With St. Patrick’s Day upon us and the popularity of genealogy reaching new heights, now seems like an ideal time to explore one’s Irish heritage. The Southern History Department has plenty of resources, both in print and online, to help you get started.
Learning about the history of Irish immigration to the United States is a good first step. The website the Irish Genealogy Toolkit has a good overview of Irish immigration, including a handy chart detailing the number of immigrants by county for a small period of time. While the Irish have been moving to American almost from the beginning, the most well-known wave of Irish immigration took place during the mid-nineteenth century. The infamous Potato Famine occurred from 1845-1852 causing the deaths of one million people and spurring just as many to leave Ireland for other lands. An excellent source to begin your research with is the The Famine Immigrants, a multi-volume set listing the name, age, sex, occupation, date of arrival, port of embarkation, and the name of the ship of Irish immigrants to New York from 1846-1851.
If you suspect you have an Irish ancestor, census records can often confirm this for you. Beginning in 1850, the census asks for the place of birth of every individual and several later ones ask for the place of birth of their mother and father. Don’t forget to check county histories for information about early settlers to a particular area and their origins.
The website familysearch.org and the database ancestry.com both have numerous indexes relating to Ireland. Familysearch.org is a free database and the Library maintains a subscription to ancestry.com that can be accessed in any location of the Birmingham Public Library. Our new subject guide Irish Genealogy/Ancestry has links to even more resources and web sites. Enjoy.
Submitted by M.B. Newbill
Southern History Department