history hunters

The secrets of Irish parishes will be online soon

Parish registers will be digitised by the National Library of Ireland.

IF YOU WANT to know more about your parish, then a new project from the National Library will help you out.

It has set about working on its most ambitious digitisation project to date – putting its entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms online for free by summer 2015.

The NLI explains the importance of the information in these records:

The records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census. Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,091 parishes throughout Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.

Colette O’Flaherty, Head of Special Collections at the NLI, said: “This is the most ambitious digitisation project in the history of the NLI, and our most significant ever genealogy project. We believe it will be of huge assistance to those who wish to research their family history.”

Searching for free

She said that so far they have converted the microfilm reels on which the registers are recorded into approximately 390,000 digital images.

We will be making all these images available, for free, on a dedicated website, which will be launched in summer 2015.

You will be able to search for the parish, see a list of registers for that parish, and browse through them.

While the information in the registers varies from parish to parish, O’Flaherty said it typically includes the dates of the baptisms or marriages, and the names of the key people involved, including godparents or witnesses.

“Obviously, such information is extremely valuable for both amateur genealogists and professional researchers,” she pointed out.

Although the microfilms have been available to visitors to the NLI since the 1970s, the digitisation means that now you won’t have to travel to Dublin to access them.

“The role of the Catholic Church in creating and maintaining these records during some of the most turbulent times in Irish history must be acknowledged and praised,” added O’Flaherty.

Most census records from this period were destroyed in the Four Courts fire of 1922, so these parish registers are the most comprehensive surviving source of information on Irish families in the 1700s and 1800s.

The NLI has worked with the Catholic Church to preserve these registers since the 1950s.

What type of info will be on them?

The NLI said:

  • The images will be searchable by parish location only.
  • They will not be transcribed or indexed
  • The images will be of the microfilms of the original registers, which – in some cases – were in poor condition when the microfilming took place
  • The images will be in black and white.

“Anyone who has traced their family history knows it can sometimes be frustrating due to illegible handwriting on original records or poor-quality reproductions or transcriptions,” said Colette O’Flaherty. “Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to transcribe or index the images we are making available.

Read: The story of my great grandfather who died in WWI: Patrick Carroll, Gunner 100938>

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