Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Genealogy

Northern Ireland Genealogy Part III – Resources for Research

Editor’s Note: The following post is Part III of our discussion on Northern Ireland genealogy research. Below are resources to help you with your research, including those that assist with genealogical research in Ireland more broadly. Please visit Part I and Part II for additional information. 

Resources for Northern Ireland Genealogy

The following two resources will add to your understanding of Irish records and enhance your research into Northern Ireland families.

  • Brian Mitchell’s The Surnames of North West Ireland provides “concise histories of the major surnames of Gaelic and planter origin.” North West Ireland encompasses the counties of Derry, Donegal and Tyrone. This region is of great importance in tracing Irish ancestral origins as not only was it the last Gaelic stronghold, but it was also the location to which many settlers from England and Scotland came during the “planting” of Ulster in the seventeenth century. A significant number of these settlers later emigrated to the United States and Canada, as well as to Australia. Mitchell’s work includes 324 single-page histories of surnames (including variant spellings) that were either native to North West Ireland or became prominent there as settlers arrived. In content, it is similar to Black’s Surnames of Scotland, and researchers into Scottish families will find many familiar names throughout the book. For example, Graham is a name quite prominent in Scottish history. The Surnames of North West Ireland notes that it is “among the twenty most numerous names in Ulster, and in Counties Down and Fermanagh, it is among the ten most common names.” The Graham entry continues with information about its ultimate derivation from Grantham in Linconlnshire, and various and important personages and historical events associated with the surname. Another entry, for the surname Hamill, notes that this name is most common in Ulster, particularly in Counties Antrim and Armagh, and traces its lineage back to Eogan, son of the fifth century High King of Ireland, Niall of the Nine Hostages. If you are unsure where your ancestor came from in Ireland, this book may prove useful in highlighting counties in which the surname is most prominent, thus providing some direction for a preliminary search.
  • Defenders of the Plantation of Ulster, 1641-1691, also by Brian Mitchell, helps mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of Ulster. (The Province of Ulster includes the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone in Northern Ireland, and the counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland.) This book includes the names of about 2,500 planters who participated in the defense and security of the Plantation of Ulster during the 1641 rebellion and the William of Orange/James II war of 1688-1691. It includes the“Muster Roll of the Garrison of Londonderry during the Rebellion of 1642-1643” and “Defenders of Ireland during the Williamite War of 1689-1691.”

The first list identifies 905 men in nine companies of foot who defended the walls of Derry. These combatants, who were drawn from the estates throughout County Londonderry and its neighboring counties, provides surname, given name, rank, and foot company. For example, James Nixon, soldier, served in Sir Thomas Staples’ Foot Company; John More was a drummer in John Kilner’s Foot Company. Such information offers an opportunity to continue research in military records when extant.

The second list provides the names of Ulstermen who defended Londonderry against the Jacobite opposition to William of Orange. The list identifies major planter families in the province of Ulster and identifies their connection to the original planters from England, Wales, and Scotland. The roster also denotes an ID number taken from William R. Young’s Fighters of Derry – Their Deeds and Descendants, 1688-1691 (a major source  for Mitchell’s work), surname, first name, residence and remarks. These remarks may contain information about planter origins in England, Wales or Scotland, as well as references to next-of-kin, military campaigns, and emigration. For example, John Blackwood of Bangor, County Down, was the son of John Blackwood; married Ursula, daughter of Robert Hamilton of Killyleagh Castle; and his descendants were the Viscounts of Clandeboye and the Earls and Marquesses of Dufferin and Ava. Rev. Thomas Boyd was the Presbyterian minister of Aghadowey. George Buchanan of Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, was the first of the family in Ireland, settling at Omagh in 1674. He descended from the Buchanans of Carbeth, Scotland. Researchers who use  the Young ID numbers provided for each entry may find more in Fighters of Derry.

Recommended titles for Irish research

Genealogy at a Glance: Irish Genealogy Research by Brian Mitchell (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2010)

Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research by Margaret Dickson Falley, 2 vols. (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1998).

Irish Gravestone Inscriptions: A Guide to Sources in Ulster, edited by William O’Kane & Eoin Kerr (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008).

Irish Records: Sources for Family & Local History by James G. Ryan (Ancestry, 1988).

Land Owners in Ireland 1876 (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1998).

Macmillan Atlas of Irish History by Seán Duffy (Macmillan, 1997)

A Short History of Ulster by Sean McMahon (Mercier Press, 2000).

The Surnames of Derry by Brian Mitchell (Genealogy Centre, Derry, 1992).

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, by John Grenham, 4th ed. (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2012).

Image Credit: Crowded Main Street, Strabane, Created by Herbert. F. Cooper (Photographer), Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, Flickr.

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