A huge resource of family history information  is available in the journal articles,  books and manuscripts that have been written by genealogy enthusiasts and scholars over centuries. Flyleaf Press has just published a second edition of our listing of these family histories. It is called ‘Sources for Irish Family History – 2021’ and is available as an e-book from here.

The new 282-page e-publication contains some 6,500 references dealing with around 2,500 families, more than double that in the previous edition.  We have added the many new books and articles that have been published since the first edition in 2001,  as well as older material that has been found since. The sample page below illustrates the typical content.  These are mainly accounts of particular family lines and vary from fond and emotional accounts of families and their ancestral homes to dispassionate, well-researched family studies and pedigrees. A large proportion of these are written by people about their own families, but there also studies by historians and biographers with no family linkage. The publications by family members are valuable in putting some human dimension to the barren facts that may be obtained from the usual range of records. No church or civil record will inform us that our ancestors were wonderful singers or dancers; or of the details of their travels or their occupation; nor whether their recorded marriages were the culminations of great romances, or of family arrangements. Such information can occasionally be found in the memoirs & letters detailed in the articles and books listed.

Typical page and content – 282 pages in all

On-line availability of this material has improved dramatically in recent years.  Many local history journals have been put on-line by societies, and older books have been digitised by organisations such as archive.org,  google books and individual libraries.  A full description of how to access these is included in the book introduction.   

An analysis of the families which are the subject of the cited articles and books will show that they do not reflect the prevalence of Irish family names. Unsurprisingly, there are more publications on the families who comprised the landed gentry and aristocracy.  In short, the family of the landlord is better documented than that of the tenant. Among the reasons,  is that the landed gentry tended to have individual family members with the time and resources to compile family histories.  These people are wonderfully described on the National Archives of Ireland website as ‘those with time and money to preclude the necessity for a career and with sufficient free time to indulge themselves in leisured pursuits’. Fortunately for family historians, these leisured pursuits often included genealogy, and the products of their researches were often valuable accounts of families and their activities.

The book also lists all of the myriad sources in which the articles are published.   The majority are local history periodicals published by the many local history societies around Ireland.  The content varies from the local knowledge available in, for example, The Rindoon Journal from Roscommon to the academic scholarship presented in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy.  Papers from over 100 periodicals are included,  the vast majority published in Ireland.  The availability of a local history society in an area is clearly a factor in determining whether publications on local families are available. Some of these societies have been in existence for over 150 years and their back issues are a huge resource of information on local issues and families. Another source of useful information on the more prominent families are publications on the ‘big houses’ and estates.  These will invariably include information on the families who built or lived in them.

The e-book can be ordered from  HERE and the details are:

Sources for Irish Family History – 2021;   a listing of books and articles on the history of Irish families

Compiled by:  James G Ryan

282 pages  including a detailed Introduction.  It is available in Calibre  which is usable on all e-book platforms (Apple,  Android and on PC, Tablet or Mobile).

ISBN:    978-1-907990-39-7

Price:  €18


Other articles in our series on Irish Family Sources:


Written by Jim Ryan
Dr Jim Ryan is a writer and publisher who has been active in Irish genealogy for the past 35 years. His books include: Irish Records- sources of family and local history; Tracing your Dublin Ancestors (Flyleaf Press 2009); Irish Church Records (Flyleaf 2001); Sources for Irish Family History (Flyleaf 2001), and Tracing your Sligo Ancestors (Flyleaf 2012). He writes blogs and articles for Ancestor Network and Irish Roots, and previously for In-Depth Genealogist, and Irish America. He has lectured extensively to genealogy conference and societies.