Irish American Cultural Institute

Providing leadership and resources to preserve, interpret, and promote Irish and Irish American Cultures

Know Your Heritage

You've decided to trace your roots...  How and where do you start?

The best place to start is at home. Your parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles - any relatives at all, could possibly give you the first clues that will help to solve the puzzle of your family history. Even close family friends can often provide very useful information. First, gather together any documents that relate in any way to your family - birth and death certificates, photographs, family bibles, scrap books with newspaper cuttings, letters, wills, military documents and even family legends. Then talk to your relatives and begin to document carefully and accurately the basic facts of your close family's genealogical history i.e. places and dates of birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial. Work backwards to your Irish ancestors by tracing birth, marriage and death certificates in local or state registries. Local churches and church archives may prove useful for records such as baptism and marriage certificates.


 It can get complicated when trying to find out exactly where your Irish ancestors arrived from. Passenger lists from Ireland are scarce, so passenger arrival documentation will probably provide valuable information. The 1900 or 1920 federal census in the United States, found in federal archives, are very helpful for pinpointing the dates of immigration.

If you have no luck as to information about which town or county in Ireland your ancestors hailed from, concentrate on the Irish surname. In Ireland, different surnames are more concentrated in certain areas than others.  Don't forget that many libraries and genealogical societies could also be very useful in your research. To assist you in your search, you can use the resources below.

Family Tree

Building a family tree is a great way to learn about your ancestry and preserve your family history for future generations. Additionally, these documents can be used to record births, deaths and marriages as they happen, so that they can be preserved for future generations. This will ensure accurate documentation and will allow you to include stories, pictures and first-hand accounts of family events.  Build your tree now


Irish Way Program for Students


Enjoy the rich heritage and tradition of Ireland while also experiencing the country's distinct culture face-to-face. This unique program, in it's 37th year,  was founded on the belief that fostering an appreciation of other cultures is an important part of an individual’s development.
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Begin Your Search


The Hands On Heritage guidebook published by the National Endowment for the Humanities helps youth to work with parents or other adults to discover their  family’s historyLearn More

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