Irish Gathering 2013

Ancestry Research, Stories from the Irish and The 2013 Festivities of the Gathering in Ireland!

Joyce & Goulding Wedding 1943

An Irish Family Tree, from Root to Bud


Researching your ancestry is one of the most interesting and rewarding things you can do. It can be both a vocation and a pastime to a researcher. My Father Derek Joyce instilled a love of Genealogy in me from a very young age. He researched as a pastime and I became enthralled with watching the family tree expand. For my father it was relatively easy. Being a grand nephew of James Joyce, most of the work was already done. However, he continued to joyfully track down his family tree right back to the 14th century. For many others it is not so easy.

Joyce & Goulding Wedding 1943

Joyce & Goulding Wedding 1943

Through Irish immigration and diaspora, connections have been severed, letters have been lost and family histories have been forgotten in dusty attics.

It is my belief that those researching their Irish ancestry should be allowed to do so for free. Some companies do amazing work in compiling and restoring databases and I understand why they must charge to cover their costs. However, there are many websites which charge researchers for online databases which are already free. I do not believe this is justified and so I have listed below a number of databases where information on your families past can be obtained without the added charges of a “middle man”. If you can suggest any other free databases which you feel may be helpful to fellow researchers please email me and I would be delighted to add it to the list below.

Happy hunting!

Sabrina Joyce-Kemper
March 17th 2012

Ancestry Online Searches:

1. Irish Church Records of Births, Marriages and Deaths pre 1900.
The information (in some cases burial records) was recorded by the clergy in ledgers, the pages of which have been scanned in and a searchable database put online. The basic search fields are first name, last name, location and date of ceremony. If you have an address or parish you can also browse the database by location and view all records for that parish area.

Tip: As the records were handwritten some entries may be illegible or difficult to discern. This means that they may have been misspelled in the online database. So if your first search returns nothing try variations of the spelling.

2. Irish Census Records 1901 and 1911
In Ireland there are two census years available to search online 1901 and 1911. (All records before 1901 were destroyed, by either being pulped due to a shortage in paper at the time (a travesty!) or they were burned in the fire at the public record office at the beginning of the civil war. You can search forename, surname, county, town land-street, District Electoral Divisions, age and sex. The info returned tells you where the person lived and who shared the house with them, their age, occupation and literacy. You can also see who lived on the same street as your ancestor.

Tip: (In many cases people married close to home so if uncle Patrick Donoghue was single in 1911 but you know he married Mary Reynolds a year or two later check to see if a family of Reynolds lived on that road.)

3. National Archives
You could literally end up with anything when you search on this site. The search is very general in that you can enter any search term; a name, a place, an event whatever you can think of. Any reference the national archives have with that search term will come up. This could include wills, petitions to local authorities, court judgments, job appointments its very random but interesting. Some results will have scanned copies of the documents, those that don’t would have to be viewed in the national archives via appointment.

4. Ireland Cemetery Records
Again a big thank you must be given to the historians and volunteers who have compiled these lists of inscriptions from various cemeteries around Ireland in their own time. If you know where your ancestors resided then perhaps they have a family plot in the local cemetery. This is a very easy way to trace the generations.

5. Passenger Lists
Passenger list of ships leaving Ireland can be very helpful in tracing where your ancestor emigrated to and the date that they arrived. You can also see who their fellow passengers were on the journey. There are hundreds of databases worldwide. Most compiled by volunteers. There is a large collection of lists and databases put together by private individuals and historical societies spanning nearly four centuries. The majority of searches are free. If you know the name of the ship or the year your ancestor travelled this can be very helpful.

6. Ellis Island Immigrants
Search lists of all US immigrants (Irish Emigrants) that went through Ellis Island. This is a free service and you can get info on the date of arrival/ name of residence in US (if provided by passenger) and age of passenger upon arrival, however if you wish to view more detailed information they do ask that you register with your name and email address.

7. Griffiths Valuation
Overseen by Richard Griffith, this was the first full scale property valuation in Ireland precursor to the rates offices. It was published between 1847-1864. The very least information that you need is a surname. The more info you have the better. Information provided includes tenant details landlord details, townland and district information. You can also view the original printed pages from the Griffith valuation books.

8. Prison and Court Records
Was your ancestor a bit of a scoundrel or a martyr for the Irish cause? You can do a free search on the above website with just a surname to see if they show up in prison or public records. The free search will give first name, surname, status, year of committal, prison name and prison county. If you wish to have a detailed report you must sign up and buy credits. However the free info may be enough to ascertain why your ancestor dropped off the face of the earth for a while.

9. Index of Irish Wills 1484 – 1858
Although the main documents were destroyed in the fire of 1922, historians at Trinity college and the national archives have worked hard to recreate the index. You can do a free search at the above link, which will give you first name, last name, year will lodged, county and information source. For more detailed information you must sign up and buy credits.
Cork and Ross area Will Index 1548-1800 pdf copies. Free information. There is also a wealth of other information of this website for those with Cork roots, including an Index of Marriage Bonds Licenses 1623 to 1750, a list of Cork city DED’s and a list of  it’s alleys and lanes.
Northern Ireland diocese will index. Again information is free, only the index survives and no other documentation is available.

10. Social Security Death Index
This information database is more for discovering emigrants in the early 1900’s to the US or their descendants. The Index lists all people in the US who died with a social security number from 1962 (i.e. if they were there illegally this may not help you). The info provided is first name, last name date of birth, date of death, social security number and area where they resided. The information is free.

Please note: take no responsibility for content on external websites.


  1. Hi Sabrina

    I have started a website where I am collecting information about Joyce’s from around the world. I would be grateful for any links or information on Joyces – biographies, obituaries, family stories – that people may wish to contribute.

    The site is and whilst very much a work in progress if you can help publicise it I’d be grateful.

    I am also interested in encouraging others to pursue their own DNA genealogy in the hope that we can tie the Joyce diaspora together.

    Laurie Joyce
    Cranbourne North

  2. Hi Slowly getting into this fascinating field
    -My father Michael Joyce was born in Fermoy Co.Cork , a stone mason by trade as his father .James Joyce ‘s ancestors were also in this trade in the Cork area .
    I gather his Gt.Great grandmother was a McCann from Ulster
    Now here is the interesting part !!!
    My mother was Susan Heaney , Aunt of The late Gt. Seamus Heaney. Poet , Nobel Prize winner for Literature . Hence my cousin
    Seamus Heaneys mother was also McCann from Ulster .
    Could there be a connection with the Joyce Clan ?
    Would that not make an amazing story .
    I would welcome your thoughts , ideas , suggestions on how I find out more

    • Hi Patricia. Sabrina Here. Ironically my maternal grandmother was a McCann so i have Joyce on my fathers side and McCanns on my mothers. I will research the Joyce side to see if i can fina a link!! We may be related!

      • Hello Sabrina-Hope this finds you well and still searching .
        Wondered if you had any more news re’ the Joyce /McCann. Connection ?
        Smiles Patricia Joyce

  3. My grand mother who has passed away told my sister that she was Jame Joyce’s 2nd cousin. She was from Galway. I don’t have a clue if this is true. So far, two distant cousins with the last name of Joyce have showed up as cousins on 23 & Me. Does anyone have family trees from all of Jame’s Joyces brother’s and sisters? Thanks.

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