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

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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

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