Northern Ireland History and Culture


Northern Ireland is a unique part of the world known for its natural beauty. Filmmakers and novelists alike have been inspired by its ever-changing climate and lush landscape. In fact, it’s believed that Cave Hill in Northern Ireland gave Jonathan Swift the idea for a sleeping giant in his book Gulliver’s Travels.

If you have heritage from Northern Ireland, then you are in good company. Athletes, actors, actresses, singers, inventors, and even three United States presidents have roots that go back to the hills and beaches of this beautiful country. Discovering more about your Northern Ireland ancestors can help you uncover more about yourself.

History of Northern Ireland

The history of Northern Ireland is deep and rich. Over the centuries, the island of Ireland was involved in the power struggles between rulers and religions that were commonplace in Europe during the Reformation period. The planting of Scottish and English families into the Ulster area during the 17th and 18th centuries created a population divided along religious lines, which led to further conflicts.

a historic photo of Northern Ireland.

The Irish War of Independence (1919 to 1921) concluded by the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, creating the Irish Free State, now the Republic of Ireland, which Northern Ireland was allowed to opt out of. Northern Ireland immediately chose to do just that, making it one of the four countries in the United Kingdom.

Culture of Northern Ireland

Much of Northern Ireland’s holidays, culture, and everyday life is centered around its Roman Catholic and Protestant roots. Many families hold traditional expectations and standards of behavior based on their beliefs.

Daily life is also influenced by the agricultural and manufacturing economy. Northern Ireland’s rich soil makes for quality farmland and livestock. Since the Industrial Revolution, this country has also become known for a variety of different industries, including textile, shipbuilding, and engineering, resulting in population movement to the cities.

a woman in northern ireland with a cow.

Despite the inner conflicts that arise, Northern Ireland is known for its strong national identity. Because of the political history of Northern Ireland, many residents consider themselves as distinct from both the English and the Irish, although they may still consider themselves connected to their compatriots in the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom.

If your ancestors come from Northern Ireland, FamilySearch can help you learn more about them. Discover their lives through FamilySearch’s record collections—or discover who they were personally in FamilySearch Memories.

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