Irish Catholic records to be digitised
The National Library of Ireland has revealed plans to release its entire collection of Irish Catholic parish registers online by summer 2015, completely free of charge
The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has announced plans to upload its entire Catholic parish registers collection to the web.
Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, the records will be added to a dedicated website where they will be ready to view free of charge. Although the microfilm used to create the records has been accessible to researchers visiting the NLI in Dublin since the 1970s, this will be the first time that images of the original documents are made available online.
“This is the most ambitious digitisation project in the history of the NLI, and our most significant ever genealogy project,” said Colette O’Flaherty, Head of Special Collections at the NLI.
“Anyone tracing Irish family history will be able to access this site – from anywhere in the world – and search for the parish which they are interested in. They will be able to see a list of registers for that parish and click on whichever registers they like to browse through the images contained within.”
Covering 1,091 parishes across Ireland, the collection mainly contains baptism and marriage records. While the level of information provided in the entries can vary, it typically includes dates the ceremonies took place and the names of the key people involved, such as godparents and witnesses.
Although the 390,000 black and white images in the set will be browsable, the documents will not be indexed or transcribed, meaning family historians will be unable to search for individuals by name. Due to the condition of the original documents, some of the scans may also be blurry and difficult to read, so it could take extra time to decipher the information.
However, despite the limitations, the destruction of many important records for Irish genealogy during the 1920s means that the parish register collection will still be the most comprehensive dataset for tracing ancestors in the country before the 1901 census.
In his ‘Irish Roots’ column for The Irish Times, genealogist John Grenham welcomed the news, stating that it was “Almost impossible to overstate the importance of what is about to happen. When the Irish public service gets things right, it can get them spectacularly, gloriously right.”
Nicola Morris, who was recently seen as an expert on Julie Walters’ episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, added that the release was “very significant” for Irish genealogists, even if only available to browse.
“These records are not indexed or transcribed – that work has already been done by the county heritage centres and published online at rootsireland.ie and irishgenealogy.ie,” she said. “However, the NLI project will allow you to view the original record to verify your information and conduct broader searches of the register from the luxury of your own home”.
Anyone tracing Irish family history will be able to access the site
A family of Irish peat cutters c1880 – the period the most recent records in the collection were created