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How to Find Out if I am Irish?

Are you interested in finding out if you have Irish roots?  You aren’t the first person to wonder “How to find out if I am Irish?”, and luckily, there is are two relatively easy ways to find out if you have recent Irish ancestors.  In this post, I’ll explain the different ways to find out if you are Irish – just in time for St. Patty’s Day this year.  You just might be wearing your “Kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirt with confidence… who knew?

How to Find Out if I am Irish

As I mentioned, there are two easy ways to find out if you are Irish:

  • Take a DNA test to find out if you are Irish
  • Start tracing your family tree to find your Irish roots

In order to find out if your family is Irish, you can do one – or both – of the above suggestions.  If you want to prove to yourself that you are Irish, the best thing to do is take a DNA test and start building your family tree while you wait for your results.

Below, I’ll give you some tips on choosing a good DNA test for Irish ancestry, as well as show you where to start when looking for Irish family records.

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Which DNA test is best for Irish ancestry?

All of the major DNA testing companies offer an ethnicity estimate as a part of their DNA testing product.  This includes, Ancestry DNA, My Heritage DNA, Family Tree DNA, and 23 and Me.   The major difference between the ethnicity reports that these companies provide is the way that they break the world down into geographic regions for the purpose of DNA.  What do I mean by this?

Some companies report Irish DNA in the more general “Ireland/Scotland/Wales” category.  Other companies lump Irish DNA into the “British Isles” region.  That’s not specific enough for those of us who want to know if we are really, truly Irish – even if it is just a small percentage.  This is why I have found the tests offered by Ancestry DNA and 23andMe to be the best test for Irish ancestry.

Ancestry DNA and 23andMe test for major regions, and then report sub-regions that you match if you have enough similarities to the sub-regions to say definitively that your ancestors likely descended from the area.  These testing companies are more likely to match your DNA to a sub-region of Ireland if you have a relatively close ancestor (like a grandparent) who was born there. 

If your DNA doesn’t match a particular sub-region or county in Ireland, but still matches the Ireland region, you will receive a general “Ireland and Scotland” result on Ancestry DNA and “British and Irish” on 23andMe.

This is what Irish DNA looks like on Ancestry DNA:

can a dna test tell me if i am irish?
This test taker has one Irish grandparent

This is how Irish DNA shows up on 23andMe:

This test taker has an Irish great-great grandfather

The following links are sponsored links to companies that I highly recommend and have used personally:

But how do I know for sure that I am Irish?

If you want to know for absolutely certain that you are Irish, you should combine the knowledge that you learn from your DNA test (including your DNA matches) with a family tree.  It’s easier than every to build a family tree.  There are thousands of websites containing records that you can search online without every leaving your house.  There are ways to do it completely for free, too.

I always recommend to my readers that they begin building their family tree while they wait for the DNA test results to come back.  Then, they can look at their DNA matches and see if what they learned about their family tree lines up with the family trees of their DNA matches.  If you decide to do the DNA test with Ancestry DNA, they make it especially easy to compare your family tree to those of your DNA matches, which helps you know for sure that your research is correct.  If you choose to go with a different testing company, you can still manually check the family trees of your matches – so it is still worth doing.

If you use the following sponsored link, you can get a two-week free trial on Ancestry – perfect for adding records and documents to your tree:  Ancestry Free Trial

How to find your Irish ancestors?

People are sometimes overwhelmed at the thought of trying to build a family tree, especially when they know they have ancestors from other countries.  It’s really not as hard as it seems, however, especially once you get started and you see everything that is available.  You can do this part with or without a DNA test, but you’ll get best results if you do both.

I have a few steps here that will help you get started locating your Irish ancestors:

Step One

Talk to your parents or other older relatives and ask them what they know about your family history.  Take notes, and write down names, places, and dates – whatever small details they remember will be very helpful.

Step Two

Pick a place to build a family tree online.  I prefer Ancestry, since it’s easy to connect it with my DNA results, but you can also build a great tree on FTDNA or My Heritage DNA.   Enter in all of the information that you learned from your conversations with family members.

Step Three

Locate your ancestors on the most recent US Federal Census.  Right now, the most recent census that has been made public in the US is the 1940 Federal Census.  Once you find them, try to find them on the previous one, and so on, and so on.  Eventually, you will find the birth places of your ancestor and their parents listed.

In the image below, you can see that the person was born in Massachusetts, but that her parents were both Irish.   If you aren’t interested in learning more, you can stop once you find this – you’ve “proven” your Irish heritage.  As long as your DNA matches seem to line up, then you are good to go.

Irish ancestor on census records

Step Four

Consider learning as much as you can about your ancestors and building your tree even further back.  Family tree research is a wonderfully fun hobby, and I find lots of inspiration among my ancestors and the struggles that they endured to provide me (their descendant) with better opportunities.


I hope that this post helped you learn how to find your Irish ancestry, using DNA and a family tree.  If you have any questions or comments about something you read here, or you would like to share a story, please feel free to leave me a comment.

Thanks for stopping by!

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