People flock to ancestry database to trace NW links

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There has been a surge in the number of people tracing their local ancestry, according to genealogist Brian Mitchell, with people from around the world accessing Derry City and Strabane District Council’s database of Derry genealogy to find vital clues to their ancestry.

The database can be accessed via the website, and has become the go to resource for overseas visitors hoping to trace their heritage and planning visits to Ireland.

The extensive catalogue of historical information reveals the details of thousands of families, some dating back to 1628. With TV series such as ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ becoming ever more popular, genealogy is becoming an increasingly popular pastime among a growing Irish Diaspora.

A member of the Accredited Genealogists Ireland (M.A.G.I.), Brian Mitchell has dedicated his expertise over the past 30 years to building an archive for the city which can be accessed by anyone hoping to find out more about their origins, as he explained.

“Work on the database began in 1982 and it has grown since then to hold over one million historic records (dating from 1642 to 1922) extracted from the major civil and church registers of County Derry.

“People are definitely becoming more interested in their heritage and finding out how local families have shaped the history of the city. Last weekend Tourism Ireland’s Family History Facebook posted a link to the website, and within 24 hours it had been shared hundreds of times. I am delighted to see that the database has such relevance to people today and that it has become such a valued and used resource.

“It’s clear that it’s a crucial archive for a wide audience, especially researchers overseas who are considering holidaying in Ireland to ‘walk in the footsteps’ of their ancestors.”

The database of Derry Genealogy now contains the bulk of pre-1922 civil birth and marriage registers for the city and county of Derry, the early baptismal and marriage registers of 97 churches (38 Roman Catholic, 24 Church of Ireland and 35 Presbyterian), gravestone inscriptions from 117 graveyards, and census substitutes and census returns dating from 1628 to 1921. The entire Roots Ireland website provides access to more than 20million Irish records featuring data from 34 county genealogy centres on the island of Ireland.

Council’s Museums and Visitors Services Manager, Margaret Edwards said it is a vital and fascinating resource. “The Roots Ireland site holds a wealth of local information for anyone with a general interest in genealogy or hoping to shine a light on their personal family history.”

Anyone hoping to find out more about their family history, local place names, etc can contact Brian Mitchell via email at or go directly to