Church reords

Irish Church Records

for Genealogists Part I: Overview When researching pre-1864 family histories, church records will likely play a vital role. For births, marriages and deaths post-1864 it would be more effective to look through civil registration systems instead.

To successfully trace your Irish church records, two essential pieces of information will be needed: (1) their religion; and (2) the name and location (town/village) where your ancestors lived – since parish registers were collected locally and remain accessible on an individual level.

Where are the major national collections located?

While efforts have been undertaken in recent years to digitize local collections into searchable, online sources through and databases, not all churches or heritage centres have been willing or able to share their resources.

Except for one notable exception – the National Library of Ireland’s extensive collection of Irish Roman Catholic records dating from 1882 (see below), global database providers Ancestry, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage still possess relatively few Irish church records in their collections.

Returning to that exception…The National Library’s unindexed database of images from Roman Catholic parish registers is freely accessible at Ancestry and FindMyPast collaborated in 2016 on creating an index to these images; one company included it within their paid-for collection while the other made it freely available; MyHeritage does not currently provide such an index.

Are the Records Available? A second problem may occur – and can be particularly troubling – if no registers exist anymore for parishes where your ancestors resided.

Emlafad and Kilmorgan in Co. Sligo is home to some of the oldest Church of Ireland registers dating back to 1762 for baptism, marriage and burial services.

Are You Searching for Protestant Ancestors from Ballymote? Excellent News for Anyone Tracing Their Ancestry from Ballymote

But the news may not be so rosy if your ancestors from that region were Roman Catholic. Catholic baptism and marriage records for this district exist with gaps beginning as far back as 1824; index baptism records from 1824-1856 can only be accessed locally for a fee; there are no burial records.

Could things get any worse? Achonry parish, nearby, has no surviving religious registers before civil registration was introduced.

Therefore, 1864 should serve as your cutoff date when researching family history in and around Tubbercurry.

Catholic marriages (there are civil records for non-Catholic marriages dating back to 1845 in Ireland).

Evidently, this severely restricts your ancestral research.

There’s not much you can do other than accept this reality and hope that, one day, a copy of your parish registers may surface intact and legible.

Where should You Begin
In order to trace your Irish family tree through church records, it is necessary to know where their ancestors lived. For this purpose, research Irish parish records in your locality.

Know the Parish.

County services will only go so far in helping.

If you haven’t identified your locality yet, the first step should be locating its exact place of origin – ideally a townland but civil parish will do just as well.

Before searching, it is also wise to familiarize yourself with Irish parishes and land divisions and how this might impact on your search (See Quick Links below for this purpose).

Do You Know the Religion of Your Ancestors

Most researchers should be able to make an educated guess based on the faith of more recent relatives; however, be prepared for surprises!

My Irish ancestry search brought up mostly Roman Catholics; however, one Methodist named George Nichols from Dublin who I found truly surprising was my great-great-grandfather (gt gt grandfather in Methodist terms).

Although his six children were raised as Catholics, he declared himself to be Methodist on both census forms from 1901 and 1911.

No wonder I hadn’t found his Catholic baptism record where it should have been!