This Irish Genealogy site offers the Irish descendant (from New York, Canada, UK, Australia...) the chance to trace their Irish family tree and search for their surname origins and the records of their Irish ancestor's birth, marriage or death.
Kyle J. Betit is a professional genealogist, lecturer and author residing
in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kyle specializes in Irish and immigration research.
Kyle Betit is Research Director of ProGenealogists, Inc., in Salt Lake City
and the author of the Irish Genealogy Pages at
A system of heritage centres in Ireland serves people interested in family
history. Each centre indexes and computerizes records of a particular county.
Sometimes one centre only covers part of a county, or a centre may cover
two counties. The staff of these centres offer to search their databases
for a fee for clients seeking information about their ancestors. If you
know what county your ancestors came from, one of the best ways of finding
out more about them may be to write to your county’s heritage centre! Make
sure that you have compiled as much information about your immigrant Irish
family before you write, however.
This system of heritage centres was organized by the Irish Family History
Foundation as part of the Irish Genealogical Project, which is now known
as Irish Genealogy Limited. You can find current addresses and information
about the individual heritage centres on the Internet at
Each county in Ireland is now covered by at least one heritage centre, although
the centres indexing Dublin City and the section of County Cork around Cork
City are not yet open for searches. Several centres (Carlow, Kerry, Limerick,
and Tipperary North) are temporarily closed.
The types of records indexed and the services offered vary among the heritage
centres, as does the quality and completeness of the indexing. Each centre
has indexed at least some church records. Some have indexed records from
a number of religious denominations (Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland,
Presbyterian, Methodist, among others) as well as tombstone inscriptions,
tax records (Griffith’s Primary Valuation and/or the Tithe Applotment Books),
civil registration (births, marriages, deaths), census records, newspapers,
passenger lists, and other types of records.
The Irish Genealogy Limited web site at
is a very important resource because it contains the developing Central
Signposting Index. This index includes partial data from various centres
that can be searched to see if they may have a record in a particular county
referring to your ancestor. Then, you can contact that county’s centre for
more complete information.
Using a Heritage Centre
In my research as a professional genealogist, I use the services of the
heritage centres all the time, and many of them I can highly recommend.
Especially if you only know the county your ancestors came from, they are
an invaluable resource. It is important to approach making your request
to a heritage centre wisely, so that they understand what you are looking
for and you understand what they can and cannot offer. The following are
some helpful tips for making the best use of the services and resources
of a heritage centre in Ireland.
1. When To Use A Heritage Centre: If an ancestor's county of origin
is known, utilizing a heritage centre can be helpful in pinpointing a specific
townland, village or city within that county. Having a heritage centre's
database searched for a family can save a great deal of time searching the
church records of a county, parish by parish.
2. How To Present Your Request: It is vital to be concise but specific
when requesting a search. Indicate the full name of the emigrant and a year
when the emigrant left Ireland; include the names of parents and siblings
if known. Request that information reported from the registers include townlands
of residence and the names of witnesses and sponsors. A heritage centre
may require a standard form to be completed. Forms for some of the centres
may be found on the Internet.
3. Consider Name Variations: Name variations can cause difficulties
in an index search. Make sure the centre has considered the likely variations.
Many of the centres are quite adept at dealing with name variations, and
they may find one you didn’t expect! For example, an Irish surname such
as MacGlashan may have been used in some of the records rather than its
English equivalent Green. A "Mc" or "O'" prefix may be added or dropped
(such as Reilly/O'Reilly), or there may be some other spelling variations
(such as Kinsella and Kinshala). Also, the given name of your ancestor as
he or she was known in the United States, Canada, Australia, or elsewhere,
in adult life, may differ from that ancestor’s given name when it is found
in a christening record. Don’t be surprised if you find an inconsistency
like this! Also, a nickname may have been used, such as Nancy for Agnes
or Delia for Bridget.
4. Consider Records of the Whole Family: Often records do not go
back far enough to include the particular christening or marriage of interest.
In the case of the Church of Ireland, many of the registers were destroyed
in the 1922 Four Courts fire. Some Catholic registers start as late as the
1860s or 1870s. Even if the registers for the ancestral parish begin too
late to include the baptism of your direct ancestor, a heritage centre search
may be useful for pinpointing the ancestral family's origins. For example,
baptisms of younger siblings may be identified. This information can be
used just like the ancestor's baptism in localizing the family. Furnish
the centre with a listing of all the known brothers and sisters of your
ancestor. If one of the family members is found, you may have a geographic
location to use in accessing other records.
5. Get Complete Information: A successful report from a heritage
centre will usually identify the ecclesiastical parish or congregation in
which church records of the family were found. Two of the important sets
of details to get from parish registers are the townlands of residence and
the names of witnesses and sponsors. Some registers do not list townlands
or only list them sporadically. You may need to write to the centre again
to obtain the "rest of the story" if the report fails to include this material
even though it is in the records. If the centre found your ancestor's baptism,
also make sure that the centre has provided you with the baptismal information
for all siblings.
6. Limitations of Services: The information you want from a heritage
centre may differ from what the heritage centre is able to provide, so it
is essential to find out in advance exactly what services and indexes a
particular heritage centre offers and what the cost of searches will be.
A list of services and indexes, with the associated fees, can be obtained
from a centre. Some centres have indexed practically all of the available
church records in the county, while others have only completed indexing
a portion of the church records. Some centres have indexed a wide variety
of other records for their areas.
7. Some Counties Have Multiple Centres: Since some counties are covered
by more than one heritage centre, it may be necessary to have more than
one index searched. The southern part of County Tipperary, for example,
is serviced by the Brú Ború Heritage Centre, and the northern area of County
Tipperary, by the Tipperary North Family History Research Centre. However,
the Catholic register indexes of the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly which
includes much of the county are available only at a third heritage centre,
Tipperary Family History Research (
8. Importance of Checking the Original Source: No index is perfect;
inaccuracies and omissions occur. Some of the heritage centres' indexes
were compiled by persons not experienced with genealogy or old records.
An index also may not include all of the information from the original source.
The information available from a heritage centre should not be used as a
substitute for original records except where unavoidable. Follow-up research
should be conducted in the original records. Research in the original records
may identify siblings not identified by the heritage centre's index.
9. Converting Between Catholic Parishes and Civil Parishes: A successful
heritage centre report regarding Catholic ancestors will identify the Catholic
parish where baptisms or marriages occurred. In order to search other pertinent
records, such as tax records and censuses, it is necessary to determine
the corresponding civil (government) parish. The names and boundaries of
the two types of parishes often differ. Brian Mitchell's A Guide to Irish
Parish Registers (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988) lists
the Catholic parishes corresponding to each civil parish. Samuel Lewis'
Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (London: S. Lewis, 1837) lists,
under each civil parish, the Roman Catholic parishes and chapels. Local
Catholic parish histories are also useful for this purpose.
Kyle J. Betit is Research Director of the professional
genealogy research firm ProGenealogists, Inc., in Salt Lake City. He is
a widely recognized speaker, author, and educator in the field of Irish
Genealogy. He is co-author with Dwight A. Radford of A Genealogist’s Guide
to Discovering Your Irish Ancestors (Betterway Books, 2001). He makes frequent
trips to Ireland to conduct research for clients. You may contact Kyle
by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit his Irish Web Pages at