Many Americans think that "Irish" means both Gaelic and Catholic, thus eliminating anyone who doesn't fit into those categories. Our Canadian, Australian and New Zealand friends know that at least half of them have ancestors from Ireland who were Protestants rather than Catholics. We also find that many Irish Catholics and their children left the church in America. Does that mean are they no longer Irish?
Many thousands of Presbyterians from the lowlands of Scotland settled in Ulster (the northern province of Ireland) in the 1600s, and their descendants came in great numbers to America starting in 1718. Both "Old English" (Normans who were Catholics) and "New English" (Protestants who came after the Reformation) families settled in Ireland, as well. Irish residents of English origin were often called the Anglo-Irish. The more prominent Anglo-Irish residents comprised the Protestant Ascendancy, which ruled Ireland for several centuries.
Religion cannot be used as a guideline for what "Irish" means because religion is intermixed among families in Ireland.
Mixed marriages are more common than anyone wants to acknowledge.
Researching Irish ancestors is often aided by Griffith's Valuation (which assessed taxes owed by the people of Ireland. Compiled during the mid-19th Century, it contains more than one million names of landowners, landlords, and tenants with leases and renters. Because nearly all 19th-century Irish census returns were destroyed during two disasters, Griffith's Valuation is now considered the "census substitute" by many researchers.
Partnering with Eneclann Ltd., an Irish genealogical research and publishing company, Origins.net, along with the National Library of Ireland, has added what it calls the "definitive version" of Griffith's Valuation to its Irish Origins Web site, http://irishorigins.com. To search and view Griffith's Valuation records on Irish Origins, you must register for seven-day or 14-day access to the site ($9 and $14 respectively). Plans are also in the works to add the Index of Irish Wills 1484-1858 and the William Smith O'Brien Petition 1848-1849 to Irish Origins and in fact may already be available.
Another Web site that can be accessed for the Griffith's Valuation records is Connecticut's Godfrey Memorial Library--if you are a library member. The library has added databases of the Irish research Web site Otherdays.com to its list of online databases. The Griffith's Valuation pages are searchable by the renter's or lessor's first name or last name; by organization or type of site; and by any combination of county, barony, parish and townland. Results link to the Ordnance Survey Map showing the location of the property in question.
U.K. and Ireland Records Collection databases are available exclusively to Ancestry.com members with a U.K. and Ireland subscription. To subscribe to this collection, go to:
A couple of books on Irish research are: A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Irish Ancestors by Dwight A. Radford and Kyle J. Betit ($19.99, Betterway Books) and Irish Marriages, An index to Marriages in Walker's Hibernian Magazine, 1771-1812. Each entry gives name of bride and groom, date and place of marriage, places of residence, and sometimes the occupation and station of groom. ($39.95, 2 vol. 1897, reprinted 2001) 52-page index included.
Ready for the curse? "May those who love us love us. And those that don't love us, may God turn their hearts. And if He doesn't turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles, so we'll know them by their limping." Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all.