Five Day Courses

What you should expect to learn from our 5 day programmes?

  • how to access and interpret the main sources such as civil, census, church and valuation records
  • lesser-known sources such as the Registry of Deeds and local government records
  • how to utilise the records available in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), including identifying church records and using PRONI’s electronic catalogue. You will be assisted while in PRONI by members of our research team.
  • from the other members of the course as to how they have got over their own brick-walls in their family history
  • as well as talks from our research team, you will also sit down for a one-to-one consultation with one of our staff during the course who will give you individual guidance as to how to best progress your research.

10-14 February 2020

Day 1 - Monday 10 February

Morning Lectures

Welcome and introduction to speakers

Irish land divisions

Understanding the importance of our land divisions and sense of place to local people in rural Ireland (irrespective of location) are crucial to success in Irish genealogy. This presentation explores the different administrative divisions: e.g. townland, barony, parish, County, Poor Law Union, etc, their origins, how they relate to each other, and their relevance and usage in the historical records.

Archives and libraries in Ireland

This talk will provide an overview of the principal sources of archival data in Ireland, ranging from major repositories, such as the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the National Archives of Ireland, to local archives. The talk will also look at libraries in Ireland, especially those with collections of genealogical interest.

Nineteenth & early twentieth century census returns

This session will focus on how much information can be gleaned from the 1901 and 1911 census returns and the value of these resources, even for those whose ancestors had left Ireland prior to the twentieth century. We will also look at the census fragments that survive for the nineteenth century.

Afternoon lectures

Church records for use in genealogical research: registers

This session will look at the records available for main religious denominations in Ireland and how their varied histories have affected the types of records which exist. We will examine baptismal, marriage and burial registers and will focus on where these records are held and how to access them.

Church records for use in genealogical research: administrative records

In addition to baptisms, marriages and burials, the material generated by the various religious denominations is considerable and varied. This talk will explore administrative records of the churches in Ireland, highlighting sources of relevance in family history research.

Day 2 - Tuesday 11 February

Morning Lectures

Civil records – birth, marriage & death certificates

Civil registration of all births, deaths and marriages began in Ireland in 1864 (non-Catholic marriages registered from 1845). This session will focus on birth, marriage and death records, the information they contain and the various websites that can now be used to access them.

Wills and testamentary papers

Wills can be an invaluable source for clarifying family connections and learning more about our ancestors. During this session we will look at the background to the administration of wills in Ireland, assess the information that can be obtained from a will and where these records are held and how they can be accessed, both in the archives, and more recently, the large amount of material which has been made available online.

Landed estate papers

The documents generated by the management of landed estates are among the most valuable of records for the local and family historian.This talk will look at the background to landed estates in Ireland, before going on to discuss the more useful sources found in estate collections.

Afternoon lectures

Griffith’s Valuation & Valuation Revision Books

Land records are an extremely important part of genealogical research in Ireland due to the destruction of the majority of nineteenth-century census records. We will look at Griffith’s Valuation, the first truly comprehensive survey of property in Ireland, which covers the period 1848 to 1864, as well as the subsequent Valuation Revision (or Cancelled) Books.

Tithe applotment books, freeholders’ registers

The earliest comprehensive nineteenth century ‘census subsitutes’ are the tithe applotment books from the 1820s and 1830s. We will look at these records, the companion tithe defaulters’ lists, and the freeholders’ registers which list those entitled to vote.

The Registry of Deeds

In 1708 the Registry of Deeds was established in Dublin as a repository for all kinds of documents relating to the transfer of title to land, including leases from landlord to tenant. This talk will explain how to maximise your research time in this important, but often overlooked archive.

Day 3 - Wednesday 12 February

Morning lectures

Workhouse & local government records

The poor and destitute in Ireland can be the most difficult groups to trace because they rarely leave a paper trail. The records of the Board of Guardians, i.e. those tasked with administering the Poor Law in Ireland are hugely valuable, especially given the impact of the Great Famine on the period. Through the records such as minute books, outdoor relief registers, indoor registers and vaccination registers, we see glimpses of those admitted to the workhouse, how they were treated, and sometimes giving details on assisted emigration schemes. The session will also explore local government records in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, including records of the grand juries, town commissioners, corporation records and county council records. For example, the grand jury was one of the most important forms of local government of the period, and a greatly underused source for family history.

Graveyards & gravestone inscriptions

Researchers will be well aware of the value of gravestone inscriptions in their research into the history of their family. This talk will provide an overview of graveyards in Ireland and will highlight the main places to look for recordings of gravestone inscriptions.

Occupation and business records

This talk will explore the range of material that exists for those wishing to research an ancestor who followed a particular occupation. It will also highlight the usefulness of business records for the researcher, identifying where these records can be accessed.

Pre-1800 census substitutes

This presentation highlights census substitutes and other lesser known sources for the early nineteenth and eighteenth century, including: Old Age Pensions search forms, the agricultural censuses of 1803, the 1796 flaxgrowers’ list, 1775 dissenter petitions, the convert rolls, the 1766 and other religious ‘census’ returns, the 1740 ‘Protestant Householders’ List and other miscellaneous material for the period which can provide invaluable information on families.

Ulster Plantation

The Ulster Plantation of the early seventeenth century is widely accepted as a period of critical importance in the shaping of modern Ulster. This talk will explore the impact of the Plantation and will discuss sources that can be used to study the families affected by it.



Free afternoon for participants to do as they choose. For those who are keen to carry out research the options include the Ulster Historical Foundation Library, the Linen Hall Library, Presbyterian Historical Society Library, Belfast Central Library/Newspaper Library.

Day 4 - Thursday 13 February

Morning lectures

Printed sources – newspapers, street directories, etc

Printed sources are essential for those researching Irish and Scots-Irish ancestors. We will look at a wide range of printed sources including newspapers, street directories and Ordnance Survey Memoirs; as well as identifying how to access this material.

School registers & education records

The records of the National Education system, introduced in 1831, can be a most useful collection of records for tracing families, especially in the period 1860–1920, and where the records survive back to the 1850s and 40s. As well as providing information on school children the records offer information on teachers, and the establishment of schools and how they were run. They can give details of family movements within Britain and Ireland, and indeed emigration to America, Canada and Australasia. Prior to this period some records also exist for private schools, schools supported by various religious bodies, and schools established to educate the children of the poor. The session will explore the value of these records for family history research.

Law and order records

This talk will cover topics such as the Rebellion Papers in the National Archives of Ireland, the best single source for studying the tumultuous 1790s in Ireland. The talk will also explore records relating to the police, local courts and the prison system in Ireland.

Introduction to the resources of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)

This talk, which will be given by PRONI's Gemma Eaton, will highlight the range of sources PRONI holds and how to order the documents.

Afternoon of assisted research at PRONI

During this session delegates will register and receive their PRONI Reader’s ticket. This will be followed by a short orientation tour and then the research will begin.

The Foundation’s research team will be there to help you get started with your research until 5pm. After that time you have the option of staying in PRONI to continue researching until it closes at 8.45pm. [Please note that PRONI's cafe closes at 5:00pm on Thursday]

Day 5 - Friday 14 February

Day of assisted research at PRONI

We will spend the day in PRONI where our experienced and expert research staff will be on hand to provide you with the advice you need to help find your ancestors. They will be available to direct you to sources that could be helpful in your quest for more information on your forebears, and will be ready to assist with reading difficult handwriting and understanding more about the documents you will be consulting. [There is a cafe in PRONI for lunch]