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Church of Ireland


Parish Church of Rossinver - Leitrim

     In 1560 the Church of Ireland became the State Church of Ireland and all other denominations were “dissenters” and therefore subject to various forms of discrimination and persecution.  The disestablishment of the Church of Ireland did not occur until 1869.

   Although technically registers of the Church of Ireland were required from 1637 the law was mostly ignored until between 1750 and 1800.  There are four churches with pre 1700 registers…3 in Dublin and one in Lisburn, County Antrim.

   The civil parishes of Ireland and the Church of Ireland parishes are typically one in the same.  As the established church, in addition to parish registers, records include various assessments and tax records which, after the revocation of the Penal Laws, included Catholics as well.  One example of this is the Tithe Applotment, the tax paid by those who had produce from their land.  It was paid to support the clergy of the Church of Ireland (not a popular tax with the Catholics and Presbyterians).  The Church also had some disciplinary functions and handled probate until 1857.  Consistorial courts handled probate for those with property within one diocese.  If an individual owned property in more than one diocese, then the probate was handled by the Prerogative Court. 

   The main records you’ll find are christenings (baptisms), marriages and burials.  Children were typically christened within a few weeks of birth.  The records will include the child’s name, date of baptism (sometimes date of birth), parents and legitimacy (very important).

   Marriages were usually in bride’s parish and required permission to marry either by Banns or License.  Banns were an intent to marry announced or posted in the church for three weeks prior to marriage in order to give people the opportunity to object to the marriage  A License could be obtained for a fee from the church authority–usually bishop or diocese and required an allegation, information on the bride & groom, their marital status, and intended place of marriage.  A Bond had to be posted to ensure the information was correct.  Although the Allegations and Bonds have mostly been destroyed, some were  abstracted prior to fire.

   Burials do not include a great deal of information but you may find the parents’ names for children, and sometimes a residence or cause of death.

   After the disestablishment in 1869 a law was passed requiring the parish registers be sent to the Public Records Office for safekeeping.  The law was modified to allow those churches with adequate storage to keep their records.  About two-thirds of the records were destroyed in the fire at Four Courts in 1922.  

   Finally Vestry Minutes could contain any type of information that might name your ancestors, such as pew rentals, disciplinary actions or a parish censuses.  These records have typically not been microfilmed and are most likely still in local custody.

  The main repository for Church of Ireland records is the Representative Church Body Library (RCBL) in Dublin (actually Braemor Park on the grounds of the Theological College).   It’s a short bus ride from the center of the city and houses many of the original records from parishes that have closed.  Over the past few years, they have begun the Anglican Record Project with images of a small number of parish registers online.  In 2016 they completed a project to provide a color-coded listing of the status of all Church of Ireland Registers (updated as of April 2017).  This 96 page listing shows the locality of surviving records, as well as listing those records that were lost in the fire.  One other list of importance is A Handlist of Church of Ireland Vestry Minute Books in the Representative Church Body Library

    The National Archives of Ireland in Dublin has microfilm of some of the records which survived the fire.  The National Archives is the state archive and because of the nature of Church of Ireland records those that have survived are here (not so with the Catholic records).

PRONI 7.03.09 PM

   The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast also has microfilm of extant records for Northern Ireland and traditional Ulster which includes Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan. They also have records from some of the border counties. You can download their Guide to Church Records which provides additional information.

   You may also find the records in local custody at the parish church.  Use the Find A Church link to contact the parish.  Many of the Church of Ireland records have been added to the RootsIreland (subscription) and (free) databases.  Check their listings to see if the parish you are searching has been indexed, and for what years.  The Family History Library may have some records as well.  Check their catalog for the parish name.

   I’m off to the New England Conference this week doing three lectures and some consultations.  If you’re going to be in Springfield, make sure you introduce yourself.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018