FamilySearch.org, the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, provides genealogists with a wealth of information…all for free. Most know the site for its databases, and when you click on Search at the top of the home page, you are presented with a form, asking you to type in the information about the individual you’re searching. But STOP! Before you type anything into the form, scroll down to the lower half of the screen.
If your objective is to search for someone in Ireland (or anywhere else), don’t do a general search. Be more specific. By scrolling down, you can select “United Kingdom and Ireland” and look at the specific databases that are appropriate to the objective you’ve set.
Note that four of the listings have a camera, indicating there are images of these records. The largest database by far, is the Civil Registration Indexes, the one I use the most! When you click on it, you’re taken to a search form to search that particular database. It makes much more sense to search a specific database than to search the entire site where the results you’re looking for might be buried on page 25 the results. But before you type in a name, STOP, and click on "Learn More” to find out what this database includes. You should do this with every database you use to find out what the database covers, if there are any known problems or omissions, and and to make sure you understand the record. Sometimes we think that records were created for genealogists, but that is seldom the case (we’d do a lot better job of collecting all of the information <g>). Understanding why a record was created might help you understand why your ancestor was, or was not found. Was your ancestor born, or did he/she marry or die during the period covered by the database? Then go ahead and complete the search form.
There are a few other databases that refer to births, deaths and marriages. Before you search them, read what is included. You’ll find that these databases contain “selected” records, in other words, they are not complete. The source of the information is the IGI International Genealogical Index). If you’re not familiar with the IGI, it is a database created by volunteers who transcribed records…some of which were from microfilms of original records, but others were from family trees submitted to the LDS by members for ordinances. In other words, unless you can go back and view the original record, you should take this information as a hint to further research. The way you find out the source of the information in the IGI is to copy the Film Number from the results page and use it to search the Catalog. You can then order the microfilm to your local FamilySearch Center to view the original record.
The other databases are done in conjunction with other organizations. Images for Landed Estate Court Records and Prison Records can only be seen when onsite at a FamilySearch Center (due to licensing rights). The Wills and Tithe Applotments were indexed by FamilySearch in conjunction with the National Archives of Ireland.
But beyond databases, FamilySearch has an incredible wealth of resources for Irish research. Use the Wiki to search on Ireland and you’ll find over 4,000 references, the first of which is the Research Outline. This document provides you with an overview of Irish research. (FamilySearch has a Research Outline for every State and Country, an invaluable resource when moving to a new area of research.) You can click on any of the topics to learn more.
If you spend some time exploring FamilySearch, you’ll find many resources to help move your research forward.