News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. New free Irish General Register Office records online

    Yesterday was an exciting day in the genealogical world: Irish General Registration records became available online for free, via the website  Not just the indexes, but the images of these records as well.  Beforehand, once a likely indexed entry had been found, the documents itself had to be ordered from the relevant authorities.

    Now however, birth certificates for over 100 years ago, marriages for over 75 years ago, and deaths for over 50 years ago, are available to search and view online, at no cost.  Officially these are being launched tonight, although the search engine already appears to be up and running.

    And what a boon to research in Ireland this will be!  This is particularly the case when researching widespread surnames, where you may have found several possible birth certificates.  Instead of laboriously, and at some cost, ordering each certificate to see if it is relevant, it will be available online, at no cost.

    The search engine appears relatively easy to navigate, and we all look forward to tracing Irish family history in the future!

  2. Tips for researching Irish families in England

    Tracing family history in Ireland can be daunting, especially if the town, or even county, or origin is unknown.  An English census may simply read “Ireland” for the place of birth.

    A fire at the Public Record Office in 1922 destroyed most Irish census returns pre 1901, and if a family left Ireland prior to this, then this lack of records can be difficult to overcome.  As well as this, Irish General Registration only began in 1864, compared to 1837 in England.

    But there are ways to overcome these issues.  Firstly, find a person of Irish birth in as many censuses in England as possible: just one of these may give more information on place of birth.  If they lived until 1911 particularly, it is more likely that a precise place of birth would be given on this record.

    If both parents are born in Ireland, but they have children in England, buy the birth certificate of one of these children.  This should give the mother’s maiden surname, and this may lead to their marriage record in Ireland.  This could be essential if no specific place of origin is given in census returns in England.

    If these methods are fruitless, then the mid nineteenth century census substitute Griffith’s Valuation could help localise a surname.  This was taken between 1847-1864 in order to asses liability to pay the poor rate.  As such, it represents a useful resource where other genealogical records for the same period are lacking.

  3. General Registration around the world

    General Registration is where most people start when tracing their family tree.  English, Welsh and Irish records provide both parents names, including mothers’ maiden surnames, on birth certificates, as well as address and occupation of father (or sometimes mother is she is unmarried).  Marriage records give the age of parties, occupation, address and the father’s name and his occupation.  Death certificates provide an age, occupation and residence.

    Apart from additional information gleaned from witnesses or informants names, this tends to be the limit of information provided.  But when looking into General Registration, or vital records, of other countries, extra information can be given.

    In terms of the UK, Scottish General Registration is particularly useful, for marriage certificates also provide the mother’s name and maiden surname, and death certificates (should) give both parents’ full names.  This can be particularly useful if dealing with a death in the 1850s for example, of an elderly person perhaps in their 80s: if known, their parents names should be stated.

    When considering General Registration from further afield, again additional information is often given when compared to English records.  Australian and New Zealand certificates include place of birth on marriage and death certificates, as well as place of birth of the parents on birth certificates.  This information is invaluable, particularly due to the large number of incomers to these countries in the nineteenth century.

    Other countries with particularly good civil registration records, include Holland.  So if you find links to other countries, investigate their records of civil registration and see what additional information can be found.

  4. Potato famine in Scotland

    The Irish Potato Famine began in 1845, and soon spread to Scotland.  In 1846 after the failure of the potato crop, destitution boards were set up to raise money for people in the Highlands and Islands who were faced with starvation.

    The records of these boards are held in The National Records of Scotland [series HD] and date from 1847 to 1852 and name those given food, financial aid or were found work. The records can include details such as name, age and occupation of each family and may also include the number of children or names and ages of the whole family.

    The progress of the destitution boards, and minutes of their meetings, were also recorded in newspapers at the time.

    For example, a report of October 1847 stated that there was still “hope for an early and plentiful harvest”, but that “a few weeks of boisterous weather, and the appearance of the blight in the potatoes, gave some cause for apprehension”.  It then followed that “the continuance of rain and wind in that district throughout the whole month of September has materially injured the grain crop”.

    Together these records document a very difficult period in the history of the Highlands and Islands, which eventually led to a large amount of emigration from the area.

  5. Missing birth records?

    There can be all sorts of reasons why a birth certificate cannot be found within records of General Registration.  The GRO was set up in 1837, and was the first time all births, marriages and deaths were systematically recorded by a non-religious body.

    But sometimes entries, particularly births, may not be forthcoming despite careful searches.  It could be that a birth was not registered, which is more likely in the earlier years of civil registration.  However, before concluding that this is the case, it is important to make sure that all possible scenarios are covered.

    Was the birth registered with a variant spelling, of the forename or surname?  For example the name Smith could be rendered Smyth or Smythe.  And Ann could be Anna, Annie or Anne.  Using the wildcard option within search engines can help find spelling variants.

    Did the birth take place prior to the parents marriage?  In this case, it would probably be recorded under the mother’s maiden surname.

    Check the dates searched – was your ancestor a little older, or younger, than later records suggest?

    Was your ancestor born outside of England or Wales, such as in Scotland, Ireland or even farther afield?

    Using these tips, searches of civil registration can be made a comprehensive as possible.



December 2018
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