Friday, March 25th, 2011
In honour of St. Patrick’s Day,, Australia’s number one family history website(1) , has launched The Irish Collection - the definitive online collection of 19th century historical Irish records, making it easier for the nearly one in ten Australians(2) of Irish descent to explore their heritage.

In total, there are now more than 35 million(3) 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.

New research(4) to mark St Patricks Day reveals the importance of Aussies’ Gaelic roots, with 94 per cent of ‘Irish Australians’ claiming they are proud of their Irish ancestry. They also appear to be avid family historians, with 26 per cent of those surveyed able to trace their history back 100 to 149 years.

The research has been commissioned to celebrate the launch of The Irish Collection, which spans the critical period prior to and following the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1852), during which time millions left Ireland in search of a better life.

These collections will be a vital source not just for the two million ‘Irish Australians’ of Irish decent, including ACT Senator Gary Humphries, actors’ Nicole Kidman and Barry Humphries, and Socceroo Tim Cahill, but also for the estimated 80 million people worldwide(5) who claim Irish heritage.

It seems that the luck of the Irish followed those who left the Emerald Isles, with many Irish and their descendants prospering the further away from their homeland they travelled. A whopping 28 per cent of Australian Prime Ministers, including former PMs Kevin Rudd and Paul Keating, have Irish heritage, compared to just 17 per cent of UK Prime Ministers.

Irish Australian ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries recently discovered his family line includes 18th Prime Minister Sir John McEwen, who was raised by his grandmother Ellen Porter. Ellen came to Australia from Limerick in 1838 to join her older sister Bridget who arrived two years earlier. Bridget married convict Robert Humphries, who is Gary’s ancestor.

Notable Australians who can proudly claim Irish history include:

• Nicole Kidman - she played an aristocratic Irishwoman in Far and Away, but Kidman’s 3x great- grandparents Bridget and James Callachar, who arrived in Sydney in January 1842, were among thousands of farmhands who emigrated from Ireland to escape the great famine.

• Tim Cahill - known for his high scoring skills on the pitch, this soccer player was born in Sydney to a Samoan mother and an English father. Cahill’s paternal grandfather was of Irish decent.

• Barry Humphries - best known for his on-stage and television alter egos Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson, Humphries’ paternal great-grandmother Elizabeth Ellis was born in Dromore, Co. Tyrone. She moved to Australia and was married in Victoria in 1869.

Famous names with Irish ancestors revealed in the new collections include:

• Oscar Wilde - William R. Wilde, father of the world famous author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, 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, living in Clone, Rathbeagh and Kilkenny.

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

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 Collection as they cover all of pre-famine Ireland, creating a snapshot of Irish life prior to mass emigration.

Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland, 1848-1864 now 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.

The Lawrence 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. Content Director Brad Argent comments: “It is only when we start to explore our heritage that we begin to realise just how many Aussies actually have origins in the Emerald Isles, not to mention the extent to which Irish culture has influenced who we are as Australians and how we live today.

“When combined with early Australian passenger lists, these new collections will definitely help Aussies to uncover their Irish family stories, where their ancestors came from in Ireland to when, why and with whom they arrived in Australia.”

Highlights from the national survey:

• Irish pride is more common among NSW residents than ACT residents with 97 per cent of people from NSW proud of Irish heritage compared to 75 per cent of Canberrans.

• Interestingly, 33 per cent of people from the NT like to celebrate St Paddy's Day, compared with only nine per cent from WA and four per cent in TAS.

• Australians think Ireland is most famous for Guinness and leprechauns respectively (72 per cent of people), followed by Irish dancing (61 per cent) and shamrocks (58 per cent).

• Aussies think the most famous Irish person is U2 front man Bono, who topped the list at 37 per cent, followed by Oscar Wilde (17 per cent) and humanitarian/singer Bob Geldolf (11 per cent).

The Irish Collection is available to UK Heritage Plus and World Heritage members. Those wishing to discover or learn more about their Irish ancestors can do so with a 14-day free access available at:



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

(2) Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 Census

(3)’s historical Irish record collection is comprised of historical collections and also Irish photographs and stories contributed by our members

(4) The Australians’ attitudes towards Irish’ survey was commissioned by in March 2011 and was conducted by Pure Profile who polled a nationally representative sample of a 1000 people across Australia aged 18 and over


File Library

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Australia’s leading family history website, contains more than 930 million records in its Australian and UK collections, including the Australia Birth, Marriage and Death Index, Australian Convict Transportation Registers, Australian Free Settlers, Australian Electoral Rolls, New South Wales SANDS Directories, as well as the most complete online collection of England, Wales and Scotland Censuses and the England and Wales Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes. was launched in May 2006 and belongs to the global network of Ancestry websites (wholly owned by Operations Inc.), which contains six billion records. To date more than 20 million family trees have been created and 2 billion profiles and 50 million photographs and stories uploaded. (Figures current as of 5 March 2011) For further stories and updates related to Irish family history research, you can also follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Christine Law
P: P: 02 8281 3256
M: M: +61 414 810 894


ancestry, family, history, irish, tim cahill, nicole kidman, guinness, collection, records, australia,, st patrick's day, ireland



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