By Jayne McGarvey
If you are searching for a baptismal, marriage or burial record in Ireland for the period before commencement of Civil Registration (1845 for non-Catholic marriages, and 1864 for all births, marriages and deaths) you will need to know not only the religion of your ancestor but also the Parish and preferably the townland where your ancestor lived.
If your ancestor was Catholic, all of the surviving parish registers for the entire island of Ireland have now been placed on-line by the National Library of Ireland, Dublin and can be accessed at http://registers.nli.ie/ The records are not indexed and have to be searched manually one at a time. These can be searched either by name of Catholic Parish or by using the accompanying map to locate where your ancestor lived. Each Parish has a “home page” detailing the registers available by date – mostly 1820s to 1880s but some parishes do go start as early as the 1740s and a few have later dates – each register shows the number of images in the book – the parish boundaries are shown in red on a map along with the adjoining parishes. It also provides where else you can find information on the individual parish registers with links.
This is one of the site’s best features, if you can’t find your ancestors where you expect to find them it is easy to expand your search to adjacent parishes or to click through and check the transcripts on other sites. (However do remember if an entry has been miss-transcribed due to poor handwriting etc. searching under the correct name will never find it). The FAQs and site guidance are clear, informative and guide you through the additional features such as inverting images, brightness and contrast to help decipher difficult to read images. The only downside I see is it does nothing to improve poor handwriting, spelling and bad Latin – but then we can’t expect miracles!
Church of Ireland (Anglican) (Established Church) records are housed in a number of different locations. Some original registers are held in the National Archives, Dublin, others are held in the Representative Church Body Library, and some are retained in individual parishes. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) also holds many original and copy registers. The registers held in PRONI do not just cover the six counties of Northern Ireland, PRONI also holds many records for all of Ulster and some other registers as well. In addition, a small number of Parish records have been digitised by the Church of Ireland and are available at http://ireland.anglican.org/about/168 Church of Ireland Parishes for the most part are the same as Civil Parishes, however some CoI parishes have been split, new parishes formed and some amalgamated over the years causing some differences to occur.
Records of Methodist births, marriages and deaths which took place prior to 1818 are mostly found in the Church of Ireland registers. For details of surviving records after that date, these may be found locally or at PRONI or Edgehill College, Belfast
The Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) records begin in the mid-17th century, they are extensive and contain much more than just records of births (Quakers did not practice baptism). Copies of these records may be found in PRONI and/or the Friends’ Historical Library in Dublin.
Jewish records Enquiries about Jewish records should be addressed to the Irish Jewish Museum. PRONI also holds significant microfiche records.
Presbyterian records are held in three main locations: in local custody, in the Presbyterian Historical Society and in PRONI.
Other Dissenting Protestant Churches include:
- Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church (Unitarian)
- Reformed Presbyterian Church (Convenanters)
- Congregational Church
- Baptist Church
- Moravian Church
For a list of which registers held by PRONI consult its Guide to Church Records http://www.proni.gov.uk/guide_to_church_records.pdf
Click here to read the other posts in this series on Genealogy in Ireland: