Irish Books and Movies to Celebrate Your Heritage

By Family Tree Editors

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Erin go bragh! Whether you’ve always had the luck ‘o the Irish or just discovered your roots, here are some books and movies to help you celebrate your Irish heritage.

How-to Irish Genealogy Books

A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Irish Ancestors by Dwight A. Radford and Kyle J. Betit (Betterway Books)

Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America by Kerby A. Miller (Oxford University Press)

The Family Tree Irish Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Ancestors in Ireland by Claire Santry (Family Tree Books)

Finding Your Irish Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide by David S. Ouimette (Ancestry)

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, 5th edition, by John Grenham (Genealogical Publishing Co.)

Tracing Your Irish Family History by Anthony Adolph (Firefly Books, Ltd.)

Irish Cookbooks

Ballymaloe Seasons: Cooking from an Irish Country House by Darina Allen (Roberts Rinehart)

The Irish Heritage Cookbook by Margaret Johnson (Chronicle Books)

Land of Milk and Honey: The Story of Traditional Irish Food and Drink by Brid Mahon (Irish American Books)

A Cook’s Celebration of Ireland in an Irish Country Kitchen by Clare Connery and Christopher Hill (Simon & Schuster)

Irish Memoirs and Genealogy Journeys

44: Dublin Made Me by Peter Sheridan (Viking Press) — The brother of Oscar-winning director Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father) recalls growing up in an eccentric 1960s Ireland family.

Are You Somebody: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O’Faolain (Owl Books) — Life reflections of respected Irish Times columnist recalls repression and the depression in 1940s and ’50s Dublin.

A Song for Mary: An Irish-American Memory by Dennis Smith (Warner Books) — Along the lines of Angela’s Ashes, but set in New York City.

Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (Touchstone Books) — Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of growing up in poverty in Ireland.

A Monk Swimming: A Memoir by Malachy McCourt (Hyperion) — Brother-of-Frank’s life after leaving Ireland involved TV acting, gold smuggling, womanizing and extensive use of alcohol.

Yesterday’s Ireland by Paddy Linehan (David & Charles) — In this well-illustrated and beautifully written book, Linehan reflects on growing up in 1940s and ’50s rural Ireland.

Midlife Irish: Discovering My Family and Myself by Frank Gannon (Warner Books) — Growing up a first-generation Irish-American (his parents were born in Ireland in the 1900s), Gannon knew very little about his parents’ experiences in their native country. So after their deaths, he traveled across the pond to learn more about the Emerald Isle and his heritage.

McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland by Pete McCarthy (Thomas Dunne Books) — Although McCarthy was born and raised in England, his mother was Irish, and he always felt a connection with her native country. So he set out along Ireland’s west coast — beginning in Cork and traveling north to Donegal — to “work out whether I was on some metaphysical level Irish, due to the collective genetic memory of my ancestors living on in the innermost reaches of my soul.”

Forgetting Ireland by Bridget Connelly (Borealis Books — A professional folklorist, Connelly recounts the strange discoveries she made while digging up her family’s past.

Irish Fiction

More Bread or I’ll Appear by Emer Martin (Houghton Mifflin) — An Irish mother dispatches the youngest of her brood of five to find the eldest daughter, missing for 15 years.

The Mammy (Agnes Browne series) by Brendan O’Carroll (Plume) — First of three installments about a young widow raising seven kids in working-class Dublin.

Tara Road by Maeve Binchy (Delacarte Press) — Irish divorce, e-mail, laptops and heroin addiction.

Charming Billy by Alice McDermott (Delta) — National Book Award-winner about a sensitive Irish-American who falls into alcoholism after his heart is broken by an Irish lass.

Irish Movies

Angela’s Ashes (1999) — Neither Emily Watson nor Robert Carlyle is Irish, and Rosie O’Donnell lost the race to play Frank McCourt’s mother.

Dancing at Lughnasa (1998) — Meryl Streep mastered a brogue in the movie version of the Tony Award-winning play about sisters living in dignified poverty in Ireland in the 1930s.

Waking Ned Devine (1998) — A whole village gets involved in a get-rich scheme when a resident dies before collecting his lottery winnings.

The General (1998) — Director John Boorman chronicles the notorious life of Dublin gangster Martin Cahill (Brendan Gleeson). Jon Voight co-stars.

The Butcher Boy (1997) — A disturbing Neil Jordan movie about a 12-year-old boy (Eamonn Owens) in 1960s Ireland who can’t control his rage.

The Boxer (1997) — Daniel Day-Lewis plays a former boxer and IRA man who tries to turn a Belfast gym into a demilitarized zone.

The Devil’s Own (1997) — Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford play IRA terrorist and Irish-American cop, respectively, whose crossed paths involve considerable violence.

The Van (1996) — Two Irishmen sell fish and chips out of a rundown van during the 1990 World Cup soccer tournament.

The Brothers McMullen (1995) — Ed Burns got on the Hollywood scoreboard with his story of three Irish-American brothers dealing with the curse of Catholic guilt.

Circle of Friends (1995) — Maeve Binchy’s tale of college life in 1950s Ireland stars Minnie Driver and Chris O’Donnell.

In the Name of the Father (1993) — Daniel Day-Lewis plays an Irishman falsely convicted of bombing a pub.

The Snapper (1993) — Colm Meaney is the head of an Irish household dealing with his teen daughter’s surprise pregnancy.

Far and Away (1992) — Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star as Irish immigrants who eventually ride west in search of free land.

The Crying Game (1992) — Stephen Rea gets a giant screen surprise in an otherwise-serious movie about The Troubles.

The Commitments (1991) — A northern Dublin rock band turns to soul. You can’t get the tunes out of your head.

Some of the information provided in this article originally appeared in the January 2000 (Patricia McMorrow) and April 2004 (Sharon DeBartolo Carmack) issues of Family Tree Magazine. is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. It provides a means for this site to earn advertising fees, by advertising and linking to Amazon and affiliated website.