St. Patrick’s Day is coming up! To help you become worthy of that “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” t-shirt, we’ve compiled four tips for searching out your Irish ancestors. Think of these tips as your lucky four-leaf clover.

Know the place

Learn where in Ireland your ancestors came from before searching them. Gathering information about your ancestor, such as hometowns or names of family members, will ease your search. You’ll avoid duplicates and false leads on your way as well, since there may be thousands of people in Ireland with a similar name as your ancestor.

Beware of name variants

During the immigration process, your ancestors may have dropped a prefix from their names such as O’, Mc, or Mac. Search for the surname both with and without the prefix.

You may also find commonly-Anglicized surnames in immigration records. The Irish surname MacGanly could become Gantley in English or Mag Sheanlaoich in Gaelic. To help you figure out Irish surnames, check out The Surnames of Ireland by Edward MacLysaght and Special Report on Surnames in Ireland by Robert E. Matheson.

Search your family’s personal records

Especially if you have living older relatives, you may be able to interview them for information on where your Irish relatives lived. If not, or if your Irish heritage is too far back to remember, search their papers for journals, immigration records, obituaries, and more to find clues.

Check out these websites and online resources

Though many records were destroyed in the 1922 Four Courts fire in Dublin, there are still many older collections that survived thanks to the Church of Ireland’s parish records. and already have Irish collections and databases, which include census, vital, marriage, military, and immigration records. But, if you aren’t on these sites or if you need more, these websites may be able to help:


Do you have Irish ancestors? Tell their stories! We’d love to hear them.