Thursday 22 January 2015

Irish Family History Day: FindMyPast adds 7m records

FindMyPast has declared Friday 23 January to be Irish Family History Day – the company's annual celebration of Irish heritage – and it comes with quite a splash!

Nearly 7m records have been added to the database, including, for the first time online, the Irish Poverty Relief Loan records and Clare Electoral Registers. A free webinar, followed by a Q&A session, will be held and there's a money-off offer for new subscribers, too.

New Records

Irish Poverty Loan Records, 1821–1874
This collection comes from the National Archives in Kew, London, and relates to the Irish Reproductive Loan Fund, a privately funded micro credit scheme set up in 1824 to provide small loads to the 'industrious poor' ie those most affected by poverty and famine. It's a gem for those with ancestors from some of the poorest parts of the island (see map below) and it's the first time it's been available in full online. (I know the transcriptions for Skibbereen have been available for some time on the Skibbereen Heritage Centre's website ( because I'd already downloaded the records for my own family, but I've never seen the images of the loan fund's pages before. They're interesting as they show the weekly/monthly instalments being paid, as well as any defaults on repayments and other details)
Click map for more details about these records
This collection of almost 700,000 records, which span the period of the Irish Famine, provides unique insight into the lives of those living in Ireland during one of the darkest periods in its history. The handwritten ledgers and account books reveal the changing fortunes of Irish ancestors and their subsequent movements in Ireland and across the world.

Many of the records are loan application forms, which include the name of the borrower and two names of guarantors, who were often close family members or neighbours. Other details recorded include occupation, notes of health, family circumstances and whether the borrower emigrated.

These are often the only official records of people who died during the Famine or who emigrated during those awful years.

Announcing this latest addition to the Irish collection, Brian Donovan, Head of Irish Data and Business Development for Findmypast, said: “These incredibly important records provide an exceptional insight into the lives of the poor across the west of Ireland from Sligo down to Cork. The people recorded are precisely those who were most likely to suffer the worst of the Famine or be forced to emigrate. These remarkable records allow us to chart what happened to 690,000 people like this from the 1820s to the 1850s, giving a glimpse of their often heart-breaking accounts of survival and destitution, misery and starvation. We are very lucky to be able to tell their stories.”

Find out more about the Irish Poverty Loan Records.

Clare Electoral Registers
These 311,080 records are also making their debut online. The collection shows who owned or leased property worth at least £10 between 1860 and 1910. Male owners or leaseholders of property worth at least £12 a year were entitled to vote in parliamentary elections, while female property holders of the same value could vote in local elections. You can find both in this record set.

Each record contains an image and a transcript of the original document. The amount of information varies depending on the kind of document featured but you can find out the following about your ancestor: Name, address, barony, registration unit and polling unit.

The image will often show further details including whether the vote was objected to on the grounds that the voter did not meet the qualifying criteria and the nature of the qualification (usually the type of ownership or lease). In the case of someone who qualified because of the property they were renting, details of their landlord are usually given.

Find out more about the Clare Electoral Registers collection

Irish Census 1911 plus Census fragments 1821–1851 and Census Search Forms 1841 & 1851
These three record sets are available, free of charge, at the Genealogy website of the National Archives of Ireland (NAI); on FindMyPast's site, the Census 1911 database links through to the NAI site to display images of the census returns.

However, there's an interesting advantage to using this database when searching the 1911 Census because FindMyPast's search engine allows researchers to search for more than one family member at the same time, helping to narrow down results, and by birth year and by spelling variations of a name. These options are not available at the NAI site and will certainly make some searches a lot easier.

Transcriptions and images for the Census fragments and Census Search Forms databases are held entirely on the FindMyPast site. As family historians quickly become aware, having alternative search engines can be useful; one engine may identify a record that the other cannot find.

Just as at the NAI website, these three records sets are free at FindMyPast. To view them at FindMyPast, you need to register but you need neither a subscription nor Pay-As-You-Go credits.

More about the Ireland Census 1911, the Census Fragments, and the Census Search Forms.

Irish Marriages 1619-1898
This record set of 852,000 names has been available for some years on Family, the huge site managed by the Church of Latter Day Saints. I've looked into this collection before and found it to be rather curious lucky-dip collection of transcriptions made by LDS members from civil registration records, parish and other records.

It is certainly not comprehensive, either geographically or across the time frame. Some localities are not included. Some have a random collection of entries covering a wide time span; others have a more systematic collection of records from a short time frame. Most seem to have a bit of a mix of source material. Others do not. County Carlow, for example, has 4,046 entries, all transcribed from civil registration entries ie the marriage certificate, while County Offaly has no civil registration entries.

For all its random and often imprecise collection methods, this is a useful record set, worth checking as part of a thorough search. Just bear in mind its limitations.

Find out more about the Irish Marriages record set.


As part of Irish Family History Day, Findmypast will be running an online webinar and Q&A session hosted by Irish family history expert, Brian Donovan. The webinar will cover getting started with Irish family history, as well as hints and tips on getting further with your research.

The webinar will be held at 5pm GMT on Friday 23 January. Brian will be on hand to answer questions after the webinar. For more information, and to register interest, visit

Exclusive offer

Another feature of the Day is a special offer for new and lapsed subscribers only.

Researchers in Ireland can join for just €1 for their first month using the discount code IFHD15. Subscribe here.

Researchers outside of Ireland can sign up for a World subscription, granting access to over 2 billion records, for just £5/$5 for their first month using the code IRISH15. Select from FindMyPast Britain, FindMyPast North America or FindMyPast Australia.

These offers expire at midnight on Tuesday 27 January. Expired.

Enjoy Irish Family History Day!