Ireland History

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Legananny Dolman, County Down, Ireland.jpg
Efficient family research requires an understanding of the historical events that affected your ancestors and the records about them. Learning about wars, laws, migrations, settlement patterns, local events, and economic or religious trends may help you understand family movements. These events may also direct you to records, such as settlement certificates or military records, that mention your family. Learning about the conditions in which your ancestors lived and the events that influenced their lives will also help you understand your ancestors as human beings.

Events in Irish history that may have influenced your ancestors and the records about them include the following:

1002-14 Irish Kingdom. Brian Boru united Irish regional kings.

1200-50 British colonizing. English colonists were sent to colonize Ireland.

1494 The English crown officially claimed Ireland as part of England. Meetings and legislative drafts of the Irish parliament were subject to the control of the English king and council. But in 1496 Kildare, the lord deputy who had ruled Ireland before 1494, was reinstated.

1549-1640 Plantations. Many English and Scottish families were sent to Ireland to receive estates as rewards from the king. Lands were mainly granted in the counties of Leix, Offaly, Tipperary, Wexford, Leitrim, and Longford and in the major plantations in Ulster province. Some civil servants received lands in Munster province. Many Irish families were displaced.

1603 Scots began settling Ulster province.

1641-52 Irish Rebellion. Ulster natives overthrew English colonial rule, and Irish rebels established a Catholic government called the Confederation of Kilkenny.

1649 Oliver Cromwell crushed the rebellion in Ireland and awarded lands to Protestants. Catholics who could prove they had not been involved in the rebellion were given estates in West Clare. Some prisoners were sent to New England.

1690 The Irish Parliament was established in Dublin.

1720 British Parliament began to legislate for Ireland, and the British House of Lords had the powers of a supreme court in Irish law cases.

1782-93 Legislative acts gave power back to the Irish Parliament and more rights to Irish Roman Catholics.

1800 Ireland united with England and Scotland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

1821 The first genealogically useful census was taken.

1845 Civil registration of non-Catholic marriages began.

1845-49 Potato Famine. Blight destroyed the potato crop for several consecutive years resulting in starvation and disease. Millions died and millions emigrated.

1850-1914 Many Irish emigrated, which helped to stabilize the economy.

1850 The Reform Act was passed, basing the right to vote on occupation rather than on property ownership.

1858 The Principle Probate Registry began proving Irish probates.

1864 Civil registration of births and deaths began. Marriage registration began to include Catholics.

1869 The Church of Ireland ceased to be recognized as the state church.

1919-22 Civil strife resulted in 1,468 deaths. A treaty, signed on 7 January 1922, split Ireland into the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland and the predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland.

1922 Irish Civil War. Irregulars of the Irish Republican Army opposed to the 1922 treaty occupied the Four Courts building where many Irish records were housed. The building was burned and many records destroyed.

For key dates relating to church records, see Ireland Church History. For dates and records of other wars involving the Irish, see England. To find out when the various British rulers reigned, see:

Cheney, C. R., ed. Handbook of Dates. 1945. Reprint. London, England: Offices of the Royal Historical Society, 1955. (Family History Library book Ref 942 C4rg No. 4.)

A few comprehensive Irish histories include:

Foster, R. F. The Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. (Family History Library book 941.5 H2hf.) This book provides a history of Ireland written in modern times.

Griffin, William D., ed. and comp. Ireland: A Chronology and Fact Book. Dobbs Ferry, New York, New York: Oceana Publications, 1973. (Family History Library book 941.5 H2ir.) This book contains a lengthy time line of Irish history supplemented with transcripts of historical documents.

O'Donovan, John, ed.Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland: From the Earliest Times to the Year 1616. 1856. Reprint. 3d ed. 7 vols. Blackrock, Ireland: Edmund Burke Publisher, 1990. (Family History Library book 941.5 H2af.) This series provides a comprehensive history of early Ireland in Gaelic and English. It contains many dates of specific events, including the deaths of some individuals.

Punch, Terrence M. Irish Repealers at Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1843. 23 May 1843, The Register printed a complete list of the Repeal Membership in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Beside each name is given place of origin in Ireland. The Act of Union in 1801 was a watershed  in modern Irish political history.Many considered it a mistake, hence the list of Irish Repealers. Article in The Irish Ancestor, pages 6-13, Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i v10-11.

Local Histories

Local histories are particularly helpful in understanding the time, places, and conditions in which your ancestor lived. Local histories describe the economy; the prominent families; and the founding of churches, hospitals, schools, and businesses in an area. Even if a local history does not mention your ancestor, it may direct you to records that do.

For many localities, more than one written history exists. Local histories can be found in major research libraries, including the Family History Library. The Family History Library has many histories about Irish parishes.

The Family History Library has many national, county, and parish histories for Ireland as well as histories for specific time periods, groups, occupations, and localities in Ireland. Major research libraries may have similar histories.

Historical sources available at the Family History Library are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under the following headings:





Bibliographies of Irish history available at the Family History Library are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:


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