Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Find Your Irish Roots at the Library!

What better way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day than to delve into your Irish ancestry? If you know, or if you have an inkling, that your forebearers immigrated to the United States from the Emerald Isle, then the Birmingham Public Library has the resources to help you track your ancestors down.

The best place to start your Irish genealogy search is with the U.S. Census records. These records are available from 1790 to 1930 (1940 becomes available in 2012). Beginning with the 1850 Census, the place of birth of each household member member was included. Even better for genealogists, beginning in 1880, respondents were also asked to name the place of birth of their parents. U.S. Census records can be searched on three databases that the library subscribes to (Ancestry, FamilySearch, and HeritageQuest), and also are available on microfilm for the Southeastern United States in Microforms Room of the Government Documents department.

Ship passenger lists are another rich source of information for the names of Irish immigrants who made the voyage to the United States from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. These lists usually include the passenger's name, country of origin, and occupation. At the Birmingham Public Library, you will find an excellent collection of passenger lists, and indexes to passenger lists, available on computer databases, microfilm, and in books.

Naturalization records can also be a treasure trove of genealogical data for anyone looking for an Irish ancestor. Place and date of birth, date of arrival to the U.S., names of spouses and children, and residence at the time of naturalization are among the facts that can be found in these types of records.

Less obvious as sources of Irish genealogical information, but potentially as enlightening, are military service records and pension applications. The library's Microforms Room houses an extensive collection of microfilm containing such records for soliders who served in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War I. How might these records help me in my search for my Irish ancestors, you ask? Well, for example, Company I of the 8th Alabama Infantry was a Confederate unit that was known as the Emerald Guard because 104 of the 109 men who served in it were of Irish descent. Who knows, maybe your great-great-great grandfather was a member of the Emerald Guard?

To get a better idea of what the Birmingham Public Library has that might help you discover the Irish branches and limbs of your family tree, visit us in Government Documents or the Southern History department or call 205-226-3625.

Come see our books on Irish genealogy!
Submitted by Linda McFarland and Jim Murray

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