Course Details

Course Code(s):
Course Start Date:
1 Year Full-Time OR 2 Years Part-Time
Faculty: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Course Type: Taught, Professional/Flexible
Fees: For Information on Fees, see section below.


Name: Dr Ciara Breathnach
Email: Telephone: 353 061 213166 Web:

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Brief Description

The central purpose of the MA in the History of the Family is to combine the strengths of two traditions: that of the independent researcher into family history and that of established disciplines in history particularly the well developed sub discipline of the history of the family. The objective is a history that is fully contextualised, culturally significant and academically grounded.

The central purpose of the MA in the History of the Family is to combine the strengths of two traditions: that of the independent researcher into family history and that of established disciplines in history particularly the well developed sub discipline of the history of the family. The objective is a history that is fully contextualised, culturally significant and academically grounded. 

Students who sign up for this course seek to obtain formal training in the methodologies and concepts of history of family.  They enjoy the course because it allows them to develop key academic skills while being supported in their quest for intellectual and moral autonomy. A key attraction of the course is the wide range of themes that are covered in each of the modules, and the feeling of community that undertaking research as part of a class engenders.

Over the course of the year students will master the art of academic writing and develop advanced research skills through in-class training and via field trips to libraries and archives conducted in both semesters.  By the end of the course successful students will have acquired the necessary skills to present historical research to a publication standard, and to conduct historical research at a doctoral level.

The students

Students come from a range of backgrounds; some come directly from studying towards an undergraduate degree in History or associated disciplines, others come to it after a break from formal study; often they have an interest in genealogy or family history research but want to build on this in an academic context. This diverse range of students makes for an engaging classroom where everyone’s experience is valued, and everyone has something to contribute.

The online course attracts students who are based in Ireland but unable to attend on campus, as well as overseas students who are interested in history of family within an Irish context and would like to benefit from studying at an Irish university.

Online students are invited to attend on-campus orientation if they wish, and many overseas students decide to arrange some time in Ireland during the year in order to conduct research, though this is not a requirement of the course. During this time they are welcome to attend the classes on-campus.

The course

The course is unique in that it is delivered in both in a classroom and online context.  Students who study online will also interact with colleagues that are based in Limerick, via audio- or video-conference during in-class lectures which provides and enriched experience for everyone.. 

All students have access to Sulis, the University of Limerick’s virtual learning platform, which provides easy access to lecture materials and other resources, as well as interaction with other students. Students are assessed by regular weekly assignments and end of term essays.

Online students are able to engage with lectures in real-time through audio- or video-conferencing software, or to listen back to lectures via podcasts. Dissertation supervision is conducted via Skype and email.

For further information on the MA programme and to hear from graduates of the programme, watch the latest History of Family webinar here

Autumn Semester

In the first semester you will be introduced to some of the key methodologies and concepts of history of family, learning to apply them to your research. You will learn about some of the key events that have shaped family structure and understand how the family can be used as a prism for studying history. In addition to the Introduction to History of Family, all students undertake two elective models during this semester.  In Linking Families to Communities, you will also consider how the family interacted with community, particularly within an Irish context. You will learn about a range of social, economic and political history topics, and how to apply these to history of family. Most History of Family students also select a module relating to Irish cultural history.

Towards the end of this semester students will have identified their dissertation topic.

Spring Semester

In this semester most History of Family students elect to study Irish migration. You will learn about some of the key themes, discourses and sources for migration, and consider case studies from a number of different countries across the Irish diaspora.  You will also spend more time developing your dissertation this semester through the research seminar which will help you to present your research in a coherent and structured manner, locate your study in the existing historiography and demonstrate skills in historical analysis and interpretation. Independent research will form the core of one module in the second semester

Summer Semester

The focus in this semester is the 20,000-word dissertation which will be completed and submitted in August with a winter graduation. Students wishing to take the programme on a part-time basis over two years will complete the dissertation in year two of the programme.

1 year full-time

Autumn Semester Spring Semester Summer Semester
Core Modules Core Modules Core Modules
  • HI6301 Introduction to the history of the family (9 credits)
  • HI6321 MA research methodology (3 credits)
  • HI6322 History research seminar (9 credits)
  • HI6342 Dissertation 1 (9 credits)
  • HI6332 Dissertation writing in history of family (3 credits)
  • HI6341 Dissertation 2 (no less than 15,000 words, no more than 21,000) (30 credits)

(Total of 30 ECTS)

Electives (choose two)

  • HI6351 Linking families to communities (9 credits)
  • HI6191 Graduate seminar in Irish cultural history (online) (9 credits)

(Total of 30 ECTS)

Electives (choose one)

  • HI6352 People on the move: studying migration (9 credits)
  • HI6192 Irish Diaspora: a social & cultural history (9 credits)

(Total of 30 ECTS)


Full-Time (1 year Content of modules can be found by using the search option on the book of modules

Part time programme content: Students wishing to take the programme on a part-time basis over two years will complete the dissertation in year two of the programme (HI6332 in Year 2 Semester 1 and HI6341 in Year 2 Semester 2). 

Applicants should have a primary degree with a first or second-class honours, in a relevant discipline such as history, archaeology, geography, or Irish Studies (Primary degree: Level 8 - National Qualifications Authority of Ireland).

Applicants with approved equivalent qualifications who have substantial experience in the History of Family (such as appropriate publications), or relevant professional experience may also be considered for admission.

What to Upload with your Application

  • Qualification transcripts and/or certificates (including certified English translations if applicable) 
  • English language qualification(s) (if English is not your first language)  
  • A copy of your birth certificate or passport

English Language Requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence of either prior successful completion of a degree qualification taught through the medium of English or meet one of the criteria below (no longer than  two years prior to application)

Acceptable English Language qualifications include the following:

  • Matriculation examinations from European countries where English is presented as a subject and an acceptable level is achieved
  • Irish Leaving Certificate English –Ordinary Level Grade D or above
  • TOEFL – 580 (paper based) or 90 (internet based)
  • IELTS – Minimum score of 6.5* with no less than 6 in any one component.
  • English Test for English and Academic Purposes (ETAPP) – Grade C1
  • GCE ‘O’ level English Language/GCSE English Language – Grade C or above
  • Cambridge Assessment English –Certificate of Proficiency in English - Grade C / Certificate in Advanced English Grade B
  • GCE Examination Boards – Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations – Grade C / Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate – School Certificate Pass 1-6 / University of London Entrance and School Examinations Council – School Certificate Pass 1-6

Results in examinations other than those listed above may also be accepted as meeting our English language requirements. Contact the International Education Division for advice.

Full Time

EU - €6,842 

Non- EU - €9,700

Part Time

EU - €3.700 per annum

Non- EU - €5,178 per annum

Further information on fees and payment of fees is available from the Student Fees Office website. All fee related queries should be directed to the Student Fees Office (Phone: +353 61 213 007 or email


Please click here for information on funding and scholarships.

This programme will equip students with the necessary skills for careers in the heritage, archival or library sectors as well as careers in higher education and teaching in primary and post-primary schools.

Barbara Watts "The History of Family online course turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. Dr Breathnach and other students are just an email away and I can work at my own – often frantic – pace but knowing that I am in control of my own learning."


Carmel McEvey, “Our main lecturer, Dr Rachel Murphy was brilliant in not only her presentation of lecture material but also in crafting and modelling her passion of history to each of us.  Her demonstration of the scope of material and resources that can be researched to contribute to a comprehensive knowledge of academic scholarship was tremendous and I am very proud to have been part of this MA programme.”