Irish Family History: Parish Registers

Within the third instalment on Researching Your Irish Household Historical past, Nicola Morris explains analysis your Irish ancestors by means of the helpful useful resource of parish registers.

NB: Ancestry and Discover My Previous are free to go looking, however require subscriptions to view information.


Very similar to records for Irish civil registration, Irish parish registers may be present in quite a lot of completely different places on-line.  Earlier than signing as much as a web site to seek for your ancestor in Irish parish registers it is very important be sure to are trying in the best place.

How do I take advantage of Irish Parish Registers to analysis my Ancestors?

Within the first occasion it’s essential to ascertain the non secular denomination of the household you might be trying to find.  The vast majority of the Irish inhabitants have been Roman Catholic, however there have been additionally Church of Eire, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Moravian and Jewish congregations in Eire.  It also needs to be famous that with intermarriage some households modified faith through the course of the nineteenth or early twentieth century.

The 1901 and 1911 census of Eire recorded the faith of the inhabitants.  Even when your ancestor was not residing in Eire on the time of the census, a take a look at the returns for households with the identical surname in the identical county could assist to find out whether or not they have been typically Roman Catholic or of one other religion.

The denomination of the church by which your ancestor married also needs to be recorded on their civil marriage certificates and it’s value checking this supply for a clue to their non secular denomination.  Nonetheless, some Irish emigrants could have arrived in England as Roman Catholic however married within the Church of England and introduced their youngsters up of their partner’s religion.

Utilizing Roman Catholic Parish Registers

Roman Catholic parish registers are the property of the church and have been saved by the person parishes.  Which means that there was no wholesale destruction of those information. The survival of parish registers varies from parish to parish.  The vast majority of Catholic parishes in Eire have information that survive from the 1830s.  In some instances there are registers that date from the mid-18th century and different parishes, significantly these on the north western seaboard, solely have information that date from the 1850s, 1860s or later.

Giant Roman Catholic parishes have been typically made up of a number of chapels.  The information for the assorted chapels have been mixed to create the register for the parish.  Nonetheless, some early surviving information are solely the registers for one chapel and don’t characterize all the parish.

It’s all the time useful to try to determine the parish the place your ancestors have been born to find out the extent of the information that survive.  If the information now not survive for the interval when your ancestor was born, it will not be value paying for entry to a database of information to seek for your ancestor’s baptism.

Utilizing the Nationwide Library of Eire Assortment

Each Roman Catholic parish maintained its personal registers.  With the intention to protect a useful resource that documented the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Eire from the mid-18th century, Dr. Edward MacLysaght, Chief Herald of Eire, approached the Bishop of Limerick providing the Nationwide Library of Eire’s providers to assist protect these information.  The Catholic hierarchy agreed to his proposal and from the early Fifties nearly all the surviving assortment of Roman Catholic parish registers have been microfilmed by the Nationwide Library of Eire.  The agreed lower off for microfilming was 1880, 16 years after the beginning of civil registration in Eire, because it was felt that all the inhabitants can be recorded in civil information by this time, although this was not the case. 

These microfilms have been digitised by the Nationwide Library of Eire and are freely out there on their web site (  You may view this assortment and manually search the pictures for baptismal, marriage and in some instances, burial entries.  The Nationwide Library haven’t listed the registers, so you can’t seek for particular entries by identify, however it is rather straightforward to navigate a register to a particular occasion (baptism or marriage) and date and examine the register your self.

This assortment of microfilms has been listed by and  On Ancestry this assortment is “Eire, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915”.  On Findmypast you simply want to pick “Parish Baptisms” underneath the “Life Occasions” class.  Ancestry and Findmypast collaborated to index these parish registers as soon as they have been revealed by the Nationwide Library.  Each databases have the identical errors and omissions and their publication has been criticised for big numbers of inaccuracies, significantly the wrong transcription of names, so do be cautious when looking out these information.  The absence of your ancestor from these information doesn’t essentially imply that there is no such thing as a baptismal or marriage file for them and you will have to resort to a guide search of the pictures of the unique registers.

The information on each of those websites are typically restricted to the 1880 lower off level set by the Catholic hierarchy when the registers have been launched for microfilming.  There are a small variety of parishes whose information have been microfilmed a lot later, who launched registers that go as much as 1900 or 1915, however this isn’t true for almost all of information.

Utilizing County Heritage Centres

Within the Eighties a heritage centre was established in every county in Eire to transcribe and index parish registers.  The transcription was typically undertaken domestically utilizing the unique registers (not the microfilm copies from the Nationwide Library).  In some instances extra registers had been discovered that weren’t microfilmed within the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties.  These have been listed by the county heritage centres, which implies that their assortment of information differ barely to these within the Nationwide Library assortment.  For instance, the registers for the Roman Catholic parish of Blessington in Co. Wicklow date from 1852 within the Nationwide Library of Eire assortment.  Nonetheless, a further earlier register was discovered within the Nineties in both a ebook store or a skip in Dublin and returned to the parish.  This extra register, courting from 1821, was listed by the Wicklow Heritage Centre.  In case your ancestor was baptised on this parish in 1827, they won’t seem within the Nationwide Library assortment or at Ancestry or Findmypast, however will seem on

Almost all the county heritage centre databases have been revealed on-line at  It is a subscription or pay-per-view web site that additionally consists of information of civil registration, Griffith’s Valuation, census returns and a few burial information and headstone inscriptions.  The collections differ from county to county, so it’s best to research their “On-line Sources” for the county you have an interest in earlier than making a big funding on this website.  Counties Clare, Wexford and components of Tipperary, amongst some others, are very poorly represented on this website, whereas different counties similar to Mayo, Galway and Derry have very in depth collections.

What makes such a great useful resource is the pliability of the search engine.  In case you select to go looking the information for a particular county, it’s attainable to seek for all births and baptisms for a kid with the surname Murphy with a mom named Anne Ryan and even all youngsters, regardless of surname, born to a mom named Anne Ryan.  You may also seek for all youngsters born to a mom named Anne Ryan at a particular townland deal with.  It’s even attainable to seek for all baptisms in a selected parish the place the primary godparent is called Murphy.  Godparents have been typically siblings or cousins of the dad and mom, so figuring out Godparents on baptismal information can assist to construct a wider household profile.  

There are many errors on this website as effectively.  I ceaselessly discover baptismal information for quite a lot of youngsters in a single household, however on inspection of the unique registers discover extra youngsters which might be lacking from the net database.  

The standard of the transcription varies from county to county, so all the time be cautious and don’t assume that each one information have been appropriately transcribed.  You may manually search the unique register on the Nationwide Library of Eire web site to ensure nothing has been missed.

There may be one other set of Roman Catholic parish registers out there on-line at the free Irish authorities web site for family tree.  This assortment comes largely from the county heritage centres and are information that aren’t discovered on  They embrace the registers for Dublin Metropolis, Kerry and components of Cork and are free to go looking.  This website has a really straight ahead search engine and can checklist all situations of a selected identify, whether or not the particular person was recorded within the register as a baby, dad or mum or Godparent.  Some, however not all, of the entries are linked to the unique registers.

What info can I discover in Roman Catholic Parish Registers?

In contrast to information for civil registration, parish registers didn’t all the time observe the identical format, significantly within the earlier nineteenth century.  Which means that that you must be ready for uncommon spellings and an unclear structure.

Most registers will file the date, the identify of the kid, the names of the dad and mom and the sponsors (Godparents).  The register is written in Latin and first names have been Latinised.  At the Latin first names have been anglicised.  On Ancestry and Findmypast they’ve remained within the authentic type. Which means that Mary will seem as Maria and William as Guilliumus or James as Jacobus.  Surnames stay unchanged within the Latin registers, however it isn’t unusual to search out the primary names of oldsters incorrectly recorded by the parish priest, significantly the identify of the mom.  I’ve discovered ten youngsters born to John Reilly and Anne Murphy, with an extra two born to John Reilly and Rose Murphy in the identical parish.  The deal with recorded with the baptism confirms it’s the identical household, even supposing the mom’s first identify was incorrectly entered by the priest.  If I had used a search engine to search out the kids born to John and Anne, I might have missed two of the baptismal entries.

When looking out the information on RootsIreland I attempt to maintain the search broad after which slender it down.  The search engine will determine a large variant spelling of surnames, which is useful however requires the precise spelling of the primary identify.  This may be tough in case you are looking out for a kid named Ann, as you have to to seek for Ann, Anne, Annie, and so on.  Nonetheless, you’ll be able to seek for all entries starting with ‘An’ or simply ‘A’, which ought to reveal all variants.

When utilizing the deal with as a part of your search, the wild card is ‘%’ and I take advantage of loads of wild playing cards because the spelling of townland addresses in parish registers was not standardised.  So Philipton, could seem as Phillipson, Philipstown, Phillipton.  It also needs to be famous that native place names could have been used as a substitute of the usual townland identify assigned by the Ordnance Survey of Eire within the 1830s.

In Roman Catholic parish registers the mom’s maiden identify was normally recorded.  Nonetheless, completely different parishes used completely different codecs.  Some registers may give the household identify with the kid and the mom’s maiden identify with the dad and mom.  You may discover the baptism of James Burke to William and Mary Connors.  Which means that James was the son of William Burke and Mary Connors.  Alternatively, you might discover an entry that reads James to William and Mary Burke, with the mom’s maiden identify lacking from the register.  It may be tough to find out the format utilized by the parish priest when looking out on-line indexes.  In case you find a baptismal or marriage entry, use the Nationwide Library of Eire assortment of parish registers to determine the unique entry to substantiate the accuracy of the file you’ve gotten discovered.  Most entries on the assorted websites, Ancestry, Findmypast and RootsIreland will hyperlink to a picture of the unique register.  

Viewing the unique register can also be essential to guarantee that there is no such thing as a extra info lacking from the net index.  The parish priest sometimes recorded notes within the margin of the register that relate to the person.  If the parishioner married, particulars of their marriage is perhaps written over or beside their baptismal entry. This may embrace abroad marriages.  I’ve discovered baptismal information for a set of kids that recorded marriages for 4 of the household in Boston written over their baptismal entry.

Discovering your Roman Catholic Ancestors previous to parish registration

When trying to find Roman Catholic ancestors born or married in Eire previous to civil registration there are a variety of internet sites the place you’ll be able to search, every with its personal errors and omissions.  Earlier than you begin your search you may get a really feel for what survives and the place it’s revealed on-line at John Grenham’s web site  There’s a small subscription, which could be very a lot well worth the funding due to his detailed guides to parish registers and different genealogical sources.  

Roman Catholic parishes have completely different boundaries to civil parishes.  In case you can set up an deal with in your ancestor and determine the civil parish by which they have been dwelling, you have to to translate this right into a Roman Catholic parish.  That is simply carried out on John Grenham’s website. Chances are you’ll discover that there have been three Roman Catholic parishes that served the civil parish of your ancestors.  John will hyperlink to the place these information have been listed on-line and the extent of the information on every website.  Additionally, you will discover a itemizing of the information for different denominations that correspond together with your civil parish of alternative.

Utilizing Parish Registers for Church of Eire and Different Denominations

The vast majority of Church of Eire parish registers have been destroyed by hearth in 1922.  The Consultant Church Physique Library in Churchtown, Dublin is the repository for all surviving Church of Eire information for the Republic of Eire and so they have produced an inventory detailing all registers, people who have been misplaced, what survives and the place it may be discovered (https://www.ireland.anglican.o…).  Microfilm copies for a few of these parishes may also be discovered within the Nationwide Archives of Eire and that is recorded on the checklist.

Church of Eire parishes in what’s as we speak Northern Eire and from a few of the counties on the border with Northern Eire, may be discovered within the Public Information Workplace of Northern Eire (PRONI), who’ve additionally revealed a wonderful information to their parish file assortment (…)  John Grenham ought to point out which of those information have been revealed on-line by the county heritage centres.  Little or no of the surviving Church of Eire assortment has been revealed on-line by Findmypast or Ancestry.  In some instances will probably be essential to go to PRONI or the Consultant Church Physique Library in particular person to go looking their information in the event that they haven’t been listed on-line.  

The identical can also be true of the information for Presbyterian congregations.  Largely present in Northern Eire nearly all of information can be found by means of PRONI or the Presbyterian Historic Society (http://www.presbyterianhistory…) in Belfast.  The Presbyterian Historic Society additionally holds Presbyterian information for some parishes within the Republic of Eire.  There are additionally listings for different denominations, similar to Methodist and Baptist, present in Steven Smyrl’s Dictionary of Dublin Dissent, a useful gizmo for determining the place information for an obscure congregation is perhaps discovered.

Some Church of Eire, Presbyterian and Methodist registers have been listed on the assorted county heritage centre websites at however that is actually not a complete assortment for these denominations.

Earlier than signing up and paying for an internet assortment it’s value utilizing the guides at, PRONI and the Consultant Church Physique Library to plan your search and decide the almost certainly place the place the information you require have been listed.  There isn’t any level paying for a Findmypast subscription in case your ancestors have been Presbyterians from Ulster, your cash can be higher spent on a researcher in PRONI.  Don’t signal as much as Rootsireland if your loved ones have been Roman Catholic and got here from Kerry, these information are freely out there on-line at

Parish registers, in the event that they survive, are the supply that may doc your loved ones previous to the beginning of civil registration in 1864.  They are often difficult to navigate, however finally rewarding to see your ancestor’s identify, within the poor hand of the parish priest, written 180 years in the past.


Nicola Morris M.A.G.I is an expert genealogist and member of Accredited Genealogists Eire. She is the director of Timeline Research Ltd, one in all Eire’s main genealogical analysis firms. Nicola has undertaken the Irish analysis for WDYTYA? in the UK and US and has appeared in quite a few episodes. She was additionally the presenter of the first collection of the Family tree Roadshow broadcast in Eire in 2011.

Nicola’s subsequent submit in a couple of weeks time examines the surviving Irish census returns, the place to search out them on-line and ideas for get one of the best out of the information.