Family History Bannerknow-ireland

You THINK you know it, but here is a timeline, from ancient times to the inception of the Irish Free State. See how many of these are a surprise to you.


c. 16,000 BC

During the Last Glacial Maximum, Ireland was covered in ice sheets. These ice sheets profoundly impacted Earth’s climate, causing drought, desertification, and a dramatic drop in sea levels.



c. 12,000 BC

A narrow channel forms between Ireland and southwest Scotland.


c. 8000 BC

Mesolithic hunter-gatherers migrate to Ireland.


c. 6500 BC

Mesolithic hunter-gatherers start to occupy sites such as Mount Sandel in Northern Ireland.

c. 4000 BC

Agriculture, including the keeping of livestock and crop farming begins in Ireland, at sites such as the Céide Fields in Mayo.

c. 3500 BC

The Neolithic peoples of the Boyne Valley build a complex of chamber tombs, standing stones and enclosures over a period of hundreds of years.


c. 2000 BC

Bronze Age technologies arrive in Ireland, such as the moulding of flat axes, and copper mining at Mount Gabriel in Co. Cork, and Ross Island in Co. Kerry.

c. 500 BC

Celtic art, language and culture begins to flourish.


c. 300 BC

Murder of Clonycavan Man, according to radiocarbon dating. Clonycavan Man is the name given to a well-preserved Iron Age bog body found in Clonycavan, County Meath, in 2003. He has been calculated to have been approximately 5 ft 9 in height, and is remarkable for the “gel” in his hair. Only his torso and upper abdomen are preserved. He was found in a modern peat harvesting machine.


c. 100 AD

Construction of a series of defensive ditches between the provinces of Ulster and Connacht


c. 140 AD

Ptolemy’s Geographia is a compilation of what was known about the world’s geography in the Roman Empire of the 2nd century. It provides the earliest known written reference to habitation in the Dublin area, referring to a settlement in the area as “Eblana Civitas”.


c. 220 AD

The Annals of the Four Masters (Foras Feasa ar Éirinn) place Cormac mac Airt as a longstanding High King of Ireland. He is probably the most famous of the ancient High Kings. He is said to have ruled from Tara, the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, for forty years, and under his rule Tara flourished. He was famous for his wise, true, and generous judgments. In the Annals of Clonmacnoise, translated in 1627, he is described as: “absolutely the best king that ever reigned in Ireland before himself…wise learned, valiant and mild, not given causelessly to be bloody as many of his ancestors were, he reigned majestically and magnificently”.


c. 300 AD

Pollen data records from the late Iron Age indicate a resurgence in human activity after a relatively stagnant period.




Palladius is sent as the first bishop “to the Irish believing in Christ” by Pope Celestine I. Palladius was the first Bishop of the Christians of Ireland, preceding Saint Patrick; the two were perhaps conflated in many later Irish traditions.



According to the Annals of Ulster (and other chronicles) Saint Patrick returns to Ireland.



A seemingly global climate event (possibly a volcanic winter) causes crop failures and famine in Ireland.



Several sources record a pervasive “yellow plague” on the island of Ireland.



First Viking raids took place on Iona, Rathlin Island, Inishmurray and Inishbofin.



Óengus of Tallaght writes the “Martyrology of Tallaght”, which describes the last vestiges of paganism in Ireland.




Vikings Ivar Beinlaus and Olaf the White land in Dublin Bay and establish a fortress – close to where the city of Dublin now stands.



The King of Dublin Olaf Cuaran abdicates following defeat at the Battle of Tara. He was twice the ruler of Dublin and its dependencies. His reign over these territories spanned some forty years. He was a renowned warrior and a ruthless pillager of churches, but ended his days in retirement at Iona Abbey. Dublin became a major centre of trade in Atlantic Europe and mastery over the city and its wealth became the supreme prize for ambitious Irish kings. Olaf Cuaran was a patron of Irish poets and Scandinavian skalds who wrote verses praising their paymaster. He was married at least twice, and had many children who married into Irish and Scandinavian royal families. His descendants were kings in the Isle of Man and the Hebrides until the 13th century.



Malachy the Great , High King of Ireland achieved a great victory at the Battle of Tara against Olaf Cuaran. This resulted in Ireland’s control of the Kingdom of Dublin, Malachy the Great demands (and is paid) “tribute” by the Vikings at Dublin. This date is the “foundation date” of Dublin as a city.



Máel Mórda mac Murchada, King of Leinster has his last day on earth. His lands lay around Naas on the middle reaches of the River Liffey, in modern County Kildare. He died in the battle of Clontarf, along with his enemy Brian Boru. Defeat of Máel Mórda mac Murchada and Viking forces by the armies of Brian Boru marked the beginning of the decline of Viking power in Ireland.



Henry II of England lands at Waterford and declares himself Lord of Ireland.



The Treaty of Windsor consolidates Norman influence in Ireland.



The Annals of the Four Masters records a Summer-time heat-wave and drought.


The first representative Irish Parliament (of the Lordship of Ireland) meets in Dublin.



Edward Bruce arrives in Ireland and rallies many Irish lords against Anglo-Norman control. 1366  The Statutes of Kilkenny are passed at Kilkenny to curb the decline of the Hiberno-Norman Lordship of Ireland.



The Annals of the Four Masters records that the King Of England sent an exotic animal (possibly a giraffe) to Ireland.



An earthquake takes place at Ox Mountains in County Mayo.



The Annals of the Four Masters refers to a famine which “prevailed through all Ireland”.



The Annals of the Four Masters record a drought, in which no rain fell “from Bealtaine to Lammas”, which resulted in disease and plague.



The Annals of the Four Masters record that the Great Comet of 1577 “was wondered at by all universally”.



The Nine Years’ War commences in Ulster, as Hugh O’Neill and Red Hugh O’Donnell rebel against Elizabeth I’s authority in Ulster.



Plantation of Ulster by Scottish Presbyterians began on a large scale.



Irish Rebellion of 1641: Phelim O’Neill led the capture of several forts in the north of Ireland.


Extreme winters in successive years result in poor harvests, causing a large scale famine in which between 310,000 and 480,000 die


The Battle of Carrickfergus took place in February 1760 in Carrickfergus, Kingdom of Ireland during the Seven Years War. A force of 600 French troops landed under the command of the Privateer François Thurot overwhelmed the small garrison of the town and captured its castle. Thurot held the town for five days, menacing nearby Belfast and demanding supplies and a ransom. In the face of the mobilisation of large numbers of local militia, and the appearance of a Royal Navy squadron off the coast – Thurot re-embarked his force and departed the town. Thurot was subsequently killed in a sea battle, but his feat in landing on enemy soil was widely hailed in France and he became a national hero, partly because his perceived daring was in sharp contrast to the incompetence shown by French naval officers at the recent Battle of Quiberon Bay.




The Expédition d’Irlande (“Expedition to Ireland”) was an unsuccessful attempt by the First French Republic to assist the outlawed Society of United Irishmen, a popular rebel Irish republican group, in their planned rebellion against British rule. The French intended to land a large expeditionary force in Ireland during the winter of 1796–1797 which would join with the United Irishmen and drive the British out of Ireland. The French anticipated that this would be a major blow to British morale, prestige and military effectiveness, and was also intended to possibly be the first stage of an eventual invasion of Britain itself. To this end, the French gathered a force of approximately 15,000 soldiers in readiness for a major landing at Bantry Bay in December. The operation was launched during one of the stormiest winters of the 18th century, with the French fleet unprepared for such severe conditions. The French fleet was subject to confused orders as it left port: one ship was wrecked with heavy loss of life and the others widely dispersed. Separated, most the French fleet managed to reach Bantry Bay late in December, but its commanders were driven miles off course and without them the fleet was unsure of what action to take, with amphibious landings impossible due to the weather conditions, which were the worst recorded since 1708. Within a week the fleet had broken up, small squadrons and individual ships making their way back to Brest through storms, fog and British patrols.  In total, the French lost 12 ships and thousands of soldiers and sailors drowned, without a single man reaching Ireland except as a prisoner of war.


The Kingdom of Ireland is annexed to Great Britain. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is formed.



The Irish nationalist Robert Emmet attempted to seize Dublin Castle.



Catholic Emancipation: The Catholic Relief Act 1829 was passed, which allowed Catholics to sit in Parliament.



A force of one hundred and twenty armed police forcibly took possession of cattle belonging to a Roman Catholic priest in lieu of his compulsory “tithe” to the Anglican Church of Ireland. The Tithe War was a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience, punctuated by sporadic violent episodes, in Ireland between 1830 and 1836 in reaction to the enforcement of tithes on subsistence farmers and others for the upkeep of the established state church – the Church of Ireland. Tithes were payable in cash or kind and payment was compulsory, irrespective of an individual’s religious adherence. Tithe payment was an obligation on those working the land to pay ten per cent of the value of certain types of agricultural produce for the upkeep of the clergy and maintenance of the assets of the church.



The Tithe Commutation Act 1836 reduced the amount of the tithe and changed the manner of payment, which largely ended the unrest.



Great Irish Famine: A potato blight destroyed two-thirds of Ireland’s staple crop and lead to an estimated 1 million deaths and emigration of a further 1 million people.


Easter Rising: The Irish Republican Brotherhood led an action which seized key government buildings in Dublin, and issued the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Days after the leader of the uprising ordered his followers to surrender.



The First Dáil of the Irish Republic meets and issues a Declaration of Independence from the UK.



Northern Ireland is established.



The War of Independence ends when negotiations between the British government and representatives of the de facto Irish Republic conclude with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the creation of the Irish Free State.



The Constitution of Ireland comes into force replacing the Irish Free State with a new state called “‘Éire’, or, in the English language, ‘Ireland.'”

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