80th Anniversary Archive Project Now Closed to Submissions

Thank you to everyone who responded to our 80th Anniversary Archive project by sending us your stories of a favourite Irish born ancestor. Submissions to the project are now closed.

Smyrl#5We were delighted to receive stories from all over the world, reciting tales of ancestors lives. Some lives were lived, and told, briefly but brightly whilst the lives of others stretched into old age, often as the head of extended families growing up far from their Irish roots, their stories enriched with many side tales of family lore and even precious pictures.

We will be working on assembling the stories into themed chapters and publishing them in batches on a special section of our website in the coming months, available to all.

Not an IGRS member? Why not Become a Member today?

Terrence Punch and Zita Kelly Elected Honorary Life Members

In January 2017 the Society’s governing Council decided that one of the final events to mark the Society’s 80th anniversary would be to elect two Honorary Life Members from among the Society’s membership. The candidates would be two long-standing members, who have, individually, made a significant contribution not only to the Society over a very long period, but to Irish genealogy at large.

Accordingly, the Society is delighted to announce that the recipients of this honour are Dr Terrence Punch, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and Miss Zita Kelly, London, United Kingdom

Terry Punch Order of Canada

Terrence Punch with David Johnston, the 28th Governor General of Canada, on being made a Member of the Order of Canada in September 2011.

Dr Terrence Punch, CM, is a well-known long-standing Canadian speaker, teacher and writer on genealogy and history. Terry joined the IGRS in 1959 and since then has always been a very regular contributor to the Society’s journal, The Irish Genealogist. He holds masters and doctoral degrees from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada. His thesis at Dalhousie University discussed the Irish adaptation to Halifax from 1815 to 1871. He has held the chair of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia, the Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes, and the Charitable Irish Society, is a Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and a former trustee of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. He is resident genealogist for CBC Maritime Noon, a live radio phone-in.

Among Terry’s numerous publications are: Irish Halifax: The Immigrant Generation, 1815-1859, Sons of Erin in Nova Scotia, Genealogical Research in Nova Scotia (4 editions), and four volumes of Erin’s Sons: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada, 1761-1853. He edited The Genealogist’s Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research, and is a regular columnist in The Canadian History Magazine, Saltscapes and the Seniors’ Advocate, and has twice won awards for historical writing from the Canadian Authors Association. His latest book, Some Early Scots in Maritime Canada was launched in May 2011.

He was elected a Fellow of the IGRS in 2009. In the 2011 New Year’s Honours List, Terrence was appointed to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour. The citation accompanying the award particularly notes “his contributions to the development and popularization of genealogy in the Atlantic provinces” of Canada.

Zita Kelly joined the Society in 1979 and has achieved a lifetime of contribution to the promotion and study of Irish genealogy. She is widely known as a most methodical, conscientious and extremely knowledgeable Irish genealogist, one with an enormous depth of understanding of the available resources, particularly those held by the National Archives of Ireland, National Library of Ireland and the Registry of Deeds. Without doubt, the Society recognises her as a genealogist who not only wears her knowledge lightly, but one who has always been ready and willing to assist others.

She was the Honorary Secretary of the Society from 1986 until 1991. She very efficiently looked after library users and dealt with library visitor inquiries over a period of many years. In addition, she undertook voluntary work for members in the Registry of Deeds in Dublin, as well as in the National Library, Dublin, and in the British Library’s Newspaper Library, London. In 1991, Zita was elected a Fellow of the Society.

In announcing these two Honorary Life Memberships, the Society’s chairman, Steven Smyrl, said: “2016 was a terrific year for the IGRS, one in which it celebrated its 80th anniversary. This milestone was marked with a number of high profile events and launches held over the year. Given this, it seemed so fitting that we should complete these celebrations by recognising the work of two of our stalwart members; two people who have generously given so much of their time and expertise to Irish genealogy and genealogists over so many years. 

On behalf of the whole Society, may I offer hearty congratulations on this fitting recognition of the work of both Terrence and Zita; their lifetime of contribution to the promotion and study of Irish genealogy.”

Not an IGRS member? Why not Become a Member today?


Early Irish BMD Indexes Swell to Quarter of a Million Names

Great news for anyone seeking their elusive Irish ancestors! There’s been another huge update to the IGRS’ Early Irish Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes, bringing the total number of names noted to just over a quarter of a million!

The latest update of 9,000 new BMD events brings the total combined record count to just over 120,000 individual entries, comprising 22,000 births (noting 47,500 names), 82,500 marriages (182,700 names) and 15,500 deaths (22,000 names). The total number of names runs to 252,000.


Record relating to James Carey, born in 1844. (c) Society of Genealogists

A significant portion of these are culled from the British Civil Service Evidence of Age Index. While it isn’t surprising that evidence of as many as 1,420 births and 1,227 marriages have been gleaned from this resource, it has also proved to be a source for deaths – this update includes 17 references. In the absence of formal written records, friends and neighbours often provided a sworn statement as to their knowledge of the applicant’s age.  In the case of James Carey, born in Clonoulty, Co Tipperary, in 1844, his neighbour, Patrick Tierney, writing some 22 years later, confirmed James’ date of birth as 7th January 1844, commenting: “I can declare to same from the fact that my father died on said day.” If you find an entry pointing to the British Civil Service Evidence of Age Index then follow this up by checking the original record to obtain the full details. These can be found on the website of the Society of Genealogists.

Another source drawn upon for this latest update are Church of Ireland Marriage Licence Bonds. Roz McCutcheon, the Society’s coordinator for the Early Irish BMD Index project, said: “Although generally only the indexes remain to Marriage Licence Bonds, they are nevertheless a primary source, and include a surprising number of Catholic marriages.  I have recently come across some papers, while cataloguing at the Society of Genealogists in London, which include full abstracts of some early marriages in the Dioceses of Ferns & Derry. Thus, whereas my previous entry for the Ferns marriage of Henry Haughton showed him marrying Catherine Cavanagh in or after 1682, the new additional information from the abstracts notes the exact date of the bond was 10th June 1682, and that the couple were both from Co Wexford, that Catherine was a spinster, living at Polemounly, while Henry was from Ballyane.”

drogheda-argus-5-aug-1843Finally, the death index has been boosted too by 3,260 records noted from newspapers.“It is surprising that newspapers are still a much underutilised source for biographical information” said Steven Smyrl, Chairman of the IGRS. “In particular, notices of death become more common from the 1830s onwards as the middle classes begin to grow in strength and numbers“, he said. As the months roll on, it is hoped to add many more entries to the database culled from newspapers, proving that despite the great loss of 1922, there still remain many untapped sources for Irish genealogists to explore.

Access to the Early Irish Marriage Index is completely free. The Early Irish Birth and Death Indexes are members’ only resources, although everyone is able to access the corresponding free surnames indexes:

See here for: Marriage Index, Birth Index and Death Index.

Not an IGRS member? Why not Become a Member today?

Evensong at St Patrick’s Cathedral To Mark IGRS’ 80th Anniversary

All are invited to join with members of the Irish Genealogical Research Society for evensong at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, on Sunday, 4th December, at 3.15pm (sharp!).

st-patricks-cathedralAs part of the celebrations marking the Society’s 80th anniversary, that Sunday’s evensong service will be dedicated as a thanksgiving for the lives of former officers and members who have served the Society since its foundation in 1936. The preacher will be the Rev Dr Christopher Richards, a former officer of the Society.

After the service, there will be an opportunity to meet with other members of the Society at the Long Hall bar, 51 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2.long-hall-bar

Details about getting to, and parking at, St Patrick’s can be found on the Cathedral’s website:

We look forward to seeing you!

Not an IGRS member? Why not Become a Member today?

Why Not Give IGRS Membership As A Christmas Gift?

Membership of the Irish Genealogical Research Society is a terrific Christmas gift idea for anyone with Irish ancestry…

Purchase a subscription as a Christmas gift for a friend or relative  – or even for yourself! – it’s only £21, €26 or US$26. It entitles you to full membership until 31st December 2017 and brings with it:


  • A subscription to the Members Only section of the IGRS website;
  • A copy of the Society’s monthly full colour eBulletin (see example here);
  • A copy of the Society’s annual Journal, The Irish Genealogist, (see here for example);
  • Discounts at Ancestry.com, Irish Newspaper Archive, Flyleaf Press etc…see here for more details;
  • See here for a full list of the terrific membership benefits;
  • Click here to purchase…

There’s never been a better time to join the IGRS!

IGRS is at BTOP2016

As usual, the Society has taken a stand at Back To Our Past, Ireland’s annual Genealogy Expo held at the show halls of the Royal Dublin Society in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

If you’re in town why not come to the show and see us? We’re at B31 in the Industries Hall.

Not sure you can make it…or live too far away? You can still bag a bargain:

IGRS Special Membership Offer: available to new members, it includes:

♣ Full IGRS membership until end of 2017;

♣ One year’s subscription to Irish Roots Magazine;

♣ A copy of the fully searchable CD containing the Society’s annual journal, The Irish Genealogist, 1937-1993.

The Special Membership Offer costs £57/€60. (equivalent to approximately US$70).

Click here and go to the foot of the page for full details.

We’re in the Papers!

Out of the ashes – An Irishman’s Diary piece on the founding of the Irish Genealogical Research Society

Our eightieth birthday was covered today by The Irish Times in a piece in the Irishman’s Diary column written by our chairman, Steven Smyrl. He says:

four-courts-explosion“When the dust had settled over the ruins of Sackville Street at the end of Easter Week 1916, down at the Four Courts, the deputy keeper of the records, MJ McEnery, found that despite the building being occupied and its contents disturbed, the Public Record Office of Ireland had escaped virtually unscathed.

“Remarkably, the only irreparable damage was the loss of one will, that of John Watson, a private in the Royal Irish Regiment, who died in 1884.

“However, the occupation six years later would not have the same happy outcome. On June 30th, 1922, the Civil War combatants destroyed a thousand years of documents, tracing the history of Ireland and its people, in one huge, cataclysmic explosion. In one great calamity, parish registers, wills, court records, letter books, deeds, census returns, marriage licences, land rentals, minute books and proclamations all rained down across Dublin city and county like so much confetti.”

Read the rest of the piece here

Significant Update to Society’s Early Irish Birth Index

Following the recent update of the Society’s Early Irish Death and Marriage Indexes, the Birth Index has been updated. With this latest tranche of data, the Birth Index doubles, now noting just over 20,000 entries drawn from lesser known and underused sources for confirmation of birth in Ireland.

Baby feet

This update includes several thousand records taken from Index of Nuns, a CD publication in 2015 by the Catholic Family History Society, which notes biographical information for about 14,000 nuns, many of them from Ireland. For many, their age and parents’ names are recorded at time of their profession of faith, allowing for an approximation of their year of birth.

Additionally, there are entries noted from a census-substitute dated 1887 recording the Roman Catholic residents of the parish of Kirkinriola, Co. Antrim, into which the town of Ballymena falls. Also, there are entries drawn from ‘Emigrants from Ireland, 1847-1852:
state-aided emigration schemes from crown estates in Ireland’, edited by the late Eilish Ellis and published in 1960 by the Irish Manuscripts Commission in its journal, Analecta Hibernica .

Roz McCutcheon, who coordinates for Birth, Death and Marriage Indexes said of the latest update: “Whereas so many sources concentrate almost solely on men, it is good to be able to redress the balance to some degree by adding biographical details of so many women. This latest update adds 10,000 additional entries to the database, representing many hours of work by those who contribute to the project. Thank you to all concerned.”

For non-members here is a link to each Index: BirthDeath and Marriage.

Not an IGRS member? Why not Become a Member today?

IGRS Celebrates its Ruby Anniversary at the College of Arms, London

On the evening of Friday, 23rd September a reception was held in London to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Irish Genealogical Research Society.

img_2264It took place at the College of Arms, where 80 years earlier the Society had been founded, on the 15th September 1936, in the rooms of the then York Herald, Aubrey J. Toppin, CVO, a longtime friend of Fr Wallace Clare, the Society’s founding father.


Dee de Glanville with Aideen Ireland.

On this occasion our host was once again the York Herald, a position currently occupied by Peter O’Donoghue, who was joined by his colleagues, Patric Dickinson, Clarenceux King of Arms, and Timothy Duke, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms. Among the sixty or so guests was the Irish Ambassador, Dan Mulhall, President of the Huguenot Society of Great Britain & Ireland, Brian de Save, Head of the London FamilySearch Centre, Sharon Hintze, and Else Churchill, resident genealogist at the Society of Genealogists. Other guests well known within Irish genealogy and archives included Maurice Gleeson, Jill Williams, Anthony Camp and Aideen Ireland.


York Herald, Peter O’Donoghue.


Jill Williams with Claire Zealey.

Chairman of the Society, Steven Smyrl, gave a few words of welcome on behalf of the Society’s President, Fergus Gillespie, who was unable to be present on the evening. This was followed by an address written by one of the Society’s vice-presidents, Mary Casteleyn, and delivered by another vice-president, Roz McCutcheon, as Mary too was unable to attend. Mary wrote with true passion of the history of the Society and its innumerable achievements over the past 80 years (full text here). This was followed by Steven Smyrl who spoke of the strides the Society has made in the past decade engaging with the era of the Internet, and all achieved through the dedication of the members of Council (full text here).


Irish Ambassador, Dan Mulhall, with IGRS Chairman, Steven Smyrl.

The formalities finished with a toast to mark the Society’s Ruby Anniversary. Overall, it was a wonderful evening of celebration, marking, to quote Mary Casteleyn, “eighty years of research, eighty years of expertise, eighty years of scholarly writing,…eighty years of acquiring manuscripts and rare documents, eighty years of gathering together a research collection of books,…and eighty years of publishing unique genealogical materials. What a record! Our founding fathers should be proud of us.


IGRS Vice-President, Roz McCutcheon, delivering the keynote address, written by Mary Casteleyn, standing with Steven Smyrl.


Some of the gathering in the Old Court of Chivalry in the College of Arms.

‘The Irish Genealogist’ Database Extended To Cover Years 1998-2005

The Irish Genealogist Database has been expanded with the addition of volume 11, which covers all editions of The Irish Genealogist published during the years 2002-2005.

The Irish Genealogist (TIG) is the annual journal of the IGRS. It has been published annually since 1937 and comprises thousands of articles relating to Irish genealogy, noting details taken from voters lists, census substitutes, letters, family bibles, estate rentals, militia & army rolls, transcripts of parish registers, wills & other testamentary papers, family histories, pedigrees, leases, memorial inscriptions, land and other deeds and newspaper extracts. It really is a treasure trove of genealogical information.

TIG magnifierOnline, The Irish Genealogist Database launched in March 2015 with volume 10 of TIG, which covers the years 1998-2001. This latest instalment, volume 11, covers all editions published in the years 2002-2005. It includes source and genealogy articles, record transcripts, family histories and newspaper abstracts, and much more, and each entry is linked to the article in which the name appears.

This latest data release includes references to the Society’s Farnham Manuscripts; Willamstown parish, Co. Galway; Griffith’s Valuation and the Poor Law Valuation; Galway Gentry; Cork Protestants; Catholic Converts; Nuns; Faulkner’s Dublin Journal newspaper and the Registry of Deeds. It also contains articles touching in some detail on families named Clare, Burke, Butler, Carew, Crowley, Daly, Fitzgerald, Forbes, Joyce, Keegan, Kenifeck, Langton, O’Brien, McDermott, McHugo, O’Neill. Power and Solsborough,

TIG Family TreeIn total there are 8,000 names noted throughout volume 11, which, when added to the 10,000 included in volume 10, totals just over 18,000 names, all linked directly to the articles they are drawn from.

Volume 10 of TIG will remain on free access to all. Access to the articles for volume 11 is restricted to members of the IGRS.

The IGRS additionally offers all researchers – members and non-members alike –free access to The Irish Genealogist Names Index. This notes all names recorded in TIG from 1937 to 2001. It runs to approximately a quarter of a million entries.

Why not check if your ancestors are listed?

Not an IGRS member? Why not become a member today?