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Church records are an excellent source of names, dates, relationships, and places. In fact, church records are the primary source for pre-civil registration (pre-1864) Irish research. Church records include records of christenings, marriages, and burials, sometimes giving birth and death dates. These records were kept in bound registers, usually called parish registers. Church records may include other types of records such as religious census returns, emigration lists, and session or vestry minutes. The major religions of Ireland are the Catholic Church and Church of Ireland (Anglican). The Presbyterian Church is also prominent, especially in Northern Ireland.
(78% of the population were Catholic in 1861, and c12% Church of Ireland, based on statistics extracted from the census of that year)
The following book contains information about the history and records of many Irish religious denominations:
- Ryan, James G., ed. Irish Church Records. Glenageary, County Dublin, Ireland: Flyleaf Press, 1992. (FHL book Ref 941.5 K27rj.)
The following books also have excellent information about church records:
- Falley, Margaret Dickson. Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research. 2 vols. Evanston, Illinois: Margaret Dickson Falley, 1961-62. (FHL book Ref 941.5 D27f 2 vols.)
- Grenham, John. Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide. 3rd ed. Dublin, Ireland: Gill and Macmillan, 2006. (FHL book Ref 941.5 D27gj 2006.)
Church of Ireland Records
The Church of Ireland was the state church or Established Church in Ireland from 1536. Each parish in Ireland kept its own records of christenings, marriages, and burials. Read more...
Catholic Church Records
Catholic parish registers for most rural areas were not kept until the 1820s or later. Records for urban areas started earlier. Each parish (a church unit with geographical boundaries) kept its own records. Catholic parish registers mainly include christening and marriage records. Few registers contain death or burial records. Occasionally a register will contain a parish census. Read more...
In 1605 Scottish Presbyterians began a massive migration into Northern Ireland. Congregations were organized at that time, but only a few congregations, mostly in County Antrim, kept early records. Most congregations started keeping records in the early 1800s. Read more...
A Methodist society began in Dublin in 1746.
Methodist records consist mainly of baptism and marriage records. Baptism records show the child’s name, parents, and birth date and place. Marriage records show the names of the bride and groom, and the marriage date and place. Occasionally a circuit minute book or vestry book was kept. Since there were few Methodist cemeteries, death or burial records are rare. Methodists were usually buried in Church of Ireland cemeteries, and their burial records kept in Church of Ireland registers. Read more...
Quaker (Society of Friends) Records
In 1654, the Quaker faith (Religious Society of Friends) began in Ireland. Its roots can be found among English soldiers, farmers, and merchants who arrived in Ireland after the English Civil War (1641-1651). These immigrants converted to the new religion from a variety of other nonconforming protestant faiths.
By 1750, there were 150 Quaker meetings across Ireland within the provinces of Ulster, Leinster, and Munster.
The Quaker faith kept its records separate and apart from those collected by the Church of Ireland or the State. As a result, many of its original records exist and are located in the repositories. Read more...
Many other denominations have established churches or congregations in Ireland. In the mid-1600s Congregationalists and Baptists first came to Ireland as soldiers under Cromwell. Huguenots, seeking religious freedom, also came in the 1600s. Most Huguenots affiliated themselves with the Church of Ireland or with the Presbyterian Church. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established branches in Ireland by 1850.
Records of other churches are primarily in local custody (except for Latter-day Saint records, which are mainly in Salt Lake City, Utah). Huguenot church records have been published in:
- The Publications of the Huguenot Society of London. N.p.: Huguenot Society of London, 18--. (Family History Library book 942.1/L1 B4h.)
Copies of records for other churches can be found at the Family History Library. These are listed in the Family History Library Catalog. Do a Place Search for a county or parish of interest and select the topic of Church Records. Some records may also be found generally under Ireland and the topic of Church Records.
transcribed and photographed by Mott, George. Monuments of Irish Interest in St. Isidore's Rome. Photos of inscriptions of Irish persons in the church of the Irish Franciscan College in Rome. Also typewritten inscriptions. Surnames, Ball, Sherlock Meighan, Curran, Bryan. covers years 1626 and 1681. Article in The irish Ancestor Vol. X.no.1.1978, pages 15-17, Family History Library Salt Lake City, Ref. 941.5 B2i vol 10-11.
Locating Church Records
Church records are in local custody. Many church records have also been filmed or photocopied and the originals or copies stored in repositories.
Hayes's Sources can be used to determine if and where church records were deposited before 1977. Look in the subject indexes of:
- Hayes, Richard J. Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilization. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 A5h.) Look under the headings "Parish Registers" and "Vestry Books" for Church of Ireland records, and look by denomination (Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) for other churches' records. In the place indexes, look for church records by county and then town, city, or parish.
The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has published:
- An Irish Genealogical Source: Guide to Church Records. Belfast, Ireland: Ulster Historical Foundation on behalf of PRONI, 1994. (Family History Library book 941.6 K23pr.) This is a guide to locating church records in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. It also indicates which records are still in local custody. This guide is also available as a PDF on www.proni.gov.uk. Click on the link for 'Online guides' then click on the link for 'PRONI Guide to Church Records.'
The descriptive catalog for PRONI details their holdings of church records. The Family History Library has a filmed copy of the descriptive catalog. The sections describing church records are found on films 1701904-5; 1701989; 1736433 items 5-9; 1736434 items 1-2.
The appendices in James G. Ryan, ed., Irish Church Records give some names and addresses of church record archives. The appendices also provide details about Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, and Methodist records held in local custody or deposited in national archives.
Local heritage or genealogical centres throughout Ireland are currently indexing church records. To determine if a centre has indexed the records you need, consult:
- Irish Family History Society. Directory of Parish Registers Indexed in Ireland. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 K23dp.)
Additional church records have been indexed since the directory was published. Contact the appropriate centre for more current information and to determine the fees charged for searching and copying index entries.
To see if the church records you need are available at the Family History Library, check the library catalog.
To identify transcripts or abstracts of church records found in Irish genealogical periodicals available at the Family History Library, consult Smith's Inventory of Genealogical Sources: Ireland.
Some articles of interest found in the periodical The Irish Ancestor include:
- Whyte, Donald. "Old Parochial Registers of Scotland." References to people from all parts of Ireland, batisms and marriages, that are held in various parts of Scotland Old Parochial Registers, covering years 1691-1846. Article in The Irish Ancestor, vol.III,no.2,1971 pages 79-82, Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i
- Brown, Mary Ross. "Births, Marriages and Deaths from the Journal of Rev. Adam Averell." Article contains baptisms, births, marriages and deaths noted in his journal from 1754 to 1808 all over Ireland. Article in The Irish Ancestor, vol.III, no.2 1971, pages105-106, Family History Library Book Ref. 941.5 B2i
- "Entries Relating to Irish Persons in the Marriage Register of the Parish of Portpatrick, Wigtownshire, Scotland." Entries of marriages, one or both persons shown must have an Irish address, covers years 1720-1846, article in The Irish Ancestor, vol.IX,no.2.1977, pages 107-129, Family History Library Salt Lake City Ref. 941.5 B2i v.9
- Punch, Terrence M. "Some Irish Immigrant Weddings in Nova Scotia 1841-1845." List of one or both Irish Immigrants that were married in St. Peter's Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia. 1841-1845, Article in The Irish Ancestor, vol. IX.no.2.1977, pages 133-146, Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i v9.
Search Strategies and Indexes
As you search church records, use the following strategies:
- Search indexes first. Some websites with indexes to Ireland church records are:
- RootsIreland -- this fee-based website has indexes online for several Irish counties, though coverage varies. The website includes a coverage list. (Click on 'Online Sources' then 'List of Sources' then select a county.)
- Irish Genealogy -- this free website has indexes online for Dublin and the counties of Carlow, Cork, and Kerry.
- FamilySearch -- has indexes to some Irish church records in the collection of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Search all parish registers and other available church records of the appropriate locality for the time period you are researching.
- Search available Church of Ireland records even if your family was not Church of Ireland.
- Search surrounding localities if you cannot find records in the expected locality.
- Note all entries, including burials, for the surname you are searching (unless the name is very common).
- Note gaps or missing pages in the record. You may want to search alternative records for the missing time periods.
- If you find little or no mention of your family in parish records, search other records.
- Use the additional information (residence, occupation, etc.) given in parish registers to find other records to search.
Here are links to other valuable websites:
- http://www.proni.gov.uk/records/church.htm -- Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
- This page was last modified on 19 April 2013, at 17:02.
- This page has been accessed 66,141 times.
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