Irish parish registers online for first time
Thousands of free Catholic parish records have been uploaded to the web following the National Library of Ireland’s most ambitious digitisation project to date
More than a century’s worth of Irish records have been made available on the internet for the first time.
The National Library of Ireland ( NLI) in Dublin has uploaded 373,000 digital images of Catholic parish registers to registers.nli.ie, where they can be accessed completely free of charge.
Mainly covering baptisms and marriages, the records – scanned from the NLI’s microfilm copies – reveal details of people across 1,086 parishes between the 1740s and 1880s.
Although the material has not yet been transcribed, users can trace their forebears by finding the relevant county and parish and then browsing through the scans page by page. This can be achieved by entering a place name into the search box at the top of the homepage, or by using the interactive map located directly below, enabling researchers to zoom in on a specific geographic location.
Due to the destruction of crucial records during the Irish Civil War, the registers are often considered the most important source for tracing ancestors in the country before the 1901 Census.
However, it was previously only possible to access the material by visiting the NLI and viewing the microfilm in person, or by tracking down the original hard-copy registers. Although indexes to the records have been created by family history organisations, they can sometimes contain errors and omissions.
Speaking before the launch, genealogist Nicola Morris said that the availability of the records online would be of ‘significant’ help to family historians trying to break down brick walls.
“Being able to see the originals is very important because it allows researchers to verify the information,” she told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. “While the majority of these records have been indexed and made available online in a database format by websites such as these are not accompanied by an image of the record. This means that researchers cannot verify the entries and confirm that the information is correct. “It is also important to be able to see some of the nuances... the bold and underlined term ‘ illegitimate’ for a child born out of wedlock speaks volumes about the attitude of the parish priest who created the record.”
At the official launch of the release at the NLI in July, Taoiseach Enda Kenny suggested that the resource could help boost tourism.
“[ The registers] will be of great value to experts in the areas of history and genealogy, but also of interest to people here in Ireland and the Irish diaspora across the world,” he said. “No doubt the registers will contribute to the number of genealogical tourists in Ireland, as people access these records online and decide to visit their ancestral home place.”
The registers will be of interest to the Irish diaspora across the world
The digital parish register images have been created from microfilm records held at the National Library of Ireland in Dublin
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