As a company selling Ireland vacations, one of the most common questions Tenon Tours gets is how to trace Irish genealogy. Maybe it’s your bright red hair, or Irish surname starting with O’ that got you curious.  Do you get a laughable “Irish tan” and turn bright red every time you look at the sun?   For some, Irish genealogy has been passed down orally from generation to generation.

Somewhere along the way, you may think you have an ancestor from Ireland.   We’re happy to help you get started on how to trace your roots to determine your Irish genealogy.  Our tips should help you get a good starting point when it comes to getting an idea of where your family began.

Sites like are the best way we advise our clients to get started. 

If you know several facts, like your mother’s maiden name, you’ve got a beginning to tracing your roots.  Piece by piece, you’ll fill in the information you know. then provides a report of where they found a record of your name.

Ships entering and leaving ports usually kept records, so who knows what right of passage your family took.  Sometimes, your name may appear in a government assistance book, or on a factory job roster. has millions of sources they pull this information from.  (NOTE:  Thanks to the Anglicization of Ireland, surnames, translated from Gaelic, can be similar for families rooted in different parts of Ireland.  It’s best to try and determine what area of Ireland your family comes from to avoid any errors in your Irish genealogy.)

Irish genealogy is also well defined by Irish surnames. 

Are you an O’ or a Mac?  your name might have been changed or altered along the way.  Keep in mind that prefixes in Irish genealogy represented a word, like ‘son of’ or ‘grandson of.’  Many families were interconnected as names passed from generation to generation.   Be aware of the spelling as you consider your Irish last name.  Lots of families changed their names to Americanize them, or it was misspelled in a book by the writer of the name.

Any chance you know your family’s Irish coat of arms?

 Most families in Irish genealogy had one.  It’s also called a crest or, sometimes, an emblem.  If you have any idea of the colors, and what symbols of Ireland might have been represented, Irish genealogy can start with a crest.   The animals or weapons in the Irish coat of arms can help experts track you down.

Finally, in your Irish genealogy, you should have been assigned a kilt or sweater that was distinct to your family. 

We know plaid is awful trendy these days.  In Irish genealogy, it may have represented families though.  So, your signature green red check criss-cross pattern, also known as a tartan,  may have actually helped others identify what region of Ireland you hailed from.

Irish genealogy isn’t an easy subject.  There were so many families and clans throughout the Emerald Isle that didn’t survive the wars and famines common at the time.  Ireland is also an island, so finding a port and setting sail for the New World, or any other world was easy.  If your family traveled legitimately on a ship, there should be a record.  So don’t lose faith, just keep searching.

Irish genealogy asks us to take a look at family history and family roots. Taking tours of Ireland is a great way to really get to the bottom of it.  If you’re truly Irish, just go ahead and make up the details you’re missing.  As a culture that highly values storytelling, that’s exactly what you’re Irish ancestors would have done.  You’re making them proud, Laddie.




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