Finding Irish Ancestors before the Great Famine
Fiona Fitzsimons, BA, MA

Level: Intermediate
Suggested prerequisites: A basic knowledge of research methodology and terms; It’s not necessary to have Irish ancestry to take this course. If you *do* have an Irish ancestor, you can probably achieve best results by knowing the approximate years in which they flourished (birth/marriage/death and other milestone event including immigration). Place of origin in Ireland is a bonus, not a pre-requisite.
The Irish track at the British Institute 2017 is intended as a class for audit, i.e., for enjoyment. There will be no homework or graded exercises. We will, however, workshop throughout the course, using case-studies to illustrate what is taught in specific modules. During the week, I’ll provide support for all course participants to develop their research, and hopefully their family history portfolio. The course will treat all the major online and archival collections relevant to trace your Irish family history before the Famine (1845 -1851). 
It’s not necessary to have Irish ancestry to take this course. However, you will probably achieve the most benefit if you trace a person or family of interest as we work through the records.
Course components will include:
  • In the 17th, 18th & 19th centuries British Imperial Surveys of Ireland document the population in greater detail, than in any other country in the world at the time. Learn how to interpret the records to find your ancestors/persons-of-interest, and to incorporate the evidence in your research.
  • Before the famine, 95% of productive land in Ireland was organised as Estates. Learn what estate records to look for, to trace ancestors that were farmers, workers, tenants or even sub-tenants.
  • Tax – the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Before 1851, the government in Ireland charged a variety of local and national taxesLearn what taxes your ancestors were probably liable for, and trace their records of payment.
  • Church records – Except for a tiny Jewish community that settled on the island after 1660, the Irish population was Christian. In this module, we look beyond the baptisms, marriages and burial records of "hatch, match and dispatch" to trace Catholic, Episcopalian, Dissenter and Jewish ancestors in Ireland.
  • From the 1570s, the Irish military tradition was the engine that drove Irish emigration overseas. The "fighting Irish" served in the armed services of every European power, and in Colonial armies in America, Australia and the Indian sub-continent. In this module, we explore what military records survive for soldiers *and their families*, and where to find them.
  • Hospital and Poor Law records – From the 1770s, a modern public health system evolved in Ireland. Surviving records provide coverage for the least-well documented of the Irish population.
  • Court, prison & transportation records
  • Records of education and occupation
  • Digitisation has unlocked the riches of local and national publications including newspapers, journals, magazines, commercial and social directories/almanacks/ registers, post-chaise companions
We will use case studies throughout to demonstrate research methodology and to provide practical examples of how to interpret documents to get the most complete evidence for your Irish ancestors.