Step one

Your first step in tracing your family history should be to ask members of your family and friends to tell you what they know (or what they think they know) about the family. Try to get approximate dates of births, marriages and deaths as these will be very important for your future research. Find out what they know about more distant relatives. Ask how second cousins are related to you, for example. Getting a 'feel' for the network of family relationships will help you when you are drawing up your family tree. Ask especially about personal names and place names, places and dates of births, deaths and marriages, occupations, sporting achievements and military service. When you have been given information, WRITE IT DOWN! Don't trust your memory, record any information given to you as soon as possible after getting it.

Step two

After consulting with family and friends, see if you can find any documentary evidence about the family in old family bibles, albums of photographs or scrapbooks. Take a look in the graveyards where your deceased relatives are buried to discover any gravestone inscriptions. All possible sources of information available to you should be investigated. You never know when a seemingly irrelevant piece of information could turn out to be an important clue to a family relationship. It is vital to establish WHERE a particular family came from. A number of Irish surnames are very common. Fairly obvious examples are Murphy, Kelly and O'Sullivan. Your chances of finding information on someone who had a common surname without knowing, as precisely as possible, where he/she came from are vanishingly small. Imagine trying to find records concerning a Julia O'Sullivan if all you know about her is that she came from West Cork!

Step three

Once you have your preliminary research done your next step should be to visit the Local Studies Department. Staff in the department will be able to advise you on which sources you should consult next based on the information you have gathered already. They will also be able to tell you what sources are available in the library itself and in other local repositories.

Always remember the golden rule in genealogy: Work back from what you know to try to establish links between persons named in the various sources you have consulted. Do not guess that a connection exists between your family and a name you have discovered if you cannot establish a definite link. An example will help clarify this point. Suppose you know that one of your great-great grandfathers was Patrick Murphy who worked as a baker somewhere in North Cork. If you then find a baker named Patrick Murphy listed in a directory for the middle of the 19 th century who was a baker in Kanturk, you should not assume that he was your great-great grandfather. Of course he MAY have been but you need to find documentary evidence proving the link. If you follow the golden rule you will not waste time running up blind alleys.

Step four

By this stage you should be ready to consult the main sources of genealogical information. These are: parish records of baptisms and marriages, civil records of births, marriages and deaths and census records. Let's take a look at each of these in turn.

Parish records .

Parish records of baptisms and marriages will usually be the oldest records available to you. Most Catholic parish records date from the early decades of the nineteenth century; some of the records from urban areas are earlier than this and some records from rural parishes are later. The parish records of the Church of Ireland are usually older than Catholic records and may also have records of burials. Unfortunately many of the parish records of the Church of Ireland were lost in the fire in the Four Courts in 1922.

It is almost essential to know the parish or parishes your ancestor(s) came from. The old medieval Catholic parishes were retained by the Church of Ireland after the Reformation in Ireland. They were used subsequently as units of civil administration by the state and local governing bodies. So knowing which parish your ancestor came from is often the key to both church and civil records. You should note that the boundaries of Catholic parishes and Church of Ireland parishes that have the same names are not always identical. Civil parishes are usually identical with Church of Ireland parishes. The staff in the Local Studies Department will be able to help you find the parish you are looking for whether you know the name of the Catholic, Church of Ireland or civil parish. After a short time you will be familiar with this yourself.

The Local Studies Department does not have copies of parish registers. Many of the parish registers for the diocese of Cloyne have been indexed and the indexes are held by the Mallow Parish Centre. Staff at the centre will search the indexes for you on payment of a fee.

Some of the parish records for Cork city have been indexed by the Cork Ancestral Project; the work is ongoing and members of staff at the project do not accept queries from the public at the moment.

A selection of parish records are available on the website http://www.irishgenealogy.ie/

Civil records of births, marriages and deaths.

All births, marriages and deaths in Ireland have been recorded by the state since 1 January 1864. Non-Catholic marriages have been recorded by the state since 1845. The General Register Office in Dublin has copies of birth, marriage and death registers for all of Ireland, excepting the six counties of Northern Ireland. The registers for Cork city and its hinterland are in the Registration Office of the Health Services Executive - Southern Area (the former Southern Health Board) at Adelaide Court, Adelaide Street, Cork. The names and addresses of the other locations in Cork which hold registers of births, marriages and deaths will be found in the list of useful addresses at the end of this section.

Census records

The earliest surviving census returns for Ireland date from 1901. Both the 1901 and 1911 census returns are open to the public in the National Archives in Dublin. You will be able to see microfilm copies of the 1901 census at Cork County Library and microfilm copies of the 1911 census in the Local Studies Department of Cork City Library. You will need to know the address or the name or number of the district electoral division where your ancestors lived. There is no surname index available to the census returns. The 1901 and 1911 census are now available online from the website of the National Archives of Ireland; you will find the online census  Census returns are among the most informative of all genealogical records. It is most unfortunate that almost all the census returns before 1901 were destroyed. Some of them were destroyed in the fire in the Four Courts in 1922 and some were destroyed earlier on the orders of the government.

While the three sources listed above are the principal genealogical sources for the researcher, there are a number of other sources which are useful. You will find a brief note on each of them below.

Griffith's Valuation

Griffith's Valuation (more formally The Primary Valuation of Tenements) was a systematic valuation of all property in Ireland. It was carried out between 1848 and 1864 and takes its popular name from Richard Griffith, the director of the valuation. The valuation for County Cork was done mostly between 1850 and 1852. Its main purpose was to value property to form the basis for various types of taxation. If the census returns for 1851 and 1861 survived it is doubtful that you would need to consult it. In the absence of these returns it has become a substitute for the missing census records, although it is a very poor one. The information given in the valuation is: Townland name (street name in urban areas), valuation map number, local number, householder's name, landlord's name (under the heading 'immediate lessor'), a brief description of the property, the area of the property in units of acres, roods and perches and the rateable value of the property. It is arranged by county, barony, civil parish and townland.

The valuation and a number of indexes to it are available in the Local Studies Department. Most of the valuation for Cork is available in published volumes. The valuation for the entire country is on microfiche. Griffith's Valuation is now available online on the Ask About Ireland website here.

You might be interested to know that Richard Griffith was also a distinguished engineer who built many roads in County Cork and designed the tunnel at Kent Station in Cork.

Tithe Applotment Books.

Until 1838, families were obliged to give a tenth of their income annually, a tithe, to the Church of Ireland. Tithe had been paid in kind until 1823, when a law was passed making tithe payable in money. A survey of the value of property was carried out from 1823 to 1838 to determine how much tithe each landholder would pay. The Tithe Applotment Books record the results of the survey. Their value as sources for genealogical research is limited. The information given varies from book to book but usually it includes the landholder's name, the landlord's name, the townland name, the acreage of the land and the amount of tithe payable. Payment of tithe was bitterly resented by Catholics and Presbyterians and led to the Tithe War from 1830 to 1838.

If you manage to trace your family back to the tithe books you will have done well. It is extremely difficult to trace a family in Ireland further back than the early 19 th century. There are exceptions of course, particularly for wealthier families and members of the gentry, but generally speaking 1800 or thereabouts is a cut-off point for tracing family history in Ireland. You can consult microfilm copies of the Tithe Applotment Books in Cork County Library.


Newspapers can be very good sources of genealogical information. Unfortunately, until the early decades of the twentieth century only the comparatively wealthy sections of society had birth, marriage and death notices inserted in the newspapers. If you have an approximate or exact date of death or marriage you will be able to check if a notice of the event was carried in a newspaper very quickly. Searching through newspapers can be very time consuming if you don't have at least an approximate date for the event in question. Many people though enjoy browsing through newspapers as they contain a wealth of information on other matters. You could easily find yourself distracted reading contemporary reports of the search for Jack the Ripper or reports on the openings of churches and theatres. Birth notices usually carry the least information; often they will not give the name of the newly-born child. A typical early nineteenth century birth notice might read 'On the 6 th inst. to the lady Anne, wife of Captain James O'Sullivan, a son'

The Local Studies Department has a wide range of Cork newspapers from the middle of the 18 th century. Some are in bound copies while others are on microfilm. The department also has complete runs of the Freeman's Journal and The Irish Times on microfilm. A useful index to biographical notices in Cork and Kerry newspapers from 1756 to 1827 is Rosemary ffolliott's Biographical notices primarily relating to Cork & Kerry newspapers 1756 - 1827. This is available on microfilm in the Local Studies Department.


Street and trade directories are among the most useful sources available to you for genealogical research. In them you may find the list of the head of the household in each house in the principal streets of the relevant city or town, a list of those involved in trades, professions and crafts in the area, information on members of corporations and town councils and much else. A selection of Cork directories is available on the Cork Past and Present website here. Many of the directories carry advertisements for various shops and trades. These may be very informative and in addition are often visually quite attractive. A selection of advertisements from Cork directories may be viewed on the website here.

The Local Studies Department has a good collection of Cork directories from 1787 to 1945. There are gaps in the collection, especially for the early and mid 19 th century.

Electoral lists.

Electoral lists for Cork city are available in the Local Studies Department since 1942/43 and list all those eligible to vote in local, presidential and general elections. In more recent times they list those eligible to vote in elections for the European Parliament. They can be useful as sources for genealogy or even for finding out who might have lived in a house in a given year.

The municipal boundaries were extended in 1965. People in some of the suburbs, for example Blackrock, were living outside the city before the extension of the boundaries and will not be listed in the electoral lists for the city before 1965.

O'Kief, Coshe Mang, Slieve Lougher and Upper Blackwater in Ireland . Albert Casey (ed.) Alabama: Knocknagree Historical Fund, 1952-1967. 13 volumes.

If your ancestors came from north-west Cork or east Kerry, the area known as Sliabh Luachra, you should certainly consult Albert Casey's huge compilation of genealogical material from the area. It is impossible to define the boundaries of Sliabh Luachra exactly but its heartland would lie in the country between Abbeyfeale, Castleisland and Millstreet. The barony of Duhallow is in this area.

The Local Studies Department has 13 volumes of the work and the range of material included is extraordinary. There are transcriptions of parish registers, reprints of Smith's histories of Cork and Kerry, a reprint of an edition of the Annals of the Four Masters, transcriptions of gravestone inscriptions, copies of marriage and death notices from newspapers and Casey's own speculations on the origins of the Celts and on the relationship of people on the west coast of Ireland to other European peoples. It must be said that Casey's theories are very peculiar and at variance with current thinking in ancient history and anthropology.

O'Kief, Coshe Mang has a number of faults. Much of it is printed in a typeface which is very small and quite difficult to read without magnification. The records included in it are copied from the originals and errors will almost certainly have occurred during the transcription process. It is arranged rather haphazardly; records from one parish may be dispersed in different volumes. Despite these faults it is an extremely valuable resource for any one from the Sliabh Luchra area. Sliabh Luachra means 'the rushy mountain' in English. Cork City Libraries has made availanle an online alphabetical index of O'Kief, Coshe Mang.

Useful addresses for tracing your cork ancestors

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Sarsfield Road
Telephone: 021-4897050

Cork City and County Archives
Great William O'Brien Street
Telephone: 021-4505886 or 4505876
e-mail: archivist@corkcity.ie

Opening hours: 10.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. - 5.00 p.m., Tuesday to Friday inclusive.
(Consultation is by appointment with the archivist.)

Cork City Libraries
57-61 Grand Parade
T12 NT99
Tel: 021-4924900
Fax: 021-4275684
e-mail: libraries@corkcity.ie or localstudies_library@corkcity.ie
World Wide Web: www.corkcitylibrary.ie
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CorkCityLibrary
Twitter: https://twitter.com/corkcitylibrary
Opening hours: 10.00 a.m. - 5.30 p.m., Monday-Saturday (Wednesday to Saturday for Local Studies).
The library is closed on the Saturdays before bank holiday Mondays.

Cork County Library
Carrigrohane Road
T12 K335
p: 00353 (0) 214546499
w: www.corkcoco.ie/library
f: www.facebook.com/corkcocolibrary
t: www.twitter.com/corkcolibrary
Opening hours: 9.00 a.m.- 5.30 p.m., Monday to Friday, inclusive. Closed on Mondays of bank holiday weekends

HSE Civil Registration Offices
Adelaide Street,
Tel: 021-4275126
e-mail:  crs@hse.ie
Opening hours: 9.15 a.m. 12.45 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday

Co. Cork
Tel no.  022-50230
Opening hours: 9.30 a.m. to 12 p.m. - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday

The Court House
Co. Cork
Tel no.  028-23140
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. - Tuesday, Thursday and Friday

Health and Welfare Centre
Kinsale, Co. Cork
Tel no.  021-4772407
Opening hours: Tuesday 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 a.m., Monday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

District Hospital
Co. Cork. - T
Tel no.  024-92308
Opening hours - Wednesday 11 a.m. -12 p.m., Friday 9.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.

Resource Centre
MacCurtain St.,
Co. Cork.
Tel No.: 025-34054
Opening hours - Tuesday and Thursday, 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.

Health Centre
Co. Cork
Tel no.   026-41246
Opening hours - Friday 10.30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Community Hospital
Co. Cork
Tel no.   021-4631516
Opening hours - Tuesday and Wednesday - 10.30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Cork City Libraries, Grand Parade, Cork, Ireland.
Contact us: Tel. +353 21 4924900 | Fax. + 353 21 4275684 | Email: libraries@corkcity.ie