Since becoming involved with the O'Donnell Clan history and activities, and especially since setting up this website, I have received many requests for help with ancestral research. Many call to my home in the hope that I can pinpoint where their ancestors came from. I tell them all the following.
Ancestral research in Ireland is not easy. Records of deaths, births and marriages only began around 1860. Up until 1922 many people didn't register at all. Why should they? Officialdom was in the hands of the British Government who at that time occupied all of Ireland against the will of the majority of the Irish people. And by registering, one was accepting their authority. Anyway, there was little or nothing to be gained by registering at that time. Under the Irish Free State (1922 onwards) all deaths, births and marriages were recorded properly.
In order to establish your 'Roots' it is essential to know the exact location your ancestor came from. During the first half of the 19th century the population of Ireland was double what it is today; around eight million. Thousands and thousands of O'Donnells lived in Co. Donegal at the time and many of them immigrated to the US, Canada, Australia and indeed to anywhere, as life here in Ireland was unbearable. They had little or no education as education was forbidden to Catholics at the time. Gaelic (Irish ) was the language spoken by most of them. Thus we find various English spellings of their surname and their Irish address.
It is noticeable that so few immigrants passed on any information about their native home. These people were fleeing from poverty and destitution and found a new and better life in the new countries. It would seem as if they wished to obliterate the past from their minds.
The above is meant as a forewarning, not as a discouragement.
Neither I nor the O'Donnell Clan Association do ancestral research. There are other people who do that. They have lists of names for each townland. Some of these lists i.e. Tithe Applotments (1830's), Griffith's Valuation (1850's) and Census for various years are now available on the 'net' I believe. One site I would recommend is - http://www.rootsweb.com/rootsweb/how-to-subscribe.html