The Desert Shamrock

Arizona’s Original Irish Newspaper

Volume 11, Number 1, January/February 2000, page 21


County Research


by Robert M. Wilbanks IV, B.A.

Professional Genealogist & Historian



        In previous articles, I have systematically touched on various principles and records sources basic to genealogical research.  Next, I will show you an example of applying these elements together in one aspect of the research process.

        Eventually, you will find the native county that your ancestor came from in Ireland.  Before actually beginning researching for your ancestors in the records of that county, you must first conduct a preliminary survey of the county.  After all, you can’t begin researching in a county if you don’t know what records are available for that county and where they are available.

        One of the first things that you must do is learn the geography of the county.  As mentioned in a previous article, an understanding of present and past geography is important in genealogy.  Find old and current maps.  Get to know the physical features of the land, such as the mountains and rivers.  Become familiar with the towns, including those just over the borders of the neighboring counties.  Note if there were any name changes over time.  These towns or physical features may be familiar from your research in American records, and seeing their relationship to each other on a map can be significant.  Most important, be sure to identify the civil and church parishes in the county.  The existence and availability of records will be identified by the towns and/or the parishes.

        Next, learn the history of the county.  To better understand your ancestors, and to more successfully research them, you must learn about the events and the times which were a part of their lives.  Learn about the local agricultural conditions, the industry, economy, political conditions, perhaps even climate conditions, all of which may not only give an understanding of life in the county, but may even provide an understanding as to why people left.

        Finally, you must conduct a survey of the availability and location of county, and town, records.  You clearly need to know what records exist and where they can be found.  Determine if there are census records, birth, marriage, or death records, emigration or church records, etc.  Identify whether they exist for the time period for which you are interested.

Some examples of sources which can identify types and locations of county records include a number of books and periodicals on Irish genealogy.  One premier book is Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History, by Dr. James Ryan; check the public library or purchase from Ancestry <>.  It includes a list of all available resources organized by county.  The quarterly periodical The Irish: At Home and Abroad not only includes information and resources regarding the Irish in all corners of the world, but regular detailed studies of each of the counties in Ireland.

        Probably the all-around best source to conduct the preliminary county survey (for geography, history and records), is the internet.  The following are the best sites to provide you with the county information, or direct you to county information, sources and studies:

        CyndisList <> is the best genealogy site on the web. It organizes and categorizes virtually every genealogy web site on the internet by subject and region, in alphabetical order.  On the main page, scroll down to Ireland and click.  You will find a long list of links to Irish internet sites organized by such subjects as general, county, government, history, heritage centres, mailing lists, maps, churches, etc.

        Worldgenweb <> is a web site of genealogy sources around the world.  Scroll down to the Regional Index and click on BritishIslesGenWeb and then on Ireland.  As you scroll down this page, you will see an alphabetical list of county links.  <> is a site dedicated to genealogy related information and resources related to the British Isles.  Click on United Kingdom and Ireland, and then on Ireland.  You will find an alphabetical list of county links.

        Irish Ancestors <> is a site provided by The Irish Times (daily Irish newspaper).  Click on Browse, then Counties, then the province of your county to get a list of county links for resources.

        FamilySearch <> is the extensive web site provided by the Mormon church.  Click on Browse Categories, then Libraries, to get access to the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC).  This catalog identifies all resources available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  To search the catalog type your county of interest in Place, then type “Ireland” in Part of.  You will then get your Place Search Results on which you can click to get a listing of sources identified by topics.  Click on the desired topic to get the specific list of resources.

The book Ireland: A Genealogical Guide, by the editors of The Irish At Home and Abroad, provides a complete listing of archives and libraries in Ireland, and worldwide, which house Irish records and collections.  It also includes a listing of Heritage Centres for each county.  Both listings include mailing addresses, phone numbers, web sites and e-mail addresses.  You can contact these libraries and centres to learn what records exist and are available, about free or inexpensive services, or available genealogical researchers.

For previous articles on the basics of searching for your family history, visit my web site at  Click on Professional Services, then Genealogical Writings.

DISCLAIMER: This is an important reminder that the above article is provided here exactly as originally written and published several years ago. Therefore, while most of the primary context of the article may still be relevant, please be aware that possibly certain of the information and references may now be outdated, such as individuals and organizations, links, contacts, facilities, etc. Please follow-up accordingly for more updated information.

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©2013, Robert M. Wilbanks IV, Scottsdale, Arizona
created Nov 15, 2013; last updated Nov 15, 2013