Irish Heritage Centres

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This article briefly describes what a heritage centre is, how it can benefit you, and what you should know before you use one.

What is a heritage centre?

Heritage centres are another name for the centres set up under the umbrella of the Irish Family History Foundation ( Each centre covers ;a particular area--most centres cover one county, although some centres cover more than one county and other centres cover only a part of a county. The objective of the centres was to index the Roman Catholic records in their county. Many centres continued to index records after they finished the Catholic records.

How can a heritage centre benefit me?

A centre can benefit you in at least two instances:

  1. Providing access to records that are not available through the Family History Library.
  2. When you only know the county of origin of your ancestor, and want to try to locate their baptism or marriage (see "Can a heritage centre help me if I only know the county my ancestor came from?").

How do I know if they have indexed the records I need?

The easiest way to tell if a centre has indexed the records you need is to go to and click on "County Centres," and then choose your county. This screen will usually give you a listing of what records that centre has indexed.

Can a heritage centre help me if I only know the county my ancestor came from?

The answer is yes, with qualifications. You should know at least three things:

  1. Name of ancestor and date of birth or marriage in Ireland
  2. Name of ancestor's parents or spouse
  3. The county where the birth or marriage took place

These three items are essential in order to locate the correct ancestor. There are usually multiple people in a county with the same approximate birth or marriage date. Without knowing their parents, siblings, or spouse you have no information to distinguish your ancestor from others with the same name.

If your ancestor was Roman Catholic or Presbyterian, the chances of finding them in church records before 1800 are not good because there are few Catholic or Presbyterian congregations that kept records prior to 1800.

If your ancestor was Anglican (Church of Ireland) there is a greater chance of finding records before 1800, however survival of Anglican records is only about 60%.

The best way to find out if you have a good chance of the centre being able to locate your ancestor's birth or marriage in their indexes is to look to see what they've indexed and the beginning dates of church records in that county. See "How do I know if they have indexed the records I need?" above.

So, I know I want to use a heritage centre, how do I do it?

Go to and then click on "County Centres" and then to go the county of interest.  This will give you the contact information that you need.  Some heritage centres have placed their records online.  Always check the "Web site" link to see if this is the case for your centre.  If it is, you can search on a pay-per-view basis via the Internet for your ancestors in the databases of the centre!

If your centre has not placed their records online and you must contact the centre, you may want to e-mail or phone the centre before you fill in the "Research Application Form."  This helps to ensure that you understand what they can do for you, how much they will charge, and how long it might take.  Understanding this up front will increase your chances for a positive experience.

For more help and great tips for working with Heritage Centres, read Kyle Betit's excellent article, "Irish Heritage Centres" - Published November 16, 2000 - he Global Gazette