The nobility is a class of titled people who often have special political and social privileges. The title of nobility is inherited or granted by the crown as a reward for performing a heroic deed or notable achievement or having a prominent political office.
The British nobility has a well-defined order. The highest noblemen are peers. They hold the titles (in descending rank) of duke, marquis, earl, viscount, and baron. The peers are followed in rank by the gentry, whose titles include (also in descending rank) baronet, knight, esquire, and gentleman. Both peers and gentry are entitled to coats of arms.
If your research confirms that your Irish ancestor was of the noble class, you may use a host of sources on Irish noble families in your genealogical research. The most useful indexes to published works on Irish nobility are those compiled by Marshall, Whitmore, and Barrow.
The most widely used sources on British nobility are those produced by:
Burke, John Bernard. A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire. (Family History Library book 942 D22bup.) Hundreds of editions of Burke's works have been published. One of these works is:
Burke, Sir John Bernard. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland.10th ed. London, England: Harrison and Sons, 1904. (Family History Library book 941.5 D22bu 1904; film 0101763 and 0990160 item 2.) Later editions of this book have also been published. The fifth edition is called Burke's Irish Family Records (London, England: Burke's Peerage, 1976; Family History Library book 941.5 D22bur 1976). Arranged alphabetically by surname, both editions give narrative pedigrees of Irish families and sample black and white coats of arms.
An index to Burke's publications is:
Burke's Family Index. London: Burke's Peerage Limited, 1976. (Family History Library book Ref 942 D53b.) This book is available in most major libraries.
Many of Burke's publications are available on film or fiche at the Family History Library. They are listed in the Author/Title Search of the catalog under BURKE, SIR JOHN BERNARD. Burke's works are extensive but should be used with caution as many of the pedigrees they provide are poorly documented and contain errors.
Pedigrees or other genealogical information on nobility are found in the following sources:
Betham, Sir William. Genealogical Abstracts [of Prerogative Wills of Ireland]. (Family History Library film 595933-.)
Burke, Sir John Bernard. Sir Bernard Burke's Collection of Wills for Forming Irish Pedigrees. (Family History Library film 227866-.)
Miscellaneous Indexes to Irish Records. (Family History Library film 100154 Item 4.)
Published family histories may also contain information on your ancestor if he or she was part of the nobility. Family histories available at the Family History Library are listed in the Surname Search of the catalog under the major surnames mentioned in them.
Many other records on Irish nobles are available at the Family History Library. These are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under the following headings:
GREAT BRITAIN - NOBILITY
IRELAND - NOBILITY
IRELAND, [COUNTY] - NOBILITY