6 Favourite Online Irish Heritage Resources.

Here are just six of our favourite Irish Heritage resousources.

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6 Favourite Online Irish Heritage Resources.

Today we’re going to do some “heavy lifting” – but in a nice and useful way. One of the things we wanted when we started Your Irish Heritage was to go “beyond Genealogy”.

Let me explain. Sheila Cotter is one of our readers and I noticed from one of her questions. She is finding it difficult to find specific details on her Cotter relatives before they left Ireland:

“Mike, my relatives left Ireland in 1892. Is there a census before 1911? Where?”

Maybe you can hear her frustration in that sentence too?

It seems that many of the people who enjoy what we do are also excellent part-time detectives. Maybe you have all the records for all the Irish ancestors in your family? Or maybe, like Sheila,  you’ve hit a brick wall or two – joined an “ancestry site” or talked to a genealogist for some help.

But here at Your Irish Heritage we aim to look at the bigger picture – we aim beyond Genealogy. We look at the Tribes and surnames of Ireland – their homelands, customs and histories. We look at culture and heritage – the customs, ideas and language that have built up over many centuries.

And with this perspective you get a rich backdrop for the facts and lives of your individual ancestors.

So this week, I have put together a list of 6 internet resources that I use all the time to answer questions on A Letter from Ireland. Have a look at them – play with them – maybe you have used them already?

At the end of the post – I invite you to share any resources you have found useful in the past.

Ready to go?

Back to Sheila as we’ll take the example of the surname “Cotter” (Sheilas ancestors) to help us along the way.

1. Surname Database

You can find it at:

I find this database quite useful to give a quick insight into a name – especially when that name has both English and Irish origins. In this case, it tells us that while Cotter is an English name – it is also found in the Isle of Man AND County Cork:

“Here it is an anglicization of the Gaelic “Mac Oitir”, Son of Oitir, a personal name from the Old Norse “Otti”, fear, or dread and “herr” army.”

Does this mean Cotter is a Viking name? Maybe it is – but it really tells us that when surnames were set in place, this group decided to take a name after a distinguished ancestor who had a Viking first name. In the 800s – 1200s there was quite a lot of intermarriage between the Gaels and the Vikings – specially close to the Viking towns of Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Limerick – and in this case – Cork.

2. Irish Surnames and Counties at JohnGrenham Dot Com.

You can find it at:


This is like a “Companion piece” to number 1. If you go to this link and search for the name “Cotter” – it will show you the distribution of all the Cotters throughout the counties from the Primary Valuation property survey of 1847-64. In this case we see there were 450 Cotter households in County Cork at this time (Sheila’s Cotters were from Cork).

I use this page all the time when answering surname questions as a quick check on how the name has moved over the centuries – as most surnames start off in one or two particular areas.

3. Ireland History in Maps.

You can find it at:

Beware of this one! You may spend more time here than you meant!!!

This is a fascinating project – goving a lot of historical information in a way that is nice and visual.

If you are looking for information concerning surnames – you need to start with the 1100ad map at the earliest. This is time surnames started to develop in Ireland.

On the right side of the screen – you will also see a “Surname” menu. Cotter is a Gaelic Surname what is based around a Viking first name – and if you look down through http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlkik/ihm/irenames.htm – you’ll see it there as “Mac Oitir – (Mac) Cotter” – and it also gives the county/region you are most likely to find this surname.

Maybe you see your own name here?

4. Irish Castles Map.

You can find it at:

This is an interesting site – and I use it to check on which families owned which castles (this usually covers the time period from 1200 – 1650).

You can also type in a Surname at http://www.irishorigenes.com/clans-castles-database and it will give the locations of the castles associated with that name. Taking the surname Cotter as an example, we get 2 castles in the east part of County Cork:

  1. Ballymaccotter Castle
  2. Coppingerstown Castle

Were these relatives of Sheilas? Maybe. This information does give us where the actual powerbase of the Cotters were in the late medieval period – they had lands here that were worth defending with castles – and this often gives us a clue about the homelands of the clan.

But later (specially for Gaelic families) – they were dispersed to many other locations following increased plantation.

5. Online Irish Census.

You can find it at:

There are two census currently available online – 1901 and 1911 (and these are as old as it gets online). For me – this gives a snapshot of the maximum dispersion of a family surname up to almost modern times.

While Sheilas own exact ancestors had left the country by this time (they left in the 1880s) – the chances are that many of the Cotters remaining are relatives in townlands and districts near to her own homestead.

And many people with family links remain to this day for contact (e.g. through the Ireland Reaching Out project – Google it).

Here is a way to use the census:

Go to http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/

– Census Year: 1901
– Surname: Cotter
– County: Cork

and we come up with 1989 individuals called Cotter in County Cork in 1901. I normally sort according to DED (Electoral Districts) and get a feel for the people of that name in the areas I’m searching.

6. A Letter from Ireland (Bonus!!!).

Where you are right now!

Now I’m almost losing sight of another important resource. Since we started the Letter from Ireland Blog – we have been answering lots of questions and the answers are there for you to search.

All you need to do is see the “Search Box” at the side of the page? Just put in the surname or county you are looking for – and you will find lots of articles and questions related to that item on the blog. AND – you can add to the information by leaving your own question or comment at the end of each post.

So thats it – thats my top 5 online resources to head to when I want to answer a questions about Irish surnames, castles and counties.

Now, 2 Questions For You:

1. What are YOUR favourite online resources for learning generally about your Irish Ancestry (e.g. like the resources shown above)?

2. What is your favourite resource for finding out specific details about your family (e.g. Ancestry.com, a specific genealogist etc.)?

Slán for now, Mike.

  • William Perkins says:

    I like rootsireland, because in my case I was able to pinpoint my ancestors’ parish through their marriage and then trace them back a couple of generations. Griffiths and the Tithe Applotment at the National Archives were also helpful. http://titheapplotmentbooks.nationalarchives.ie/search/tab/home.jsp
    Ancestry was great for searching the US census for info like # of years married, approximate birth dates, common family given names, neighbors who might be relatives or someone from the same part of Ireland, etc.

  • Anne Marie says:

    I primarily use Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. On Facebook I have Irish Genealogical Society and Ireland Family History. When I comment on the FB on the latter two I sometimes have gotten answers to the questions I posted or a direction where to go to get help with the answer…..and of course Your Irish Heritage.

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for sharing Anne Marie. Mike.

    • Rebecca Mitchell says:

      Thank You Anne Marie, I checked out FamilySearch.org and was able to learn twice as much in a fraction of the time. I even took the info I found to google earth and printed out a satellite photo of the town my Great Grandfather was born to give to my mom. Also thanks to you Irish Heritage for making it possible by publishing this website. Rebecca

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for sharing Anne Marie! Mike.

  • Joan says:

    Interesting story which involves finding a relative who may have gone into the clergy or had become a nun. Two of my Irish aunts became nuns and my uncle knew one had immigrated to the United States and the other to Liverpool. I wrote directly to the Sisters of Bon Secours order in Pennsylvania and actually gave them a present I certainly didn’t know what I giving. My Aunt Josephine did return to Ireland and spent her last days there. Her sister was the right-hand assistant to James Connolly, Winifred Carney. So, we have two nuns, a gunslinger and four brothers. Her brother was my grandfather.

    While I have many of the sites you mention, I also suggest writing the nunneries as they all have Archivists. The census I sent the Sisters was one I found on Ancestry.

    The email below is a reply from Sister Mary Shimo.

    How wonderful……..

    Am going to forward this census sheet to Sr. Anne Lutz to enjoy.

    Sr. Mary Shimo

    From: Herbert, Mary
    Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2011 9:02 AM
    To: Joan Austin
    Cc: Shimo, Mary
    Subject: RE: Thank You: Searching for my Aunt Mabel Carney (aka: Sister Josephine)

    Dear Ms. Kaneshiro,

    You have given the Sisters a Christmas gift in the 1930 Census page you sent!

    I see from the Census page the street address for St. Francis Country House changed over time. You are probably aware this happened more frequently than we realize as the U.S. postal system evolved. I only mention it to be sure your search both addresses if you don’t find her again in the 1940 Census under the 1500 address (noted in the 1930 Census).

    Our Sisters were not serving at St. Francis Country House until August of 1920 so they would not be listed in the 1920 Census (which should have been taken in April of that year).

    However, you may wish to read more about our ministries in Darby, PA, in our USA history book at: http://bonsecours.org/us/archives-usa/Century_of_Caring-LOW-signed-secure.pdf
    Use the search function for the word: Darby. Or, go to page 137 in the book (page 164 of the digital version.) Unfortunately, your great aunt is not mentioned.

    With all the blessings of the Christmas Season,
    Mary H.

    Mary E. Herbert, C.A.
    Special Collections Archivist
    Sisters of Bon Secours USA Archives
    1525 Marriottsville Rd Room S300
    Marriottsville MD 21104-1301


    From: Joan Austin
    Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2011 12:20 AM
    To: Herbert, Mary
    Cc: Shimo, Mary;
    Subject: Thank You: Searching for my Aunt Mabel Carney (aka: Sister Josephine)
    Importance: High

    Dear Ms. Herbert, Ms. Shimo and Sr. Johnmarie,

    I am very excited as I think you have located my Aunt Josephine! The photo you sent looks very much like her and I have sent it onto my uncle. Attached is a 1930 census showing where she ministered, as a nurse, in Darby, PA at the St. Francis Country House. My aunt is listed on line #4. Thank you so much for information on the St. Francis Country House. I will continue my search there.

    You have been very kind to take time out of your day to help me and I further appreciate you sending my information onto your Bon Secours Archivist.

    May the Lord richly bless each of you during this Christmas season and always,

    Joan Kaneshiro

    From: “Herbert, Mary”
    Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:44:13 -0500
    Cc: “Shimo, Mary” ,
    Subject: RE: Searching for my Aunt Mabel Carney (aka: Sister Josephine)

    Dear Ms. Kaneshiro,

    Thank you for contacting the Sisters of Bon Secours United States Archives with your family history query.

    Unfortunately, the only reference to your great aunt, Sr. Josephine Carney (nee: Mabel) is the name Sr. Josephine on the reverse of a photograph taken in Darby, Pennsylvania. The date of the photograph is unknown and I cannot say for certain this is your great aunt. We did have another Sr. Josephine ministering in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s.

    If the second Sister from the left in the photo I am attaching is your great aunt, she was serving in Darby, Pennsylvania at St. Francis Country House. While our Sisters of Bon Secours are no longer associated with this ministry, I offer you the address: 1412 Lansdowne Avenue, Darby, PA. When the 1940 USA Census is released you may wish to search for our Bon Secours Sisters and/or Josephine/Mabel Carney at this address.

    I showed your photographs to our older Sisters and they did not recognize your great aunt. Would you happen to know where the photographs you sent to us were taken? In the United States or Ireland perhaps?

    I am cc:ing the Archivist for our Sisters of Bon Secours in Ireland in case she can discover any information for you.

    Best wishes with your research.

    With prayers for a blessed Christmas season,
    Mary Herbert

    Mary E. Herbert, C.A.
    Special Collections Archivist
    Sisters of Bon Secours USA Archives
    1525 Marriottsville Rd Room S300
    Marriottsville MD 21104-1301


    From: Joan Austin
    Sent: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 1:21 AM
    To: CBSArchives
    Subject: Searching for my Aunt Mabel Carney (aka: Sister Josephine)


    I am searching for my great aunt Mabel Carney who served with the Sisters of Bon Secour in Pennsylvania sometime in the 1940’s. She took the name Josephine when she joined the Order. She was born about in about 1886 in Ireland and her nephew, John Carney, tells me he used to visit her on many occasions along with her brother Louis Emanual Carney. I have attached a several photos of Sister Josephine, the last showing her brother, Louis, on the right, and her nephews John Carney and Louis P. Carney in the background. Is there anyway you could give me any information about my aunt?

    Thank you so very much.

    With kindest personal regards,


  • Anne Marie says:

    Thanks William Perkins for the link you provided. I knew that my paternal gggrandfather and family were from Balrothery, Balbriggan now I can see that he payed the “tithe.” Knowing my family was not a part of the “Church of Ireland” I am sure it was handed over tight fisted.

  • Terry Lee Reid says:

    I hope one day to find my gggrandfather’s parents etc etc he is James A. Reid born Nov 2, 1798 in Ireland some how I got his suppoed place of birth as Dublin, Leinster, Ireland he left Londonderry on the Irish ship ” Robert Burns ” landed in port of New York May 30, 1823 his first wife was Nancy Agnes Williamson they had 2 sons born in Belfast,Ireland. I have been looking for his parents for 10 years one day I might get lucky…..

  • Bridget Murphy says:

    Mike- I love your site, thank you! I use Ancestry and FamilySearch but when looking for Irish church records I use http://churchrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/

    • Mike says:

      Hi Bridget – thanks for sharing that resource. Very useful! Mike.

    • Jane says:

      These are great resources Mike and thanks so much for listing them. I also agree that the churchrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/ is excellent. That was how I found my gggrandmother’s records, learned who her parents were – and sponsors and saw the actual written record. For general information on the clans and their origins, I’ve found this site very helpful : http://www.battleofclontarf.net/clans-of-ireland-at-the-battle-of-clontarf/the-e%C3%B3ganachta-tribe-and-their-clans/3453. If you have a strong constitution and want to know what conditions were like in about 1845 in various parts of Ireland, including the SW, I found this description by an American woman who came to see for herself what things were like for the Irish. It’s heartbreaking though. I bought an online copy for very little money from libraryireland.com “Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger,
      Or, An Excursion Through Ireland, in 1844 & 1845” by Asenath Nicholson. It may take a few days to shake your sadness and shock after reading parts of it.
      How strong our ancestors were to have survived such treatment and conditions. I also like irishorigenes.com The genetic geneologist who set it up has created wonderful maps and he gives a free consult if you have your DNA tested.

  • Kathy P says:

    My favorites are ancestry.com, rootsireland.ie and findmypast.com. You have to pay for all of these but I have broken many a brick wall using them. I will also just google or yahoo my surnames, with counties and dates and see if I get any hits. A few times, I did!!

    At this point, I am also reading books on the Famine and taking Irish classes that have given me very useful websites that have also helped me find my families, like the census records, tithe applotments and griffith’s valuation. With the griffith’s I also have looked up the landlords of my families through land records to see if I can find anything else on them. It has really put me in the middle of Irish history and I’m finding it fascinating.

    • Mike says:

      Now that’s a full-on approach Kathy – I think Genealogist training may be next for you! Mike.

      • Kathy says:

        Hey Mike,
        Just applied for a Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies at the College where I work. I can focus on different disciplines to study and will then tie them all together in my thesis. My primary focus will be history, US and Irish to help me with my genealogy. I’m also hoping to be able to do some classes in Irish folklore and legends (I have loved leprechauns and banshees since I was little after seeing Darby O’Gill).
        Will keep you posted on how it goes!

        • admin says:

          Thats fantastic Kathy – best of luck with your application. Sounds like the expert factor will be increasing in the Green Room! Mike.

  • Kathie Garnham says:

    Hi Mike,
    I use Ancestry.com & also Roots Ireland, Find My Past,
    I am liking Roots Ireland at the moment as they have now gone to a yearly subscription basis & I have been able to find relatives I was unable to find before because of the cost. Like Kathy above I also Google names

  • Kathleen Maley says:

    How common is name O’Malley in Mayo?

  • Kathleen Maley says:

    How common is O’Malley in Mayo?

  • Lynn goucher says:

    Interesting article! I’m learning so much about my irish heritage from you Michael. Truthfully I never felt any connection to Ireland at all. …. Probably bc they left during the famine and had such sad lives. It’s nice to learn about my ancestry. I’m a newbie and have a lot of work ahead of me. Lynn

  • Margaret Winter says:

    My grandfather was born in Londonderry in the1800s.his name is David Patrick Harkin,is it a common name.We believe he jumped ship when he came to Australia and spoke very little of his past.

  • Patricia Foster says:

    I am looking for information on John Mulleen, Catherine Prendeville, I have their marriage record, they were married in Fermoy, Cork, Ireland, Dec. 19, 1851. only the fathers are listed on this marriage record, Hardy Mulleen and Thomas Prendeville.
    Also looking for my other g grandfather and g grandmother John Gleason and Mary Sullivan also from County Cork.
    Also looking for information on James Green and Catherine Rafter, they were married in Kilkenny, Ireland on Nov. 1, 1820

  • Lonnie O'Bannan says:

    Hi well it is on here but, my name is Lonnie O’Bannan. I live in Wa state. my 6th grear-grandparent was Bryan O’Bannon he was born in Tipperary Ireland in 1675. The O’Bannon’s

    had leap castle 1683. When they came to the states they came to Fauqier Virginia. I would love to know more about the O’Bannon in the early day of Ireland, or if there are any O’Bannon that stell live in Ireland that may talk with me. Thank’s for your time. Lonnie

  • Jenni Ibrahim says:

    I have used http://www.irishgenealogy.ie a LOT. This ROI government portal covers Tithes, Griffiths, a fair number of indexed parish records from certain counties (including images for many), wills, military, etc. And it’s all free.
    I also like Ireland Reaching Out http://www.irelandxo.ie which connects you with local heritage centres in the parishes or counties you are interested in. people are so helpful and kind there.

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  • Marie Davies says:

    Family surname CAHALANE from Cork got back as far as 1857 when Jeremiah married Catherine Hayes and had six children .Can’t seem to get back any further.

  • paul mulvaney in New Zealand says:

    Dia duit.

    Can someone assist with the Watson surname from County Carlow?.

    There are several John Watson but we need his ship passage from Ireland to Australia later to NZ.

  • Eileen Murphy says:

    A very interesting tool to trace ancestors is by having a DNA sample taken. I use family tree DNA, which actually pinpointed by grandfather’s parents to Co. Limerick. Grandad was born Gortboy Workhouse in Newcastlewest, Co Limerick in 1893. His father’s name was on the birth certificate as a John Curtin. DNA traced my brother’s DNA to along the river Feale, which was the correct area in which my great grandmother worked and lived. They also connected the DNA to a Curtin line.

  • Thank you so much for opening a new window for me, in my research for my Irish roots. My Irish ancestors immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1600’s, prior to the time period when most of the written records were available. Through the website above (http://tinyurl.com/c82qkl4), I realize now that I will probably not be able to find written documents for my Regan ancestors. But, I will not give up trying! All of the various links provided by your readers here, and by your own favorite online resources, have added to my arsenal of research tools.
    Again, many thanks for your willingness to share with others!

  • maureen richter says:

    oops- spelling error~ it’s supposed to be

  • Margaret Mitchell Bernard says:

    Hi Mike – very new to your site as I am waiting on my very first Irish newsletter from you this coming Sunday. I would like to say that two of the resources I have found very useful for those searching in Quebec Canada : My folks or as it is written in French Mes Aieux. The documents are in French but give all the information you need about your ancestor including mother and father’s names in the case of Baptisms or marriages. Ancesty.ca is also an excellent site I find. Looking forward to finding out where my Kellys and McDavitts came from.
    À la prochaine

  • Sharo says:

    I am so glad r have found a helpful ste. I’m brand new at this, but hopeful! Thanks for the boost of information and enthusiasm.

  • These sites sound wonderful. I can’t wait to start using them.

    Even though my name does not sound even a wee bit Irish, suffice it to say that my Mom’s maiden name was Hanahoe (I believe from County Mayo) and my Dad’s mother’s maiden name was Leahey (Fermoy (I think), County Cork)). A few more County Cork names are Hireen or Hyrene, or Hirene and Coleman.

  • Dr. Thomas Mack Crossland, PhD says:

    Good morning, Mike. I recently have completed an extensive research on my last name “Crossland”. Now, I want to research a bit of my Irish background. My grandmother was “Molly” Doyle. Her mother and father came on a ship from Dublin about 1845-1847.
    They docked at New Orleans, Louisiana, and hen traversed the Arkansas River to a town called “Fort Smith, Arkansas”. There was a Catholic settlement in Ft. Smith, and there she was born along with her brothers. Her father’s name was Mike….but not sure of her mothers name—I am still digging. I was not privy to her ancestry, but am interested to know and find out more. Thanks for all you do to help folks like me.

  • Katrina K Lunsford says:

    I am just getting started here and am waiting on my first newsletter this upcoming Sunday. I have/am using most of the resources mentioned and have a subscription to MyHeritage (basically Ancestry) it enables me to have overseas searching. I am about to get started on the search links you have suggested and I am excited to see what it does for me. I have had brick walls for over a decade, mostly due to the lack of information I have on certain ancestors. It’s like trying to get water from a rock. I will post on the blog again, once I have done some research to let you know what I have found and hopefully my success.

  • ピューレパールは口コミで話題のワキの黒ずみ専用薬用ジェルです。腋毛を剃ったり、抜いたりしたとき必ず肌にダメージが残ります。それが原因でメラニン色素が増えて、黒ずみになってしまいます。黒ずみを無くすためにはたっぷりと潤いを与えることが大事です。そして美白の成分を補うことが大切になります。そ







    あります。スキンケア、正しい順番で使っていますか?もしその順番が間違っているなら、効果が得られないかもしれません。 肌に水分を与えます。もし、美容液を使うときは化粧水の後になり

















  • lasertest says:

    Very good information. Lucky me I ran across your site by chance (stumbleupon).

    I have book marked it for later!