Top Tips For Visiting Ireland & Tracing Your Ancestors

A recent article in the online publication of by writer Catherine Shannon  Ballam covers in great detail how you can get into the nitty gritty of tracing your Irish ancestors while actually visiting Ireland.


Packed with lots of useful information such as the importance of how to understand the actual historic records of civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths. Another and often overlooked important method is to reach out to relatives who may have heard stories from their eldery family members as this source can unearth previously unrecorded locations or names that would otherwise remain lost.

Of course the article also states how the web is now a wonderful resource to help you plan your ancestor search while in Ireland with government records from both the Rep. of Ireland and Northern Ireland now accessible online.

And then when actually in Ireland, the writer covers the importance of local churches and graveyards but also local county libraries as these can hold a wealth of information not as easily accessible at a national level.

So if you are planning your trip to Ireland and really want to make the most of the journey by tracing your Irish roots then read the article in full here:

Image Courtesy of Catherine Shannon Ballman/

Author’s exploration of Irish Roots inspires novels

The renowned author Mary Pat Kelly (who has penned both ‘Galway Bay’ & ‘Of Irish Blood’) explains in a recent interview with The Irish Times newspaper that it was the sceptical attitude of her in-laws that drove her seek out her Irish heritage.

And in the process, she came to realise that her own family background within Ireland could form the basis for a sweeping historical novel called Galway Bay to be followed up by the sequel, Of Irish Blood.

The article gives an insight into what was involved in her delving into her Irish roots culminating in her arrival at her ancestral homestead:

“Finally on a June morning in 2002, with the sun shining bright on Galway Bay, I stood on the strand at Bearna/Freeport, the piece of Ireland that was mine. There had once been a fishing village here where my great-great grandmother Honora Keeley was born in 1822 and where she married Michael Kelly in 1839. The home place.

Honora started talking to me that day and her life and the history of my family became the basis for my historical novel Galway Bay and the sequel, Of Irish Blood.”

Read the article in full here:

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Irish Clans Network 2015
The Irish Clans Network would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Family and our Irish Heritage are two very important things that I would like to you think about this holiday season. The Irish may be spread out throughout the globe but we are united by our proud heritage. Make 2015 the year of the Irish. Research your clan(sept), join one of our facebook pages and by all means remember you are IRISH! We have big plans for 2015 and will be getting more active online. Be part of what we are trying to achieve.

Is Mise Le Meas.

Proinsias Mac Gafraidh

The Irish Clans

Irish clansYour Genetic homeland refers to the area where your ancestors lived for hundreds if not for thousands of years. It is the area where your ancestor fist took his surname surrounded by clans with whom he often shared a genetic ancestry, where he left his market on the place names of his ancient territory.

The first people to settle in Ireland on the edge of Europe, for whom there was no where else to go, land meant everything – there was no compromise. Land was held by the Irish Clan also known as a sept, which comes from the word Clann in Gaelic which means “seed” or children, and was bitterly fought over and defended for centuries. Hence each Clan occupied its territory for hundreds if not thousands of years leaving their mark on the place names of their territory. Even with the arrival of Vikings, Normans, and later 16th and 17th Century Scots and English, the Native Irish remained and toiled the land merely switching a Native Irish Chieftain for a Norman Knight or English lord. In its pure form, the clan was a family grouping living in a defined territory and headed by a chief, with succession based on primogeniture or merit. Apart from the chief and his entourage, the clans were largely classless which might explain how they survived over the years. This system meant that over time family names became inextricably linked to particular regions. Clans might split into different territorial branches, while intermarriage frequently changed identity and allegiances. Yet ultimately, the clan system came to unite distinct groups of people under a common surname, the honour of which was stoutly defended.

The idea of the clan was also popular in other Celtic territories such as Scotland and Wales.The Scottish tartan has been closely linked to clan culture. Many assume that Irish Clans also embraced the tartan garment. Historically this was not the case, although Irish surnames have tartans nowadays which lead many to assume tartans are also a part of Irish culture. Irish tartans are a recent invention to celebrate a particular country or family, and tartans are especially popular among people of Irish descent living abroad. Many modern tartan are designed for specific individuals, companies, places or organizations, leading to hundreds to designs. We get so many emails here asking for the Clan Tartan of Irish Surnames so I hope this answers those. Irish Clans had crests and coats of arms mostly that is all.

Irish Surnames Can Be Confusing

irish SurnamesThere’s more than meets the eye when you embark on a study of Irish names. To fully understand the why, you have to immerse yourself into the history of Ireland and become familiar with some historical events.

Most people have heard of the Vikings, those fearsome Norse seafarers, who traded and raided their way across Europe from their Scandinavian homelands. Although the Vikings were only a tiny part of Irish history they did influence and spawn a number of Irish Surnames. MacAuliffe is as Irish as they come but its origins come from Vikings – MacAuliffe means (son of Olaf). The most well known Irish name of Norse origin has to be “Doyle”. Doyle is an anglicized version of the Irish Surname of Ó Dubhghaill, (“son of the dark (or evil) foreigner”). The Vikings were generally described in this manner and not a popular people in Ireland. Some academics argue that this surname refers to one particular Viking who was King of Idrone, in present day County Carlow, around 851 AD – a Viking by the name of DubhGilla (again meaning dark foreigner). There can be several origins to an Irish Surname and one has to look at the history and location of the time. It’s worth noting that the Vikings mainly settle in coastal areas of Ireland. In those areas you will find a larger percentages of people with Scandinavian traits such as eye and hair color.

It was in the 12th Century that the Norman Invasions in Ireland started and many changes were about to take place. Up to the 12th Century most Irish surnames were patronymic, being taking from the names of their ancestors. The Normans introduced surnames from place names, occupations and colors. The most notable names stated with Fitz, such as Fitzgerald, as well as names with the prefix “De” such as De Burgo more commonly known nowadays as “Burke”.

The next big event in Irish surnames came with the attempted murder of the Gaelic language and culture by the British imperialists. Here’s where it starts to get confusing for those tracing their Irish Roots with many new spellings for the same name. Some Irish surnames were forced to take an English Language version to appease the British oppressors. Let me give take the example of two brothers. Cuneen means rabbit in the old Gaelic Language. So one brother may keep this name in the old tradition. However say the second brother has to go work in Dublin and to appease the British would have to change his name to Mr. Rabbit. From here two families spring, the rabbit family and the Cuneen clan. They are both brothers but with different surnames.

Confused yet? Sure we’re only just getting started. Lets keep with the example above. Mr. Rabbit may decide to move back to his home and revert to a version of his Irish Name, calling himself Mr. Cunneen to his Irish friends but on official documents calling himself Mr. Rabbit. In the past there were fewer documents to fill out and even less signatures required. Say Mr. Rabbit was allowed to own some property and needed to sign a deed. How might he sign that deed? Will he add an extra “t” to Rabbit now becoming Mr. Rabbitt! Lets take this to another level, every family has a black sheep, and the blacksheep of the Rabbit family now writes his name Mr. Rabbitte, adding an extra “e” just for the fun of it.

The more documents that were needed to be signed, when settling in foreign lands such as American, Australia and Canada, the more spelling variations that started to occur.

I hope this article has shed some light into the confusing nature of Irish Surnames.