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Ancestry, Guinness release trove of records tracing history of millions of Irish Americans

In a Fox News Digital exclusive, Ancestry.com and Guinness brewery release 1.6 million records on March 8 that could impact the family history of millions of Irish Americans.

FIRST ON FOX: The Guinness Storehouse at St. James’s Gate in Dublin, Ireland houses more than just the secrets of Ireland’s famous pillow-soft, ruby-black stout.

It also houses one of the world’s richest repositories of Irish ancestry. 

Guinness has teamed with Ancestry.com to make its treasure chest of Irish family history – a total of 1.6 million records – available online to people around the world for the very first time starting at 10 a.m. ET on Friday, March 8.  

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The goal is to help people of Irish descent, in the United States and elsewhere, uncover family heritage lost through the tragedies of Irish history.

"This one collection could impact the history of millions of families," Crista Cowan, the corporate genealogist for Ancestry.com, told Fox News Digital about ancestry.com/guinness. 

Detailed employment records date from 1799 to 1939. 

They include the names and addresses of about 30,000 brewery employees, plus the names and ages of household members and even income information. 

Those people now have tens of millions of descendants, said Cowan.

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The Republic of Ireland has boomed in population in recent years, but remains a tiny country of only 5 million people. 

But the Irish spawned perhaps the world’s greatest immigrant success story. More than 30 million people in the United States alone are of Irish descent. 

Yet "there’s a dearth of official records" of Irish heritage, Guinness archivist Eibhlin Colgan told Fox News Digital.

The trauma of the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s caused chaos for local communities where records were historically kept.

An official national registry was not launched until 1854, said Colgan.

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The fight for Irish independence in the 20th century — and the civil war that followed — created further chaos. 

An infamous battle at the Four Courts building in Dublin in 1922 ended in "a catastrophic explosion that destroyed the Public Records Office and with it hundreds of years of documented Irish history," the Irish Times wrote in a 2022 retrospective.

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The ancestry of millions of people alive today went up in flames that day.

"In some cases, this will be the only written record that exists in Ireland of your family," said Colgan.

"It’s a very important collection for Guinness. But it’s really important at the national and international level to bridge the gap in government records that have not survived."

The new collection also includes Guinness business ledgers that contain the names of, and other information for, almost every pub-owning family in Ireland for nearly 150 years.

The public records are available for free at Ancestry.com through March 17. 

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

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