Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig! (St. Patrick’s Day Blessings!) Thanks to everyone who attended our Irish webinar last night. We had two wonderful presenters and a fantastic audience with lots of great questions. If you weren’t able to attend the class, it’s now available in the Learning Center archive here.
Since it wasn’t possible to answer every question last night, we thought we’d grab a few of the most frequently asked questions and post them here.
Kay asked, “How do we find Irish ancestors that lived in Canada?”
Ancestry.com has some terrific Canadian collections to help you find your Irish-Canadian ancestors. With a World Deluxe membership (or a Canadian membership to Ancestry.ca), you can access Canadian censuses and many other records. You can browse a list of some of our more popular Canadian collections on the Canada place page here. If you’re searching through the search form on the homepage at Ancestry.com, you can check the collection priority box at the bottom of the search box to give Canadian records higher priority and check the box below it to return only Canadian records.
Gary wanted to know, “What’s the difference between a parish, a barony, and a county?”
Once you discover your ancestor’s place of origin in Ireland, it’s important to larn about the names of the various land divisions into which that place fell. The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland has an excellent description of these and other land divisions in Ireland here.
Carolyn asked about a problem many of us will run into with our Irish ancestors, “When I estimate birth years based on ages in census records, I end up with different birth dates from census to census, even though I know I have the right person, living with the same people?”
As Eileen mentioned in her portion of the class, our Irish ancestors were often inconsistent when it came to giving their ages, so you will find some wide ranging answers when it comes to birthdates. Gather than range of dates for the person you’re searching for and pick a year in the center of that range. Using the advanced search form on Ancestry.com, you can specify +/- 1, 2, 5 or even 10 years using the and give yourself a little wiggle room in your searches for other records. Try to locate as many records as you can on the person and you’ll often be able to narrow it down. Also keep in mind that the ages got fuzzier as our ancestors got older. Records created when they were young are more likely to be accurate. It’s harder for a 5 year old to pass for a 14 year old, but may have been easier to believe that a 64 year old was only 55.
Doris inquired about a place in Ireland, “Tullamore – is it in County Kerry or Offaly? I’ve been given both.”
Actually Doris, according to the place names database on the Irish Times website, there are four places named Tullamore—in Counties Clare, Kerry, Offaly, and Tipperary. Try searching Griffith’s Valuation on Ancestry.com and see if the surname you’re researching is more predominant in one of the locations. If you’re working with a not-so-common surname, this could help you zero in on the correct Tullamore. Keep looking for records on this side of the pond as well. You may run across another record of your ancestor, this time with the county listed.
Nanette asked, “Did all the Irish who came to this country go through the naturalization process, and did they have to have passports in order to enter the United States?”
Many of our ancestors were never formally naturalized. That said, immigrants living in urban areas like New York City or Chicago may have been more likely to have been naturalized because political “machines” were keenly aware of large numbers of immigrants arriving in the mid-nineteenth century. In efforts to win the votes of these new residents, politicians were often swift in assisting immigrants in obtaining naturalization so that they could return the favor in the form of a vote cast in their direction—in some cases disregarding the five-year residency requirement.
For the most part, passports were not required of U.S. citizens for foreign travel until World War I, although they were mandatory for a short time during the Civil War (Aug. 19, 1861–Mar. 17, 1862). Immigrants who traveled often requested passports once they were naturalized to avoid hassles when returning to the U.S.
Ancestry.com has millions of naturalization indexes and well over a million actual records online, which can be searched here. There is also a collection of U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 available.
About Juliana Smith
Juliana Szucs Smith has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 16 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.