Finding Your Irish Immigrant Ancestor's Place of Birth in Ireland

A Genealogy Guide for Irish-Americans

Listed below are the kinds of records where you might find a mention of the town or county in Ireland your immigrant ancestor is from. Included are some online sources and research guides for finding these records. Once you know the name of the town or parish in Ireland then you can pursue further research in Irish records. Knowing the county is a good first step, but you will usually need to narrow it down to the specific parish or town.
  • Vital Records - Especially Death Certificates (Also Probate Records)
    Death certificates sometimes include the place of birth of the person. Sometimes it will just say Ireland, but sometimes it might have the town name.

    Online Searchable Death Records Indexes and Obituaries
  • Social Security SS-5 Application Forms
    If your ancestor died after about 1962 and you can find him or her in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), you can order a copy of the application he or she filled out when they applied for a Social Security Card (SS-5). SS-5 forms usually have place of birth and names of parents, although there may be restrictions and the names of parents may be redacted.

    Social Security Death Index information for online searching
  • Tombstone Inscriptions
    Sometimes a grave marker will say where a person was born in Ireland.

    Online Cemetery, Burial and Graves Indexes

    Book for Vermont: Irish Famine Immigrants in the State of Vermont: Gravestone Inscriptions by Ronald Chase Murphy and Janice Church Murphy
  • Naturalization Records
    Early naturalization records (pre-Sept. 1906) usually do not give a person's place of birth (the town name). Often it will only say Ireland. But sometimes you might find this information on an early naturalization record. However, post-Sept. 1906 naturalization records almost always give place of birth (name of town). For research help see...

    Finding US Naturalization Records (a genealogy guide)
  • Passenger Records
    Like naturalization records, early passenger lists usually do not have the town of origin for the passengers. Later passenger records (after the 1890s or so) will often have the town name.

    Irish Passenger Lists Research Guide
  • Diaries, Letters, Family Papers and Records
  • Ask Relatives
    You may find a cousin who is researching the same line. Or an older relative may know the place in Ireland your ancestor came from.
  • Biographies in County Histories
    Many counties in the US have printed county histories - these often contain biographical information about people and families living there. These books can be found at libraries, especially genealogy libraries. You may be able to find some on microfilm from the Family History Library. To find these do a place search in the Family History Library Catalog for the county (or city) your ancestor lived in and look for the history and genealogy topics.

    Here you can find some online county histories or indexes for various states...
  • Church Records and Biographies in Church Histories
    Local churches will occasionally publish a book about the history of the church or parish. These books sometimes contain information about parishioners and families in the area. Since many Irish immigrants were Catholic you can sometimes find church histories and records in Diocese and Archdiocese archives. Here is an example of an Archdiocese history for St. Louis, Missouri (indexed online) that contains information about parishioners...
    You can sometimes find church records on microfilm at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Microfilm rolls can be ordered from local Family History Centers for a small fee. To find these do a place search in the Family History Library Catalog for the county your ancestor lived in and look for the church records or church history topics. In some cases you may have to write to the church or archive to find these records.
  • World War One Draft Cards 1917-1918
    In 1917 and 1918 approximately 24 million men in the United States registered for the draft. These included men born from Sept 11, 1872 to Sept 12, 1900. There were three registrations. The draft cards for the first two registrations asked for date and location of birth (city or town, state, nation). For the third registration the place of birth was not included, but the date of birth was asked. The three drafts were...
    • First Draft: June 5, 1917 - for all men between the ages of 21 and 31 (place of birth was asked for on the card)
    • Second Draft: June 5, 1918 - for men who became age 21 after June 5, 1917 - A supplemental registration was held on August 24, 1918 for men who became 21 years old after June 5, 1918. This was included in the second registration. (place of birth was asked for on the card)
    • Third Draft: September 12, 1918 - for men age 18 through 45, except those who had already registered (place of birth was NOT included, however these cards asked for the address of the nearest relative and this can be a helpful clue, especially if the person was a recent immigrant)

    To find WWI Draft Cards see...
    How to Find World War One Draft Cards 1917-1918
  • New York Emigrant Savings Bank Records

    New York Emigrant Savings Bank, 1850-1883 (requires payment - part of an Ancestry subscription); Established in 1850 by the Irish Emigrant Society, this bank served thousands of Irish immigrants who came to America after the famine. Some of the records give year and place of birth for the immigrants.
  • New York - Irish Relatives and Friends

    Irish Relatives and Friends (requires payment - part of an Ancestry subscription); scanned searchable book with 8500 names; This book includes transcriptions of "Information Wanted" advertisements placed in the Irish immigrant newspaper, the Irish-American, from 1849-1871 in New York City. These ads were basically requests for information on family and friends who had become separated. Often the parish, town or county in Ireland is given for the immigrants listed in the ads.
  • Boston Pilot Missing Friends Database

    This is a database of advertisements from people looking for lost friends and relatives who had immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland. For the missing person many of the ads include the county and parish of their birth, when they left Ireland, possible port of arrival, occupation, and other personal information.
  • Irish Passenger Lists from the Irish Nation Newspaper (NYC), 1881 and 1882

    Alphabetical list of Irish immigrants extracted from the Irish Nation Newspaper for the years 1881 and 1882. These include the county of origin in Ireland for the passengers. Most are for New York City arrivals with some for Boston.
  • Irish Surnames
    You generally won't be able to pinpoint an exact birthplace from just a surname, but you can get some ideas about distributions of surnames and families in Ireland with this tool... Irish Ancestors Surname Search
For more ideas see the Irish Genealogy Research Guide from FamilySearch

These are merely suggestions to help locate the birth place of your ancestors in Ireland. Many of the records listed here may not give the person's place of birth. While there is no guarantee of success, hopefully these tips will provide you with clues for further research, both in US and Irish records. See additional disclaimers at the link below.

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