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Feature Article: Irish Vital Records Found in Newspaper Archives

St. Patrick's Day has become one of the most popular holidays in the United States. For many Americans, this day is synonymous with one thing: a fun party—lots of laughter, drinking and joking with good friends. For some Americans, this holiday is also a time to reflect upon and celebrate their Irish heritage, and think about their Irish ancestors.

To help genealogists explore their Irish family history, GenealogyBank's newspaper archives include eight Irish American titles, with a ninth coming shortly. Tom Kemp, GenealogyBank's Director of Genealogy Products, was recently searching in one of these titles—the Irish American—and made an exciting discovery, as he relates here:

This is a game changer!

Wow—I have found something I never noticed before in my genealogy research. A U.S. newspaper, the Irish American (New York City, New York), routinely published thousands of Irish marriage and death records from 1849 to 1914. No, not every Irish marriage and death record, but nonetheless an exceptionally wide coverage of marriages and deaths from across Ireland. This material is extensive enough that genealogists will want to thoroughly review this online newspaper for coverage of their family in Ireland.

Irish American genealogists quickly learn that Irish civil registration of deaths began in 1864. Wow! These Irish death records in the Irish American newspaper start in 1849—15 years before the official civil registration started.

Here is an example of deaths published in the 28 October 1849 issue of the Irish American:



Irish civil registration of marriages begins in 1864 for Catholic marriages and in 1845 for Protestant marriages. The collection in the Irish American starts in 1849 for Catholic and Protestant marriages.

Here is a typical example of an Irish marriage record: Thomas Mathews of Dunbar, County Louth, married Bride Somers of Court Brown, Askeaton, County Limerick, on 19 June 1895.


Image credit: Library of Congress, digital ID ppmsc.09881.

The Irish couple got married at the "Kingstown Catholic Church," which is pictured in the center right of this 1895 image of Kingstown harbor. Kingstown is in Dublin County, Ireland.

Reading further in this Irish marriage notice we learn that the bride was the eldest daughter of Michael Somers and the niece of John Fitzgibbon of Castlerea, County Roscommon. Wow—relatives in four counties are named: Louth, Dublin, Limerick, and Roscommon.

This is terrific information to help genealogists trace their Irish ancestry.

I never expected to find this depth of coverage of Irish marriages and deaths in a U.S. newspaper.

You just don't see Irish vital records like this in American newspapers—but now you do in GenealogyBank.

Here is a list of the Irish American titles in GenealogyBank (all published in New York City), with their date ranges. Each title is an active link that takes you to that newspaper's search form:

Historical newspapers (complete editions)

Exile (1817)
Irish American Weekly (1849-1914)
Irish Citizen (1867-1868)
Irish Nation (1881-1883)
Irish World (1890-1905)
Shamrock (1810-1817)
Western Star (1812-1813)

Obits (only the obituaries from each issue)

Irish Voice (2006-today)

Forthcoming title (historical newspaper)

Gaelic American