Irish Catholic parish records now fully searchable

By Matt Elton, 1 March 2016 - 2:10pm

Millions of baptism, marriage and burial records from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are more readily accessible thanks to a recent transcription project

National Library of Ireland

The National Library of Ireland, which holds copies of the original Catholic parish registers on microfilm (Photo: Getty Images)

A vast set of Catholic parish records from both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic spanning almost 150 years can now be explored more easily on the web via Ancestry and Findmypast.

The databases on both sites feature records of around 10 million baptisms, marriages and burials that took place from the 17th century until 1880 across more than a thousand parishes. All of the entries can be searched by details including name, date and location, and are linked to high-quality images of the original registers.

The release is the most comprehensive set of such records yet made available online, and represents one of the most valuable resources for genealogists searching for Irish connections in the years before the 1901 census. The new databases include data from several counties, such as Wexford and Clare, not present in some other online collections.

The entries have been transcribed from digital images first made available at registers.nli.ie last summer by the National Library of Ireland (NLI), which holds the original records.

“In July 2015, we published our Catholic parish register images online as open data, creating a dataset that was accessible to people everywhere,” said the NLI’s parish registers project manager, Ciara Kerrigan. “The dataset was intended to be available both for consultation and reuse, and this continues to be the case.

“Digitisation and online access is a growing priority for us, and we will continue to build on our good work in this area.”

Most of the entries in the new indexes detail baptisms and marriages, but information about a smaller number of burials, largely from Northern Ireland, is also included. The new additions boost both sites’ collections of Irish records considerably: Findmypast previously featured approximately 80 million entries, while Ancestry’s catalogue of material stood at around the 45 million mark.

“It’s the background to this new index that makes it so exciting, because it originated with the NLI’s collection of parish registers on microfilm,” Irish genealogy expert Nicola Morris told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. “These copies were first created in the 1950s, whereas other online collections draw on transcriptions made several decades later.

“This means that there are some small variations in this new resource, and researchers may find baptisms and marriages that are present in one collection but missing from another.”

The Irish Catholic parish registers on Findmypast will be 'free forever', with access to the website's entire Irish record collections free until Sunday 8 March.

Ancestry's Irish records, including its own Irish Catholic parish registers, will be free until Thursday 31 March.

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