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Where do I start my family tree ?

The best place to start your family tree is with yourself. After all your the person that you know most about. Then work backwards to your parents, your grand parents and then outwards to aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on. Take it one step at a time and identify as much information as possible about each individual. You should also check if any one else in your family has already started doing your tree and if they will share it with you - there is no point in duplicating their effort.

Be sure to carefully note the source of information, since you may wish to either come back for additional information or refer someone else back to that source.

What information should I record ?

For each individual you should identify the dates and locations of the events listed below. The more information you record the easier it will be to piece together the tree.

  • Birth
  • Education
  • Marriage
  • War records (regiment, rank, medals)
  • Occupation
  • Residence
  • Political Offices held
  • Emigration
  • Death
  • Will or last testament, Place of Probate
  • Burial

For each event you should try to get copies of the registration documents.

What documents should I be looking for to support my research ?

If you can get copies of the following documents they will help to authenticate your work:
Birth certificate, Adoption records, Baptism record, Death announcements, Death certificates, Diplomas, Discharge papers, Divorce papers, Draft cards, Employment records, Health insurance cards, Land deeds, Marriage certificates, Military awards, Military discharge papers, Mustering Out Documents, Naturalization papers, Photo albums, Social Security cards, Wills, Photographs, Letters & Correspondence, Newspaper articles, Advertisements (for Family owned businesses).

What on-line resources are available ?

There are a number of sites that have computerised records available for searching. Generally these sites require you to register and pay a fee to actually look at the detail of each record. Some of the major sites on line are:

Who should I talk to ?

Talk to as many of your relatives as possible. Start with the oldest and work your way forward. Remember to corroborate the accounts of similar events against each other and official records. You can also talk to friends and work colleagues of people who are no longer alive - they may know something that the rest of your family does not.

What questions should I ask ?

Ask about hobbies, occupations, awards, and places of residence, favourite stories or memories of the person. Anecdotes will help you to understand your relative and may provide information to allow you to work around apparent "dead ends". Also, it is sometimes difficult for individuals to give an answer to a direct question. Therefore, ask for favorite memories, funny stories, favourite colours or places, photographs or mementos. Ask if there are letters or correspondence that you could photocopy. Take photographs and use a small tape recorder for voice samples or for messages to other relatives. 

Remember it is important to know each individual involved as a person not just as a link in the tree. Listening to their stories and recollections will bring you closer together and give you an insight into their life & times.

Where can I get help from others who might be searching my family tree ?

You can try posting a message on one of the genealogy newsgoups stating the name(s) you are searching for and requesting help:

  • soc.genealogy.ireland
  • soc.genealogy.britain

Try posting a message on one of the following web forums

finally - try posting a message on Genealogy's Most Wanted

Is there a directory of genealogy related web sites ?

Yes indeed there is. Cyndi's list is a huge collection of web sites (97,000+) that relate to genealogy. The list is divided by country, name, ethnicity etc.

Are there any professional organizations in Ireland that can help me track down my ancestors ?

Try the list of researchers belonging to the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland.
Or you could try Eneclann who also publish CD-ROM's with Irish wills.

Where can I find the national archives ?





New Zealand


What about all those spellings?

When searching the records for your ancestors it is vital to try as many variations of the name as possible. In Ireland in particular there are no Cavanaugh, Kavanaugh etc. ancestors. The only people to be found in Ireland today with these combinations are modern immigrants or people with work permits. 

Is there any software that will make it easier to keep track of the information I find or provide records on CD-ROM?

The following are popular software packages:

  • Family Tree Maker 8.0 Deluxe 35-CD Set (The Learning Company)
  • Generations Millennium Collection (Sierra)
  • FAMILY RECORD ORGANIZER V4.0 (Made Ez Products)
  • Family Trees Quick & Easy 4.0 (Individual Software)
  • Personal Ancestral File - Free Software (LDS)