National Library of Ireland Adds Catholic Parish Registers Online For Free That Can Go Back As Far As The 1740s; Use The Maps At The Site To Find Parishes Within Ireland When You Do Not Know The Parish Name

Hi Everyone!

National Library of Ireland LogoIf you are doing Irish research on Catholic ancestors in Ireland, you may want to definitely take a look at some recently released free online database of Catholic Parishes in Ireland.  Data contained in this database can go back as far as the 1740s and continues through around the 1880’s.  The data is free through the National Library of Ireland.  You don’t need to register to access it.

Here is a link to the site that you can access the online data:

National Library of Ireland Online Catholic Parish Registers

Here is a quote from Dick Eastman’s blog post about the topic back on July 8, 2015:

The National Library of Ireland in Dublin today (Wednesday) has placed the entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms held by the National Library of Ireland (NLI) online. Involved are over 370,000 digital images of the microfilm reels on which the parish registers are recorded and which will be accessible free of charge.

These parish register records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census. Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,086 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records. The NLI has been working to digitise the microfilms for over three years under what is had described as its most ambitious digitisation programme to date.

The parish registers provide evidence of direct links between one generation and the next (via baptismal registers) and one family and another (via marriage registers). The NLI holds copies of the registers for most Roman Catholic parishes in Ireland (including the counties of Northern Ireland) up to 1880. These registers consist primarily of baptism and marriage records.

WOW! If you are doing Irish research on Roman Catholic ancestors it sure looks like you have struck a gold mine to access these Catholic Parish records images online and for free. Use the above link to get access to the site at the National Library of Ireland and the images.

Please note. The data is just the images of generally Births and Marriages, some going back to the 1740s. This means that you will not be able to do an indexed search of the names of your ancestors within the data. To make this data more meaningful to you it would help greatly that you have localized a location in Ireland of your ancestors and then determine the Parish associated with the area. You can simply input the parish name into the search box if you know the name.

There are 1,142 Parishes in the data. You can click your way through some maps at the site if you know that general location of your ancestors in Ireland based on the map and then click down even further to see the Parishes included. If you think you are in the right geographic area you can then click on the Parish you may want to explore. This is the best way to find an approximate parish of an ancestor if you know a general geographic area in which they lived. The general clickable maps are a great resource and really make it easy for you to get to the Parish of possibility without having to know the name of the Parish.

When you click on a Parish name from within the map you will be taken to a part of the site that gives you some microfilm information about the records e.g. Parish Name within the County Name, Microfilm Number, Number of images, Dates of the records included, other suggested resources to look at. If you click on the image of the film you will gain access to the images to view. You can magnify, download, print, increase brightness, decrease brightness, increase contrast and many other tools to help you navigate and improve the readability of the image.

Like any other microfilm, you will be at the mercy of the handwriting itself from the original document. But at least you will not be dealing with a foreign language of document images if English is your language! I clicked through some and yes some may be easier to read than others. But that is research! Sometimes your ancestors are just jumping off the page at you with very readable writing. Sometimes, they are saying “not so easy buddy, work a little harder!”.

Remember that you are not using the resource with a searchbox for a name search. You are using the resource as an online microfilm reader with the ability to select the specific parish of interest and its records. This is valuable “free” data that can be of great importance to you in your research even if you have to look at the data as just images. I guarantee if you make that magic discovery of an ancestor you will be doing a “happy dance” plus you will have really sharpened your own research skills when accessing non-indexed data.

Check out this valuable resource for your Irish Catholic research. You won’t be sorry.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library


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