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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
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who do you think you are

Tell your auntie in Chicago! There's a simple new way to trace your Irish roots

Over 1,086 parish records are now available online and access is free.

THE GOVERNMENT HOPES new resources that will help people research their Irish roots could boost tourism.

Speaking at the launch of the digitisation of Ireland’s 1,086 Catholic parish records at the National Library of Ireland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny congratulated the library on the project.

Prior to this the documents were only available on microfilm and could only be accessed by visiting the library in Dublin.

Marriages, christenings and burials

Now people from around the world can go online for free to search for their family records, which include parish registration of marriages, christenings and burials.

Given the devastating fire in the Four Courts in 1922, in which so many records were lost, these registers are considered the single most important record of Irish life prior to the 1901 census.

While the Taoiseach said it will be of great value to experts in the areas of history and genealogy, it will also be welcomed by those researching their Irish roots around the world.

shutterstock_244388956 Shutterstock / Everett Historical Man and woman digging for peat which, when dried, is a fuel source for heating and cooking. Ireland, between 1880 and 1930. Shutterstock / Everett Historical / Everett Historical

He said it will  be a “tremendous interest to people here in Ireland and the Irish diaspora around the world. No doubt the registers will contribute to the number of genealogical tourists to Ireland, as people of Irish descent access these records online and decide to visit their ancestral home place”.

Kenny said documents like this can make us question who we are and where we come from and help us “lift the lid on our own heritage”.

NO FEE 10 Parish Records Website

Enda Kenny’s family tree 

Yesterday the Taoiseach was shown his own family’s baptismal and marriage records.

“You’re going to set me off now,” he said.

IMG_2260 Christina Finn Enda Kenny's family records. Christina Finn

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys also commended the work of the library staff and archivists for completing the project, which was three years in the making.

“This new digital resource will help people at home and abroad who are interested in tracing their ancestry. The website provides access to church records dating back up to 270 years and includes details like the dates of baptisms and marriages, and the names of the key people involved.”
“Making this kind of material available online should help to boost genealogy tourism, and will complement the work of local historical centres in communities around the country.”

As the centenary of the 1916 Rising approaches, she said she is keen to make as much historical material as possible available online, “so we can encourage people around the world to reconnect with their Irish roots”.

NO FEE 12 Parish Records Website Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

The minister said TV programmes like Who Do You Think You Are has increased peoples interest in finding out about their past.

Humpheys also encouraged schools to take advantage of the new resource and promote school children researching their own family tree.

Who Do You Think You Are? WikiCommons WikiCommons

Kenny said “it is about ourselves, our Irishness and that is so improtant…”.

Hours of enjoyment 

He also commended the Catholic church for creating and maintaining the records, adding he hoped the new resource brings hours of enjoyment to people researching their family’s past. 

Other attendees at yesterday’s launch included the American Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley and the former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave.

NO FEE 4 Parish Records Website Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland Minister Heather Humphreys, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

The records feature the baptisms of some very well-known historical figures, such as the 1916 Leaders Padraig Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh. The documents can be seen below:

nli 1 National Library of Ireland Peig Sayers baptism. National Library of Ireland

nli 2 National Library of Ireland Padraig Pearse baptism. National Library of Ireland

nli 3 National Library of Ireland Marriage record of Anne Devlin, an Irish republican who acted as housekeeper to Robert Emmet. National Library of Ireland

For more information, visit the National Library of Ireland website here.

Read: Searching for your ancestors is about to get a whole lot easier>

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