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A Guide to Family History in Longford

Family history is a fascinating subject and extremely popular. However, it can also be very challenging due to the fact that many Irish records were lost or destroyed over the years. The following is a guide to the steps involved in researching your family tree and the key sources you need.

1.  Gather as much information as you can within the family.

Talk to other family members, assemble documents and find gravestone inscriptions. From this preliminary stage, you should be able to prepare a skeletal family tree, which can be expanded as you go. Always work backwards.

The crucial piece of information you need to make progress is a specific address: ideally, a townland (in a rural area) or a street. The minimum necessary information is a parish.

2. Census Records

Sadly, none of the Longford census records from the 1800s survive. The 1901 and 1911 censuses are online at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/.

3. Civil Records

Civil records of non-Catholic marriages began in 1845 and of other marriages, and all births and deaths in 1864. Most are now available online at http://www.irishgenealogy.ie/, but there are cut-off points: 100 years for births, 75 years for marriages and 50 years for deaths.

4. Church Records

All original Catholic parish records are held by local clergy. Images of the registers to about 1880 are available at registers.nli.ie. They cannot be searched by name but you can use a filter to narrow the dates. Longford registers to about 1900 are available on the subscription website longford.rootsireland.ie.

Church of Ireland parish records are held by local clergy or are in the Representative Church Body Library, Churchtown, Dublin. Many registers to about 1877 were destroyed in the fire at the Public Record Office, Dublin, in 1922. The full list of surviving registers, with locations, is at http://www.ireland.anglican.org/. Many of the Longford records are available on the subscription website longford.rootsireland.ie.

For information on Presbyterian records, see http://www.presbyterianhistoryireland.com/, the website of the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland, 26 College Green, Belfast.

For information on Methodist records, see methodisthistoryireland.org, the website of the Methodist Historical Society of Ireland, Edgehill Theological College, 9 Lennoxvale, Belfast.

5. 'Griffith's Valuation'

This was a valuation prepared uniformly for all of Ireland to allow for the calculation of the poor rate (to support the local poor law union). The Longford valuation was done in 1854. It lists all occupiers of land, by civil/Church of Ireland parish, with a brief description of the properties held. Acreages are in statute measure. The hardcopy is in Longford County Library and Archives Services, while the online version, at http://askaboutireland.ie/, has the maps that accompany the lists.

6. The tithe applotment books

Dating from the period 1823-35, the books list, by civil parish, all occupiers of land who were obliged to pay tithe (a tax) to the Church of Ireland. Those who were not landholders, or who lived in towns, were not tithe payers. Acreages are in Irish measure. The books are available at http://www.titheapplotmentbooks.nationalarchives.ie/.

7. Burial registers and graveyard inscriptions 

Longford County Council owns 32 graveyards in the county and the registers of 31 of them are held by Longford County Library and Archives Services. For a full list, see http://www.longfordlibrary.ie/.

The inscriptions of memorials in a number of the graveyards in the county have been transcribed and some are published. For further information, contact archivist@longfordcoco.ie.

8. Wills and administrations

Surviving original wills and administrations, and transcripts are in the National Archives of Ireland, Bishop Street, Dublin. From 1858 onwards, annual calendars have been published, which give summary details of the original documents. Sadly, most originals, pre-1904, were destroyed in the Public Record Office fire in 1922. However, the transcripts of many from 1858 onwards survive. The calendars of wills and administrations, 1858-1982, are at http://www.willcalendars.nationalarchives.ie/.

9. Estate archives 

Until the early 1900s, most people in Ireland were tenants of a landlord. Estate archives with details of tenants typically include rent books, account books, maps, surveys and deeds (e.g. leases). Unfortunately, many estate collections were lost over the years. However, many more are in archives or libraries, or are in private ownership. For details of estate collections in Longford County Library and Archives Services and the whereabouts of others, contact archivist@longfordcoco.ie.

The archives of the Irish Land Commission, which contain a wealth of documents relating to the break-up of the estates and tenant purchase, are closed to the public.

10. Registered deeds

The Registry of Deeds was established in 1708. Parties to deeds (e.g. conveyances, leases etc.) could have them registered for legal reasons and the Registry was part of the enforcement of the Penal Laws against Catholics and Presbyterians. Registration was voluntary and the numbers involved grew as time passed. In general, the memorials (transcriptions) relate mainly to propertied families and to those of the Church of Ireland until the late 1700s. A voluntary project is underway to make available online indexes to the deeds; see http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~registryofdeeds/

11. The Simon de Montfort Collection

Simon de Montfort could be described as Longford’s leading genealogist. In the course of researching his own family history, he amassed a large amount of information on other families, mostly landed or with business interests. He donated his research to Longford County Library and Archives Services, where it can be accessed.

12. Other sources

For information on other sources, including directories and school records, contact archivist@longfordcoco.ie.