Ireland Language and Languages
|Historic Ireland (pre-1922)|
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|Local Research Resources|
The native language of Ireland is Irish (also known as Gaelic). You do not need to know Irish to do Irish research, however, because most records used in Irish research were begun in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries and were written in English. The foreign language you may have to deal with is Latin. Government records were written in Latin until 1733, some Catholic Church records used Latin until the mid-nineteenth century, and older records written in English often latinized names and relationships. Some knowledge of Latin will help you read these records.
For help in reading Latin, see:
- Ainsworth, Robert. Thesaurus Linguae Latinae Compendiarius: Ainsworth's Latin Dictionary. 1752. Reprint. London, England: Frederick Westly and A. H. Davis, 1836. (Family History Library book Ref 473 Ai65a 1836; film 599788.) This is a Latin dictionary. Most libraries have a similar work.
- Latin Genealogical Word List provides translations of Latin words often used in genealogical records.
- Martin, Charles T., comp. The Record Interpreter. 2d ed. Dorking, England: Kohler and Coombes, 1976. (Family History Library book Ref 422.471 M363re.) This book is a collection of abbreviations, Latin words, and names used in British historical manuscripts and records.
- McLaughlin, Eve. Simple Latin for Family Historians. 3rd ed. Birmingham, England: Federation of Family History Societies, 1988. (Family History Library book Ref 478 M222s.) This book lists Latin words that frequently appear in parish registers.
The meanings of words may also have changed over time, making some records difficult to understand. The following book can help you understand strange usages as it provides examples of British word usages in different time periods:
- Murray, Sir James A. H., ed. Oxford English Dictionary. 13 vols. plus supps. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1933. (Family History Library book Ref 423 M964o.)
Spelling may make some records difficult to read. Prior to 1900, spelling was often phonetic. Family and place-names were often spelled as they sounded to the writer. And given names were often abbreviated.
Handwriting may also make records difficult to read. Writing styles have changed over time. With practice you should be able to decipher most of the difficult words and letters you will encounter in Irish records.
Other language helps available at the Family History Library are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:
- IRELAND - LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES