I'm as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. Today is the day the National Library of Ireland opens its doors to over 390,000 digital images of microfilm reels of Catholic parish registers. The parish register records date from the 1740s to the 1880s and they cover 1,090 parishes throughout Ireland and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.
These parish records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census. If you have an Irish ancestor, like mine, who left Ireland early, and was born in this time frame than this day just might change everything for you.
The National Library of Ireland has worked with the Catholic Church to maintain these records since the 1950s, when they initially made microfilm copies. However, they have only been available in Dublin. Today the world gets access to these records.
NLI’s Ciara Kerrigan, who is managing the digitisation of the parish registers, said:
“We announced initial details of this project last December, and received a hugely enthusiastic response from people worldwide with an interest in Irish family history. We are delighted to announce that the project has been progressing well, and we will be able to publish all the digitised records online from 8th July onwards.
Parish records will hold information such as dates of baptisms and marriage, and the names of the key people involved, including godparents or witnesses. Keep in mind these images will be searchable by parish location only, not surname so it's important you know the parish your ancestors cames from. If you don't know consider my article Determing Where Your Irish Ancestors Lived on my Irish Genealogy for Beginners Page.
Also keep in mind, these images will not be transcribed or indexed so again be prepared to do some searching. While the timeframe is 1740s to 1880s, very few of the registers pre-date 1800 and be prepared for gaps and missing pages. Also expect to find faded and poor handwriting but that's nothing new for a seasoned family historian.
“The images will be in black and white, and will be of the microfilms of the original registers,” explained Ms. Kerrigan. “There will not be transcripts or indexes for the images. However, the nationwide network of local family history centres holds indexes and transcripts of parish registers for their local areas. So those who access our new online resource will be able to cross-reference the information they uncover, and identify wider links and connections to their ancestral community by also liaising with the relevant local family history centre.”
This digitization program has been three years in the making and is likely to break down many a brick wall for genealogists seeking their Irish ancestors.