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Searching North or South?

Searching North or South?

March 13, 2024

My Irish ancestors came from Northern Ireland. When I started researching my Irish side, I was quite interested in why there is a Northern Ireland and a Southern Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland. I learned that the majority of the Irish wanted to govern themselves instead of being governed by England. This desire had been going on for centuries.

Tensions finally exploded during the Irish War of Independence in the early 20th century. The treaty that ended the conflict, the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921), provided that Southern Ireland would leave the United Kingdom within one year and become self-governing (the Irish Free State), and Northern Ireland's parliament could vote to opt out of the Free State. Many Northern counties voted to stay with England, which is why Northern Ireland exists.

Many Irish were divided on the terms of the treaty; some were for it, and some were against it. Tensions between pro-Treaty Irish and anti-Treaty Irish led to the Irish Civil War. This conflict started shortly after the ending of the Irish War of Independence and caused a lot of hard feelings on both sides of the issue. The Civil War was won by the pro-treaty Free State forces and left Irish society divided.

The war also led to the destruction of many Irish records. The Public Records Office, where many records were kept, was blown up, destroying records and leaving gaps in genealogical research. There is a research project, Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury, trying to retrieve many of the lost documents through duplicates in other archives.

Of course, there are substitutes for certain records, and many websites have information about the records or the records themselves. FindMyPast LE (at MCPL), FamilySearch, Ancestry LE (at MCPL), and Ulster Historical Foundation (for Northern Ireland) are a few places where you can find records. I was able to locate some vital records for my ancestors through these sites and by using many books that the Midwest Genealogy Center has available. 

If you have Irish ancestors (North or South), Midwest Genealogy Center staff can help you research them. Stop in – we are happy to help!

Sheri V.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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