National Library of Ireland Launches Parish Records Website
Michael Fisher Northern Standard Thursday 9th July
A new digital archive of Catholic parish records which is being made available free online by the National Library of Ireland should transform and greatly enhance the task of anyone tracing family history, according to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D. She was speaking at the launch by the Library of a web-repository of parish records, dating from the 1740s to the 1880s.
The Library’s holding of parish records is considered to be the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census. Up to now, they have only been accessible on microfilm, which meant that those interested in accessing the records had to visit the National Library. This new web resource provides unlimited access to all members of the public to records covering 1,086 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, including all parishes in the Catholic diocese of Clogher (although I could find no record for Eskra, near Newtownsaville, which was once part of Clogher parish in County Tyrone.
Minister Humphreys said: “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. The records feature the baptisms of some very well-known historical figures, such as the 1916 Leaders Padraig Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh.”
“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 we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rising next year, I am 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”, she said.
Acting Director of the National Library, Catherine Fahy, said:
“This access to the parish records will be transformative for genealogy services, in particular as they will allow those based overseas to consult the records without any barriers. Effectively, the digitisation of the records is an investment in community, heritage and in our diaspora-engagement.”
The parish registers website contains more than 370,000 high-quality, digital images of microfilm reels. The National Library microfilmed the parish records in the 1950s and 1960s. Some additional filming of registers from a small number of Dublin parishes took place during the late 1990s.
As a result of this work, the NLI holds microfilm copies of more than 3,550 registers from the vast majority of Catholic parishes throughout Ireland. The start date of the registers varies from the 1740/50s in some city parishes in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick, to the 1780/90s in counties such as Kildare, Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny. Registers for parishes along the western seaboard generally do not begin until the 1850/1860s.
Catherine Fahy said: “In using the website for family or community searches, we would recommend that members of the public consult with their local family history resource to help them refine their search. The website does not contain any transcripts or indexes, so for a search to be successful, some known facts about a person’s life will be necessary. Effectively, those who access the new online resource will be able to cross-reference the information they uncover, and identify wider links and connections to their ancestral community by also liaising with local genealogical services or family history resources.”
Speaking at the launch An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D., said: “I would like to congratulate the National Library on their project to make the Catholic parish registers available online. 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.
“They will be of great value to experts in the areas of history and genealogy, but also of 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.”
Online access to the new website is free of charge. For more information, visit http://registers.nli.ie/.
In 1949, Dr Edward MacLysaght, Chief Herald of Ireland and Keeper of Manuscripts at the National Library of Ireland, approached the Bishop of Limerick offering the NLI’s services to help in the permanent preservation of the genealogical information contained within the Catholic Church’s collection of parish registers. The NLI’s offer to microfilm parochial registers was taken up by every member of the Hierarchy. Although civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1864, records were not accurately kept for a number of years, so a cut-off date of 1880 was applied for the microfilming of registers.
The usual procedure followed in relation to the microfilming was to send a senior member of NLI staff to a diocese to collect the registers, bring them to the NLI in Kildare Street for filming, and then return the registers to the diocese. The filming of registers diocese by diocese began in the 1950s and was completed over a period of twenty years. Additional filming of registers from a small number of Dublin parishes took place during the late 1990s. As a result of this work, the NLI held microfilm copies of over 3500 registers from 1086 parishes on the island of Ireland. The start dates of the registers vary from the 1740/50s in some city parishes in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick, to the 1780/90s in counties such as Kildare, Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny. Registers for parishes along the western seaboard do not generally begin until the 1850/60s.
Church registers of marriage and baptism are considered to be the single most important source for family history researchers prior to the 1901 census. In many cases, the registers contain the only surviving record of particular individuals and families. With growing numbers of people engaged in family history research and limited on-site facilities at the NLI in Dublin, the decision was taken in 2010 to digitise the parish register microfilms. Following a tender process, the contract for digitisation was awarded to AEL Data who converted 550 microfilm reels, containing over 3500 registers into approximately 373,000 digital images. These images correspond to a page or two-page opening within a register volume.
In October 2014 the NLI Board formally approved the making available of the microfilm images online on a dedicated free-to-access website. The individual registers have been reassembled virtually and made available to users via a topographical database. The development of the parish register website has been carried out by a small team in the NLI’s Digital Library section. The digitisation of the Catholic parish register microfilms is the NLI’s most ambitious digitisation project to date. It demonstrates the NLI’s commitment to enhancing accessibility through making its collections available online.
Information can be obtained relating to the following parishes in the diocese of Clogher:
Aughnamullen West (Latton)
Carn (Devenish West, Belleek & Pettigo)
Cleenish (Arney, Belcoo)
Devenish (Botha, Derrygonnelly)
Donagh (Emyvale, Glaslough)
Dromore (Co. Tyrone)
Drumsnat and Kilmore (Corcaghan)
Drumully (Currin, Scotshouse)
Enniskillen (Inis Caoin Locha Eirne)
Galloon (Drumully, Newtownbutler)
Innismacsaint (Maghene, Bundoran)
Killeevan (Currin, Aghabog)
Kilskeery (Kilskerry, Trillick)
Maghaire Rois (Carrickmacross)
Magheraculmany (Cúl Máine, Ederney)