Family ancestry searches soar after Brexit

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On-line family ancestry searches have spiked following the EU referendum, with an influx of users apparently keen to discover whether their lineage qualifies them for an EU Irish passport.

Genealogy website Ancestry has reported a 40% surge in new trial memberships in the week since the UK voted to leave the European Union, with daily searches of the site’s Irish records up by 20%.

The figures come after a deluge of new applications for Irish passports from eligible UK citizens concerned that freedom of movement in the EU might be restricted after Brexit.

Anyone born on the island of Ireland or whose parents are Irish automatically qualifies for citizenship.

In some cases, those who have an Irish grandparent can also apply.

The Republic of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs has appealed for calm after some Northern Ireland Post Offices ran out of Irish passport applications in the wake of the referendum result.

Sue Moncur, Ancestry UK country manager, said: “Since the referendum we have seen the rate of new UK users signing up for free trials to investigate their family history go up by 40%.

“At the same time we have seen a strong rise in interest in our Irish record collections, with daily searches for Irish records up 20% since the referendum.

“The question of British identity has been brought into focus for many because of the referendum. The spike in interest in people investigating their family history is likely linked to that, alongside a more general curiosity about European or international identity.

“A lot of people have also been concerned about the impact that separation from the EU may have on freedom of movement between the UK and EU countries. It seems likely that the rise in searches of our extensive Irish records might be a direct result of people looking for a link to Ireland or an Irish ancestor.

“There are tens of millions of Irish records digitised on Ancestry and since the referendum we have seen a 20% rise in people searching those records. Millions of British people have Irish ancestry so the increase in search activity suggests a trend in people looking to confirm their links to Ireland, possibly with the longer term goal of applying for an Irish passport.”