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Online Tutorial on Ireland Church Records

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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 [1] and Church of Ireland (Anglican) [2].  The Presbyterian Church is also prominent, especially in Northern Ireland.

   (1 78% and 2 c12% of the population in 1861 based on statistics extracted 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 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...

Presbyterian Records

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...

Methodist Records

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... 

Jewish Records

Ireland has only a few Jewish synagogues. Jewish records have been deposited in the Irish Jewish Museum. The museum contains records from synagogues and from Jewish communal institutions. These records include registrations of births, marriages, and deaths. For more information about these records, write the museum at the following address:

Irish Jewish Museum
3/4 Walworth Road
South Circular Road
Dublin 8

The Family History Library does not have any Jewish records for Ireland.

Other Churches

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.  

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 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 K23.) 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.

The descriptive catalog of holdings of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland details that archives' 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.

Search Strategies

As you search church records, use the following strategies:

  • 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.

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