The Na­tional Li­brary of Ire­land col­lec­tion

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Ro­man Catholic parish reg­is­ters have al­ways been in the cus­tody of the parish. Some­times stored in cup­boards or even un­der the bed in the parochial house, the reg­is­ters are, and were, in con­stant dan­ger of be­ing dam­aged or de­stroyed. Reg­is­ters were also mis­placed, lost or re­moved from the parish.

In or­der to pre­serve a re­source that doc­u­mented the Ro­man Catholic pop­u­la­tion of Ire­land from the mid-18th cen­tury, Dr Ed­ward MacLysaght, Chief Her­ald of Ire­land, ap­proached the Bishop of Lim­er­ick of­fer­ing the Na­tional Li­brary of Ire­land’s ser­vices to help pre­serve th­ese records.

The Catholic hi­er­ar­chy agreed to his pro­posal and from the early 1950s al­most the en­tire sur­viv­ing col­lec­tion of Ro­man Catholic parish reg­is­ters was mi­cro­filmed by the NLI. The agreed cut- off for mi­cro­film­ing was 1880, 16 years af­ter the start of civil reg­is­tra­tion in Ire­land.

Mi­cro­film copies of Ro­man Catholic parish reg­is­ters have since been avail­able to re­searchers vis­it­ing the NLI to search for their an­ces­tors. Th­ese im­ages have now been digi­tised and made avail­able on­line.

How­ever, since film­ing th­ese records, ad­di­tional reg­is­ters have come to light, such as an early reg­is­ter for the parish of Bless­ing­ton, which was found in a sec­ond­hand book­shop in Dublin and re­turned to the parish. This reg­is­ter is miss­ing from the NLI’s col­lec­tion, but has been in­dexed by the Wick­low Her­itage Cen­tre and pub­lished on­line at root­sire­land.ie.

The NLI has the largest col­lec­tion of Ro­man Catholic parish reg­is­ters, but there are frag­ments and early reg­is­ters that have been dis­cov­ered since the mi­cro­film­ing pro­ject con­cluded, many of which have now been in­dexed by lo­cal her­itage cen­tres. This demon­strates that there is no ‘one-stop shop’ for Ro­man Catholic parish reg­is­ters in Ire­land.

The Read­ing Room at the Na­tional Li­brary of Ire­land in Dublin

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