Discover your Ancestors – Find your Homeplace

Senior genealogist: Heather Flanders
Member of SGNI (Society of Genealogists Northern Ireland)

Ulster Ancestors

280 Castlereagh Road, Belfast, BT5 6AD
Consultant historian: Dr Steve Flanders

Home | Services | FAQs | Contact | Counties
Parishes | Townlands



Why conduct a feasibility assessment?

This is to look at how much detailed information you have been able to supply and to establish what records have survived, either held at the Public Record Office for Northern Ireland, or in other repositories, for the geographical area concerned. It is then possible to judge whether it is reasonable to proceed with further work.

What are the early administrative divisions of Ireland?

Ireland's counties until recent times were divided into baronies and these baronies into parishes. The parishes were then subdivided again into townlands.

What is a townland?

This has nothing to do with a "town". It is an area of the countryside of very irregular shape, often divided from the neighbouring townland by a natural feature such as a river. The townland is a very ancient concept and usually has a Gaelic name descriptive of the area, for example, Drumbeg means little hill: drum = hill, beg = little. Our ancestors would have identified very strongly with their particular townland and "they know every tree, every rock, every field and house and most of the tales and legends associated with them" as John Mogey wrote in Rural Life in Northern Ireland.

Where are the records for Ulster kept?

The Public Record Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast exclusively holds records for the six counties of Northern Ireland: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry/Derry, Tyrone. Records for the three counties of Ulster not in Northern Ireland, ie Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, are held in the Republic of Ireland's National Archive in Dublin. Some duplicate records for these three counties are held at PRONI.

Do censuses records exist?

A census was carried out at ten yearly intervals from 1821, but unfortunately census returns for only a very few parishes have survived for the 1821 census through to the 1891 census inclusive. These were either pulped during the First World War or destroyed in fires during the Irish Civil War. Census returns for 1901 and 1911 have survived in total. As a researcher I know how to locate and use census substitutes, which can provide us with a great deal of information.

Is it possible to find the exact site where my direct ancestor lived?

I would hope this would be possible. It is normally possible in the case of tenant farmers, but landless labourers and cotiers moved around frequently in search of work and so it can be more difficult to find an exact site where he or she lived. However, it would hopefully be possible to locate the townland they lived in and church and school attended.

If I am not planning a visit would you take photographs for me?

I would very much like to be able to do this for you and in locations close to Belfast this should be possible at perhaps a little extra cost. Places further away may take a little longer so that I can combine several homeplace visits to the same general area, but this will not delay my main report.

Is it always possible to trace one's ancestors?

This really depends on the quantity and especially quality of the information you already have.

If I just want you to check specific facts to add to my already considerable information, can this be arranged?

Yes we can discuss numbers of hours required.

Top of page