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Definitive collection of 19th Century Irish records launch online

One in five Brits has Irish Ancestry – new research

  • Comprehensive pre and post Irish Potato Famine collections now online
  • New research published ahead of St Patrick’s Day celebrations on 17th March
  • Irish ancestors of Oscar Wilde, Walt Disney, JFK and Barack Obama uncovered

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day,, the UK’s favourite family history website[i], today launched The Irish Collection - the definitive online collection of 19th century historical Irish records, making it easier for the nearly one in five Brits[ii]of Irish descent to explore their heritage.

In total, there are now more than 35 million[iii]historical Irish records on, including two million comprehensive new and upgraded records from the critical periods prior to and following the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1852), the single most significant event to drive 19th century global Irish Diaspora. 

Current Chancellor George Osborne, Wayne Rooney, Pete Doherty and Paul McCartney are amongst the 9.5 million Brits[iv]with Gaelic roots for whom these new collections will be of particular interest.

Yet despite the close links to our Gaelic cousins, research published today to celebrate the launch of The Irish Collection reveals that Britons know shockingly little about Irish history and culture. 15 per cent of those surveyed were unable to name the Irish capital city, with 11 per cent citing Belfast instead of Dublin.

Amongst the collections is the Ireland, Tithe Applotment Books, 1824-1837, featuring more than 600,000 Irish land tax records which are a crucial addition to The Irish Collectionas they cover all of pre-famine Ireland, creating a snapshot of Irish life prior to mass emigration.

Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland, 1848-1864now features more than 2.5 million names and addresses in land tax records of people living in Ireland in the mid-19th century. They are especially valuable as a substitute for 19th century censuses of Ireland, most of which were destroyed during the Civil War.

Crucially, the Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland, 1848-1864 collection covers the years of the famine, which plunged Ireland into crisis and resulted in more than one million Irish dying and a further million emigrating, marking the start of Ireland’s depopulation throughout the remainder of the 19th century.

TheLawrence Collection of Photographs, 1870-1910 features more than 20,000 photographs of Irish people and scenes taken between 1870 and 1910. Lawrence himself was an amateur photographer and entrepreneur who saw the potential of selling photographic portraits and landscapes.

Also now online is the Ordnance Survey Maps, 1824-1846 - almost 2,000 historic maps of Ireland featuring incredible early geographical details of the whole country, revealing how Ireland evolved during the mid-19th century as well as linking directly to other collections available to reveal exact locations of where land was owned and by whom.  

The records of a number of famous Brits with Irish ancestry have been discovered in The Irish Collection. These include the Irish ancestors of leading British politicians such as current Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who is heir to the Osborne baronetcy of Ballentaylor in County Tipperary. His 3x great-grandfather Sir Henry Osborne can be found in the Tithes.

Many key political figures in history have in fact boasted Irish ancestry, although just 17 per cent of British Prime Ministers have been Irish descent. Irish immigrants across the pond have been far more successful in achieving political influence, with more than a quarter (27 per cent) of American Presidents claiming Irish roots, including John F. Kennedy, whose 2x great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy is listed in Griffiths living in Wexford, Ireland, and U.S. President Barack Obama,whose 4x great-grandfather Fulmuth Donavan is listed in the Tithes living in Ballygurleen, Tipperary in 1829.

Other famous names with Irish ancestors revealed in the new collections include:

Oscar Wilde- William R. Wilde, father of world famous author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, is listed in Griffiths living at Westland Row, Dublin where Oscar Wilde was born in 1854.

Walt Disney- Arundel Elias Disney, great-grandfather of the entertainer and founder of the Disney empire, is listed in Griffiths and Tithe records living in Clone, Rathbeagh and Kilkenny.

C. S. Lewis- Sir John Borlasse Warren, great-grandfather of the celebrated author of The Chronicles of Narnia is listed in both the Griffiths and Tithe records.

Despite the many famous names heralding from Ireland, research reveals that when Brits think of Ireland, they actually think of Guinness (74 per cent of people) followed by shamrocks (62 per cent) andleprechauns (61 per cent).

Surprisingly even comedy show Father Ted is more strongly associated with Ireland than the country’s musical heritage, which has seen Ireland win the Eurovision song contest seven times (more than any other nation)[v]. International Content Director Dan Jones comments: “The new collections will be hugely relevant to anyone with Irish ancestry as they may hold the earliest or final record of their ancestors’ existence during these tragic yet nation-defining years in Ireland’s history.

“The Irish Potato Famine was a significant event in world history which caused a huge spike in international emigration from across Ireland – meaning today, people from every corner of the globe may find they have Irish ancestry.”

Those wishing to discover or learn more about their Irish ancestors can do so with a 14-day free trial at

comScore, 2010, based on genealogy related websites selected from the Family and Parenting sub-category under the Community category

[ii]All research unless otherwise stated was conducted by ICM research in February 2011. Sample was 2,000 UK adults weighted to be representative. 20 per cent of those surveyed report they have Irish ancestry (ICM), which equates to one in five people.

[iii]’s historical Irish record collection is comprised of historical collections and also Irish photographs and stories contributed by our members.

[iv]  20 per cent of those surveyed report they have Irish ancestry (ICM). UK adult population is 47,700,000 (ONS). Therefore 20% of 47.7 million = 9,540,000 or 9.5 million.

[v]42 per cent answered that they strongly associate Father Ted with Ireland, compared to 21 per cent who answered famous singers/bands and 14 per cent who said famous authors (ICM).

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