Celebrate Your Irish Heritage
9/26/2009

What better way to honor your ancestors of Erin than discovering and rejoicing in the history and culture of the Emerald Isle? This St. Patrick's Day, let Family Tree Magazine help you get started with tips for using church records to learn about your Irish forebears.

Dwight Radford and Kyle Betit, authors of  A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Irish Ancestors, (Betterway Books) offer strategies to mine religious documents for Irish genealogy answers:
  • Search all known church records for your ancestor for information on where in Ireland your ancestor was born. Look for birth/baptism, marriage and burial/ death records as well as church minutes, transfer certificates and death cards.
  • Search the records for sponsors (godparents) and witnesses to identify friends or family members who came from the same place in Ireland.
  • If a relative of your ancestor (for example, a brother or sister) joined a different religion than that of the rest of the family, search that denomination's records.
  • A family member may have been associated with a religious group for a short time. A short period of involvement with the Quakers, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists or Shakers, for example, may have been long enough to be in church records.
  • Always search branches of a denomination to determine which branch your ancestor belonged to. For Presbyterians, this may include the Reformed Presbyterian and the Cumberland Presbyterian congregations, as well as the larger denominations. For Baptists, this could include Free-Will Baptists, "independent" Baptists, American Baptists and Southern Baptists.
  • Conduct research to see what churches existed in a community or country when your ancestor lived there versus what churches are presently located there. County histories, city directories and church directories can help.