questions to ask:
    • What source or record would give information about the “fact” about the person or event in their life? Would it be a civil or church record? Would it be an obituary, a tombstone, a will, a family bible, a picture, or perhaps information supplied by a relative?
    • Where would you be able to find that record? Would it be at home, at a relative’s home, at a church, at a cemetery, at the county courthouse, at a library or archive or, as is more and more the case, online?
    • How do you get this information from its repository? Do you call, write, visit or have someone get it for you? Can you rent films from the Family History Library, get books or films through interlibrary loan or search online in free or pay websites?
  • Move on up your ancestral line, generation by generation.
    • Start with the earliest ancestor that you are certain about and for whom you have sources that support a relationship between that person and you.
    • Next, look for that person’s parents, spouse(s), siblings and all children.
    • Look for records that establish that person’s relationship to you, through your most recent proven ancestor.

Keep records of your search and organize your results

  • Document all your findings:
    • Write the source citation on every note you make, and on each copy of a record you keep.
    • Cite every fact that is not commonly known as to where you found the information. Do this on your charts and writings.
    • Purchase a copy of Elizabeth Shown Mill’s Evidence Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian.
  • Fill out the basic genealogy charts with the information you have gathered.
    • Pedigree charts: these show your ancestors' key events of birth, marriage and death.
    • Family group sheets: these show each couple and their children. Set up one per couple such that, if a person had children by more than one spouse, they would be shown as parent on two sheets, one with each spouse.
    • Research logs: these show, in abbreviated form, what records you have searched, what you looked for, and what you found (or did not find!).
    • Correspondence logs: this record shows whom you wrote to, what you asked about, and what sort of response you got.
  • Set up a filing system.
    • Keep all you notes and copies of records in a way that enables you to find things easily.
    • Review at least one of the several good books about organizing genealogical research material.

Share your results with others

  • Write up your findings. Go beyond the charts and write about the lives of your ancestors. Look for more about them than just their birth, marriage and death. Use your research to create a biography that tells about their lives, the times they lived through and places where they spent their lives.
  • Cite every fact as to where you found the information.
  • Explain how you have dealt with conflicting information, and why you came to your conclusions.
  • Share this with relatives - it may inspire them to help, or to share more of what they know. It gives a purpose to all of your research efforts.

Continue to learn

  • Read. Pick up at least one good basic genealogy book, books about Irish genealogy in particular, books about different types of records, genealogy research journals and magazines, Internet sites that cover genealogy research principles, Irish genealogy specifically, and books about your ancestors’ place of origin in Ireland.
  • Attend. Look for genealogy society meetings, workshops, national conferences and genealogy institutes.
  • Join. Your local genealogy society and the Irish Genealogical Society International need you!
  • Help. Volunteer to help your local genealogy or historical society or archive.
  • Just do it. The best way to learn how to do genealogical research is to try it yourself. This is the only way to get results so, let's get going!