Local and Family History
Local Studies Resources at Central Library
Central Library, Letterkenny has an extensive collection of books, journals and other material on genealogy and family history. While we do not have primary materials, such as records of births, marriages etc, our family history resources can help you get started on your search for that elusive ancestor. Spending a day, or part of a day, in Central Library is the best way to make use of these unique resources. We are also working hard to place more of these resources online. Some items of interest may be on microfilm, therefore we recommend that you contact Central Library to make a booking if necessary.
Local libraries all have smaller relevant local history collections and may be able to provide what you are looking for locally or guide you to what you need. Microfilmed items are also available in Buncrana, Bundoran and Na Rosa (Dungloe) libraries. Booking is recommended to avoid disappointment. For contact details and opening hours for Central Library and all local libraries, please click here.
The Donegal Diaspora Project
If you are away from home and have an interest in, or connection to, Donegal this project may be of interest to you. The Donegal Diaspora Project has been created to reach out and actively engage with that global community, acting as a resource for information, connections, partnership and development. The first major Diaspora initiative is The Donegal Gathering 2012, for more information see www.donegaldiaspora.com.
Family History Sources at the Central Library
The following major sources are found in the Central Library:
Census Records and Census Substitutes
1901 Census; 1911 Census
Because of the destruction of the Four Courts building during the Civil War, the earliest surviving complete records are for the censuses taken in 1901 and 1911. We hold microfilm copies of both the 1901 and 1911 Census returns for the County, [originals in the National Archives]. These list all those present in the household on the night of the census (31st March 1901, and on a range of dates from January to May 1911), their relationship to the householder, religion, occupation, age and other personal details. The returns are arranged by District Electoral Division and townland.
The other records in this category can be classed as census substitutes.
This is the oldest census substitute listing we hold dating from1630. It is a list of able-bodied men able to fight if needed for the Crown, listed by barony and 'undertaker'. It is reprinted in Donegal Annual Vol. 10 (2). 1972. pp130-149, from the BM Add. MS 4770 manuscript.
This is a record of land ownership compiled between 1654 and 1656. The Civil Survey for Donegal is printed, along with those for Derry and Tyrone, in a monograph published in 1937. [The Civil survey A.D. 1654-1656. Dublin: Stationery Office, 1937].
This is a similar record, laid out by barony and townland, listing persons with title to land, the numbers of Irish and English, and principal Irish names (a valuable list). It takes its name from Seamus Pender, who edited it, but was compiled in 1659 by William Petty. [Seamus Pender. A Census of Ireland circa 1659. Dublin: Stationery Office, 1939].
This is, like Pender's Census, a survey of the native Irish tenants remaining on forfeited lands, and is contained in The Plantation in Ulster by George Hill. Belfast: M'Caw, Stevenson & Orr, 1877. 621p.
Hearth Money Rolls
These list the names of householders who were eligible to pay the Hearth Tax, and were compiled in 1665. Ours is an indexed photocopy, from the PRONI T. 307/C manuscript.
Abstract of Wills in the Registry of Deeds
Volume 1 1708 - 1745
Volume 2 1746 - 1785
Volume 3 1785 - 1832.
This is a bound typescript of the owners of freeholds in Donegal, registered between 1760 and 1769. The original manuscripts were found in the basement of Lifford Courthouse in 1933 and sent to the National Library.
Raphoe Marriage Registers
This is a photocopy of some 18th century Catholic marriages in the Protestant registers of the Diocese of Raphoe.
A list of Protestant householders in the parish of Leck in 1766 is reprinted in Lecky's The Laggan and its Presbyterianism (1905). This also lists Hearth Money Rolls for East Donegal , tenants on the Abercorn estate, and householders in St. Johnston, both 1794.
Parish of Culdaff
This is a photocopy of a list of persons in the Parish of Culdaff, March 8th, 1782.
Spinning-wheel premium lists
This is a photocopy of those persons in Donegal to whom a premium was paid in 1796, in connection with the spinning of flax.
These are lists of landholders, originally compiled as the basis for tithe payments, which had to be paid to the local Church of Ireland Rector. We hold bound photocopies of the Tithe Applotment books for the parishes of Aghaninshin (1834), Aughnish (1830), Burt (183-); Desertegney (183-) and Donegal (183-). That for Mevagh (1827) is reprinted in Leslie Lucas's Mevagh Down the Years. Belfast: Appletree Press, 1982. [originals in the National Archives].
Other Photocopied Material
- 'Donegal remembers World War I dead' (a list of men from the County who fought and died in World War I).
- A List of families in the Parish of Conwal 1878 / compiled by W. Craig.
- Old Letterkenny families / compiled by Sam Fleming.
- Murlog Church baptisms 1773-1777.
- St. Eunan's Letterkenny: List of Marriage Lines 1857.
Land Records ~ Griffith's Valuation
Griffith's Primary Valuation
This - the first standard valuation of all real property in Ireland - lists householders and lessors by townland, parish, poor law union, and barony. We hold a full set for Donegal, in volumes arranged by barony. Although the publication dates for County Donegal are stated to be 1857-58, there is strong evidence to suggest that the valuation was carried out up to a decade earlier. It is known, for instance, that some persons listed as being present in 1857-58 had died in the Famine. The maps relating to Griffith's Valuation are in the Valuation Office, Dublin.
Genealogical and family history information is also to be found in some monographs e.g. Amy Isabel Young's Three hundred years in Inishowen Belfast: McCaw, Stevenson & Orr, 1929, Charlie Conaghan's History and antiquities of Killybegs Ballyshannon, 1975, and others.
We hold a number of published passenger lists (mainly for vessels leaving Derry Port) and of US immigration lists. The earliest records date from 1735. They include:
- Donegal passengers on the Assisted Passenger Lists from Plymouth, England to Sydney Australia 1848-1868/ complied by Richard Reid.
- Emigrants from Ireland to America 1735-1743 / by Frances McDonnell.
- Passengers from Ireland: lists of passengers arriving at American ports between 1811 and 1817 / by Donald M. Schlegel.
- Irish passenger lists 1847-1871: lists of passengers sailing from Londonderry to America on ships of the J & J. Cooke Line and the McCorkell Line / compiled by Brian Mitchell.
- Passenger list of the 'Invercargill', which sailed to New Zealand 1878 (65 passengers from County Donegal) [photocopy].
- Immigration of Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania 1682-1750
The Famine immigrants, listing Irish immigrants arriving at the Port of New York [7 volumes]
- Volume 1: Jan 1846 - June 1847
- Volume 2: July 1847 - June 1848
- Volume 3: July 1848 - March 1849
- Volume 4: April 1849 - Sept 1849
- Volume 5: Oct 1849 - May 1850
- Volume 6: June 1850 - March 1851
- Volume 7: April 1851 - Dec 1851
The Search for missing friends: Irish immigrant advertisements placed in the Boston Pilot [8 volumes]
- Volume 1: 1831 - 1850
- Volume 2: 1851 - 1853
- Volume 3: 1854 - 1856
- Volume 4: 1857 - 1860
- Volume 5: 1861 - 1865
- Volume 6: 1866 - 1870
- Volume 7: 1871 - 1876
- Volume 8: 1877 - 1920
We hold microfilm copies of the parish registers of the Church of Ireland parishes of Inver, Mountcharles, Killaghtee and Killybegs, all in the South of the County. The Inver records (Baptisms and Marriages) begin in 1805, Killybegs Baptisms in 1809 and Marriages in 1838, Killaghtee Marriages begin in 1857 and baptisms in 1873, and Mountcharles Marriages in 1861 and Baptisms in 1877.
We hold, in typescript form, records of gravestone inscriptions for the following graveyards, including a layout plan:
- Inver (Church of Ireland)
- Inver (Old)
- Killaghtee (Church of Ireland)
- Killaghtee (Old)
- Killybegs (St. Catherine's)
- Raphoe (St. Eunan's Cathedral)
A number of records of gravestone inscriptions have been published:
- Assaroe Abbey
- Ó Gallachair, Pádraig. 'Assaroe Cemetery' Donegal Annual Vol. 3 (3). 1957. pp81-107.
- Ballyshannon, Church of Ireland
- Begley, Anthony. 'Graveyard inscriptions at St. Anne's Church of Ireland, Ballyshannon'. Donegal Annual Vol 12 (2). 1978. pp320-358.
- Carne, Pettigo
- Ó Gallachair, Pádraig, Slevin, P., and Cunningham, John 'Carne Graveyeard, Pettigo, Co. Donegal' Donegal Annual Vol. 41, 1989. pp135-156.
- Ó Gallachair, Padraig Where Erne and Drowes meet the Sea [s.l.: s.n.] 1961.
- Machaire Gathláin (Maheragallon)
- Irish Family History 5, 1989.
We hold a range of directories, in printed and microfiche form of interest to the North West of Ireland, listing merchants and 'gentlemen'. These include
- Slater's Directory of Ireland 1846, 1856, 1870, 1881 and 1884.
- Pigot's Directory of Ireland 1820, 1821, 1822 and 1824.
- Porter's Guide to the manufacturers and shippers of Ireland 1908.
Links to other Family History & Genealogy Sites
For further information on Family History & Genealogy in County Donegal contact