Ireland Reaching Out Creates “Reverse Genealogy”

Ireland Reaching Out, also called Ireland XO, is a non-profit organisation financed largely by the Irish government. The organization tracks down the descendants of those who left for America, Australia and other countries. Instead of waiting for people of Irish descent to trace their roots, Ireland XO volunteers worldwide are networking with people of Irish descent in their local areas, helping to build bridges between the present and the past by connecting people with the home parishes of their ancestors. Volunteers then invite the descendants to visit the homeland. Ireland Reaching Out hopes to build a database of the Irish diaspora containing 30 or 40 million names.

The Ireland Reaching Out web site states:

“Whether you have emigrated recently or have never been to Ireland, we welcome Irish people from all over the world and those who share an affinity for our rich and varied cultural heritage. We are a community with no geographical boundaries, connected first through bonds of people and place, and then developed through our shared celebration of culture and friendship, both online and offline.

“Of the estimated 70 million people of Irish descent living outside of Ireland today, many are unsure of where in Ireland they originate from, or if there are any living relatives still there. We aim to help these people discover the story of their family history and reconnect them with the Ireland of today.”

Another part of the web site states:

“A key part of this programme is the concept of “reverse genealogy” as a way of connecting with the descendants of Parish emigrants. Instead of waiting for descendants from the area to get in touch, Ireland Reaching Out groups use genealogical research methods to engage directly with the existing Parish Diaspora.”

Ireland Reaching Out is a non-profit organisation that is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and also the Heritage Council of Ireland. It has close relationships with many state bodies such as the National Library of Ireland as well as local authorities such as County Councils. The primary reason for this monumental effort is financial: returning Irish descendants bring cash to spend. A few may even be tempted to move back to Ireland, bringing with them skills learned abroad.

The Ireland Reaching Out web site includes a message board and encourages Irish descendants to post messages about their ancestry. There is a separate message board for each parish. The site alo explains the concepts of civil parishes, ecclesiastical or church parishes, townlands, baronies, poor law unions, and more.

You can visit Ireland Reaching Out at


This sounds terrific! Reverse thinking, an idea whose time has come: locals researching the records of those who emigrated, which vastly narrows down the scope of possibilities for us in other countries to a manageable amount of people. With their access to information close at hand and knowledge of the land, combined with the drive of descendants to find their immigrant ancestors’ townlands, it can’t miss for the ones truly driven.


Dick, I looked into this group last year after reading about them in one of your newsletters. They have helped me find my family there and I will be visiting the homestead, etc in September! I thank you so much for leading me home to Ireland!


At least one author in Norway is already doing this for one parish in one county/fylke. He started writing about the descendants of immigrants who left the parish before computers, and I think he’s on his tenth or eleventh book now. If he gets stuck with a problem, he writes to the list we all belong to which helps people, and people who work with databases he might not be familiar with find info. This is easy to do when info is freely shared and one has easy access to it (Norway’s info is all online for free – US info is sometimes free, sometimes only via indexes, or it’s behind a pay wall).

Research that ties to a side lineage in one of my databases ties to a family from his first book, and the 13th book in the planning stages is updates from earlier editions, so I’m sharing American info & documents I find about this one family with him. He’s an excellent researcher because he only uses documents and info he can actually verify, not stories that can’t be verified – altho he does try to verify info if a family member has told him a story just to see what is fact, what is fiction.

This Irish project sounds great, but whoever does the research will have to be careful to use only verifiable, documented info, not family stories that are sometimes accurate (but are more often than not inaccurate). They should also work with people from this side of the pond who know their way around databases here and could more easily help with research from here…, and maybe give the helpers free access to Irish databases that are behind pay walls in exchange for the free help finding documents.

There are, after all, some of us who love to do genealogy research just for the sake of doing research, and love sharing data… because it’s fun. 🙂

Liked by 1 person

    They have access to the parishes so can look up all the records with the parish secretaries. They also looked into cemeteries for their records. Nothing was done by family stories, all was research with facts.


    And the name of the researcher/writer for the Norway books? And for what fylke?


This is a great idea. I have already registered with Ireland XO in several of my parishes of origin as I have found them in my (very difficult) research. I look forward to more.


Mary Dresser Taffet June 30, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Now if only there was something similar for Northern Ireland…that’s where my most recent Irish immigrant ancestors came from. I think County Antrim, and possibly the area around Loughguile where a child was baptized in 1845. But that’s all I know, except that they left that area in 1847 and immigrated to Montreal, Canada.


    Hi Mary,
    I am delighted to let you know that Ireland Reaching Out covers all 32 counties in Ireland. We have some great volunteers in Antrim who would be happy to help you out. Just look up your parish on or leave a message on our general message board and someone will get back to you.
    Wishing you the best of luck with your family research.
    Laura Colleran
    Ireland Reaching Out


    Mary Dresser Taffet July 30, 2015 at 7:25 pm


    Thank you for letting us know that Northern Ireland is also included! I did look at your site previously, but couldn’t figure out what parish Loughguile would be found under. I’ll give the message board a try.


Is there one for Cornwall?


David B. Crawford July 4, 2015 at 10:15 am

Does this apply to Northern Ireland?


More Irish immigrated to Atlantic Canada than anywhere else per capita of our population base, you may want to add Canada , as one of your major Irish immigration points. St.John’s NL, Halifax,NS, Saint John,NB, and the Miramichi, NB. After that it’s Quebec!

Liked by 1 person

    And we see this in the visitors from Canada to every week! About 10% of our traffic is from Canadians who are interested in connecting with their Irish Parish. It’s the 5th largest grouping of visitors we have – USA, Ireland, UK, Australia and Canada in that order.


Is more work being done in County Sligo? We believe the Duffys came from there but records are scarce, especially for tenant farmers who emigrated in 1850’s.


Just what I’ve been looking for. I signed up, just waiting on my email to finish the registration process.


Kathleen O'Connor July 30, 2015 at 11:09 am

Brenda Hennessy from Kildorrery helped me find my ancestors there. She met our bus and took us to my paternal Grandmother’s homestead which was built in the 1800’s and still standing. What a gift she gave me and my family. Thank you Brenda and Ireland XO. We were even featured in their monthly newsletter and a picture of us at the homestead appeared on their website!


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