Researching Kerry Births, Marriages and Deaths can be problematic. The most frustrating queries I get both personally on MyKerryAncestors.com and at my work on the Genealogy Advisory Service at the National Library are the sincere and sometimes emotion laden requests to trace ancestors with little or no information on dates or even locations.  To find your ancestors in Kerry or any other part of Ireland, you need to have at least two pieces of information as a basic foundation stone.

Those two pieces are the name of your ancestor, a location in Ireland that he/she was born in and of course the assumed date of his/her birth.   To try and trace an ancestors’ family without these building blocks is frustrating for the genealogist but even more so for the descendant when they receive negative results.

U.S. Federal Census 1880

So how to get these elusive facts?  In my view it can be a double pronged approach. The earlier that an ancestor left Ireland, the less chance there is of finding any information from Irish/Kerry records.   The reason for this is that Parish records in the main do not start until after 1840 (with the exception of the main towns, Tralee, Killarney & Listowel). Neither do passenger lists exist for shipping records before this time.   So where to start for any period in the nineteenth century? Back ‘home’ in the U.S./Canada/Australia/New Zealand/England or where ever the ancestor first immigrated to, is the answer.   You should:

  • Obtain civil and religious copy certificates, marriage/death of the family and children’s births from the location the ancestor first settled.
  • Go through all local Census records – taken every ten years, from the time you think the ancestor arrived.
  • Locate any Military records if applicable.  Search newspapers for any events that might have involved your ancestor – obituaries, court cases, local news items. These are all searchable online now.  Also FamilySearch.org 
  • Check in local libraries for any local history that may not have been published.  

The second part of the prong is to get to know as much as possible about Kerry, its history, geography, customs.   Focus on the locality as well as on the names and dates.  You will need to understand what life was like in each of the Civil parishes of Kerry at the time that your ancestor left there for his/her new life.  Who might have paid for the fare? What was the nearest port? How did they travel there?  Get a picture of Kerry in the nineteenth century

See my list of local books here and also a small number of  books that MyKerryAncestors are now selling online.