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Irish Resources for Family Historians: Beginning your family history

This State Library of South Australia guide highlights resources available at the Library as well as various databases and websites that may assist your search for ancestors in Ireland


Beginning Irish genealogy is just like beginning a family history anywhere else. You need to work backwards from yourself, record everything you find in a logical manner and always cite your sources.

It can be very useful to record information on genealogical charts and family group sheets and these can be downloaded from various places including Ancestry, Family Search and BBC Family History

Always label photographs and date them. Your descendants will thank you!

Unknown family group, dated c1895

Unknown family group, assume parents with children, circa 1895 [B 59527]

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Tips on documenting information


  • Record given names first, followed by surname.
  • Write the surname in capital letters to avoid confusion, especially if the surname can also be a given name e.g. James PAUL.
  • Use the maiden name when recording a female's name.
  • Underline unusual names or spelling to indicate that they have been recorded accurately as in Denis (an unusual spelling).
  • Keep in mind that previous generations used nicknames for family members that sometimes did not match birth names.
  • Where there is a name recurring through the generations, the younger generation is often known by their middle name to distinguish them.
  • Do not ignore possible information because the name is not spelt exactly how yours is spelt - you will find name variations.
  • Be aware that in written records many names are abbreviated e.g. Jno = Jonathon, Wm = William, Hny = Henry, Cth = Catherine.


  • Record dates in the following order: day, month, year (as in 13 March 1888).
  • Write the year in full because 72 could be 1972, 1872 or even 1572.
  • Do not use a number for the month e.g. 6/11/1895 as some people write the month first and others write the day first.
  • Double-check that you have recorded the dates correctly.
  • Ensure that dates are identified e.g. a date is a burial date and not a death date or a baptism and not a birth.
  • Dates that are approximate should be shown as 'about' or 'before' or 'c' (circa).


  • There may be multiple places with the same name, so when recording a place, write the city or town first followed by county/state and then country..
  • If place names are in the British Isles use the Chapman country and county codes. These are standard three character abbreviations e.g. CHS for Cheshire.


  • Proof-read carefully to ensure accuracy.
  • Copy information exactly as it is in the original. Unfortunately some originals can be difficult to decipher due to old handwriting styles or faded print (refer to Deciphering documents under Videos and Tutorials). Some copied material may not be accurate so always try to check the original.
  • Where there is conflicting information always record both.
  • Always try and verify information with two pieces of original documentation.
  • Verify family stories with written documentation where possible.

Family tree forms and charts

(A young family c. 1900. Moore family album B 70245/7)