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NGS Conference and Irish Church Records

   I have to say that I haven't spent too much time preparing for my Ireland trip over the last two weeks.  I'm on my way to the National Genealogical Society Conference in Cincinnati and have been trying to catch up with odds and ends before I left.  I'm doing a lecture on Wednesday on Irish Church Records so if you're in Cincinnati, I hope you'll join me at 4:00 p.m.  I'm not staying for the entire conference, but heading to Connecticut on Thursday for my daughter's graduation from Yale Divinity School on the 21st.   I'll be doing some research in Connecticut next week, as I was able to snag an appointment at the Department of Health in Hartford where they have a computer index of all of the vital records from 1898.  

   I've written on Irish Church Records a number of times.  Here is some information on Roman Catholic Records, and if you click "previous" you can check on other denominations.  (I know the "Previous" seems counterintuitive, but unless the oldest blog appears at the top of my list, that's the way the software works <g>.)

   Here are some strategies for planning your research in Irish church records.  First you need to know what religion.  That may seem like an easy decision, but changes did occur.  Remember that religion in Ireland was a political issue.  The Church of Ireland was the State Church and for many years, all others were dissenters.  Marriages performed outside of the Church of Ireland were not valid.  At various times Catholics could not own property, educate their children or practice their religion.  For well off Catholic families, the solution was to join the Church of Ireland (at least in name) and make certain their oldest son (who could only inherit if he was a member of the State Church) was a member.  In the early 18th century these rules also applied to Presbyterians, which is why many fled the religious persecution for America prior to the Revolutionary War.  

   So after you've determined the religion, you need to know the locality where your ancestors lived.  I talk about this constantly…it's the most important piece of information when doing Irish research.  Ideally you need to know the townland and the county and can then use the General Alphabetical Index to the Townland and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland to determine the civil parish, barony and Poor Law Union.  

   The Parish referred to above is the civil parish which likely corresponds to the Church of Ireland parish, but not necessarily to the Roman Catholic parish.  Once I know the civil parish, I turn to James Ryan's book, Irish Records and under the county listings, look up the civil parish in the Roman Catholic section which gives the name of the Roman Catholic Parish, Diocese, the status of the records, and the dates covered.  You'll now know if the records are extant for the period your ancestor lived.  Although some Roman Catholic records date back to the late 17oo's, most don't start until the early 1800's and some as late at the 1870's.    The earliest Church of Ireland records date to the mid 1600's (only four parishes).  The problem here is that at the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland the churches were required to send these records to the Public Records office for safekeeping (they were considered civil records).  About 60% were lost in the fire in 1922.

   Even though there are challenges working with church records, if they exist, they will be one of the only records of your ancestors prior to civil registration in 1864 and shouldn't be ignored.   The indexing of the extant registers was undertaken in the late 1980's through the Heritage Centres as a way of proving computer training to young people.   Most of those indexes are now available on RootsIreland, a  pay per view site.  The counties not indexed there, including Kerry and West Cork are available at IrishGenealogy.ie.  Both of these sites provide transcriptions of the records.  The originals can be found mostly in local custody or on microfilm.  Church of Ireland records are at the National Archives of Ireland; Roman Catholic records are at the National Library of Ireland and Presbyterian records are mostly at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).  Some localities are also available at the Family History Library.

   Happy Hunting!


There are still a few spaces left for the Ireland Research Trip in October.  Additional information and registration forms are here.


Have you indexed census records today?  (I did three batches on my flight from Tampa to DC.)  I was at a Bloggers Meeting with Family Search this evening and they said in 37 days, 30% of the 1940 census has been indexed.  The more people who index, the faster it will be completed!


© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2013