Family Tree
Family Tree

Research your Northern Irish Roots

To research your family tree you will need patience and some good detective skills. Here are some helpful tips to get you started

Decide on your goal

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) recommends setting yourself immediate goals and concentrating your efforts in one area of family history at a time. For example - I want to trace my grandmothers family from Co Antrim.

Write down everything you know

Make a list of everything you can remember about your family, particularly the dates and places of marriages, births and deaths. Geography will play an important part in your future research.

You can probably already sketch out a small section of your family tree. This will remind you of what you know, and reveal the gaps.

Speak to your family

Living relatives can be a wealth of information. Start with parents, aunts and uncles, and then work back a generation if you can.  Look through their old photo albums, ask if they still have any relevant paperwork such as birth certificates, immigration papers or naturalisation records?

Record the interview if your relatives don't mind it will be useful for your future research.

Get organised & keep good records

Ensure you have a good record keeping system. This might seem a little bit boring but it will stop you from ‘doubling up’ on research and help avoid confusion as your search becomes more extensive.

Research and join local history groups

There are thousands of Facebook pages, blogs and websites full of information that may be helpful. Don’t be shy. Ask plenty of questions. You might even stumble across some distant relatives!

Go online and explore the records

After you’ve gathered as much information as you can from family, it’s time to go online and fill in the gaps.

If you live overseas you should check:

  1. Passenger lists
  2. Naturalisation records
  3. Cemetery records and gravestone inscriptions

Research PRONI's Online Records

PRONI collects a wide range of archives from government, public bodies, councils, courts, churches, business records and private sources.  PRONI has indexed and digitised significant archives to make them accessible online.

Access the PRONI archives online.

Things to watch out for:

  • Beware variations in spelling - eg: McVeigh, McVay, MacVeagh, McFeigh, McVea. This also applies to the spelling of town lands and places!

  • Re–use of names - It was common for the names of children who died in infancy to be given to future children.

  • Dates & Ages - Before the days of birth certificates, ‘rounding up’ was common.

  • Pet names - 'Uncle Jack' may have been born 'Michael John Smith'.

Good Luck with your research!

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