How Do I Find My Ancestors in Northern Ireland?

February 5, 2020  - by 
A coast in Northern Ireland.

Are you tracing your Northern Ireland genealogy? Many resources on FamilySearch.org can help you in your search.

Northern Ireland is one of four major parts of the United Kingdom. (Others include England, Scotland, and Wales.) Its official language is English. Northern Ireland includes the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, and Tyrone. The country of Northern Ireland was officially created on 3 May 1921 as part of the settlement between the United Kingdom and what would become the Republic of Ireland.

a graphic showing fun facts about Northern Ireland
A graphic showing the populations of Northern Ireland

The island of Ireland has experienced large population movements over the centuries. Settlers from England and particularly from Scotland were settled (or planted) in the Northern Ireland area from the 1600s onwards in what is referred to as the “Ulster Plantations.” Mass emigration from Northern Ireland to England and Scotland and particularly to North America in the 1800s took place due to very difficult economic and social conditions. The Great Famine from 1845 to 1849 resulted in the death of over one million people across the island of Ireland and led to further emigration.

How do you start your Northern Ireland Genealogy Research?

You should know a few facts before you start your search:

  1. Most of the vital records are based on English law from 1864 when civil records began for all of Ireland and especially since 1921, when Northern Ireland was established.
  2. Many important records have been destroyed due to the conflicts in the period from 1919 to 1923. However, many important records still exist.

conflicts in northern ireland

Sources to Help You Find Your Northern Ireland Ancestors

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is great resource for information on what may be available in your search. PRONI has a physical office in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but you can find a lot online as well. PRONI’s online archives have calendars, maps, World War I resources, and images. Many instructional talks can also help you search and tell you what you may find. PRONI tries to collect, catalogue, and preserve documents or sources that provide historical or legal glimpses of the past.

the PRONI logo

The Northern Irelandgenweb is also a great source. It will direct you to the PRONI site, but it also offers a long list of resources to help with your search—including different genealogy societies in Northern Ireland.

The General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) holds birth, death, and marriage records. The registers of the records themselves are not open to use, but the information contained on the records can be given in the form of certificates. The office doesn’t do research, but it has useful information to help put your tree together. 

The website IrishGenealogy.ie contains birth, marriage, and death records for all of Ireland from 1864 onwards, including many digital images, with many church records available also.

Local Records in Northern Ireland

Genealogy records in Northern Ireland are often kept on the local level, so local resources might be great places to look. Much of the information is kept by county, so you can dig a bit deeper on a county level. For example, Ulster is one of the historic provinces of Ireland. In it are nine counties—six are now in Northern Ireland, and three are now in the Republic of Ireland. Here are the six Northern Ireland counties of Ulster:

a graphic of the counties of northern ireland

Visit the FamilySearch Northern Ireland wiki page to view a map with the counties listed as well as some sources on individual counties.

Learn about the Culture, Food Traditions, and Landscape of Northern Ireland

cliffs in northern Ireland

An important part of family history and researching ancestors can include discovering the culture, history, food traditions, and landscape of your ancestor’s homeland. Sometimes when you have a better understanding of where your ancestors walked and what their life was like, you discover that you have a great connection to them.

The best place to dig in and start is by looking for your family records on FamilySearch.org. You will find the tools to direct you on the right path. Your search for your Northern Ireland ancestors is just a click away!

Your United Kingdom Genealogy

genealogy uk

Rachel Trotter

Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer and editor at Evalogue.Life. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com, FamilySearch.org, and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for all you do.
    I see lots of research info regarding Irish/Scots/Irish immigration from about the mid 1800’s, but little regarding immigration in the early 1700’s. My LONG family came before 1738 and PROBABLY after 1700. Where do you suggest we search? Again, many thanks.

  2. My mothers father was Charles Nicholas Hutchins born in Jackson Co., Missouri in 1850. I was told he descended from a Hutchens family of Ireland. I am on Familysearch line of Roy Martin McAlister. Any clues on where this family branch was from and what they did for a living. Thank you for some research tips. Roy McAlister 75 yrs old.

  3. My mothers father was Charles Nicholas Hutchins born in Jackson Co., Missouri in 1850. I was told he descended from a Hutchens family of Ireland. I am on Familysearch line of Roy Martin McAlister.

  4. I have a problem with my Malcolm ancestors. They were Scottish and at some point went to Northern Ireland. I have records here in the States of my Ancestor arriving in Boston in 1720 from Ulster. He returned to Ulster and came back to Boston in 1723 from Ulster with his wife and a son. I am not able to locate a marriage record for him nor a birth for either his wife or son. Records from the New North Church in Boston says he provided testimonials as to his son’s birth. My ancestor was born in 1695, month and date are unknown. He died in Boston 13 Feb 1775 aged 80 years. I have a similar issue with his wife, all I know is that she was born in 1697. I have no month or date for her, nor a location where she was born. What can I do to try and get the missing information?
    Thank you.

  5. Looking for my Grandfather George Cunliffe-Owen born around 1882-1885 his fathers name could be George Alexander Cunliffe-Owen

  6. I need my fathers certified birth certificate he was born in on the island of Ireland on the 23/12/1923
    Robett john seaton