Ireland Catholic Church Records

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Catholic Church in Ireland

Online Records[edit | edit source]

NLI Microfilms[edit | edit source]

Since 2015 the National Library of Ireland's collection of Catholic records has been online. This collection is the major online source for Catholic records in Ireland. However the microfilm quality of these copies is often poor, and these were some records (around 2%) that were missed. Records after 1880 were not microfilmed. Copies of pre-1880 parish registers for Northern Ireland are also kept by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

Access the records at: National Library of Ireland, with indexes at Ancestry ($) and Findmypast ($).

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Catholic parish registers for most rural areas were not kept until the 1820s or later. Records for urban areas and the eastern part of the county generally 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. Some Catholic registers are written in Latin (click here for some Latin terms and their meanings).

Records[edit | edit source]

These are the records that provide the most vital information.

Christenings (Baptisms)[edit | edit source]

Catholic christenings (baptisms) took place as soon as possible after children were born, sometimes even on the same day. Christening records nearly always include the date of baptism and the names of the child, the father, the mother (including maiden surname, although not always included on earlier records), and the sponsors or godparents. Sponsors or godparents were often related to the child. Some christening records also include the child's birth date and the family's place of residence.

Marriages[edit | edit source]

Catholic marriage records normally provide the date of the marriage, the names of the bride and groom, and the names of the witnesses. Occasionally, places of residence are listed. If the bride and groom are related, the degree of relationship is often given as well. Original parish registers are in local custody. Later marriage records, e.g. 1870s, especially in cities and larger towns, may include additional details not included in civil records such as names of both parents, their current address and addresses for witnesses. 

Burials[edit | edit source]

These records give the name of the deceased, date of burial and sometimes an occupation or residence (townland). Later years often include the age at death and for children at least one of the names of the parents, usually the father. Burials were restricted for the Catholic clergy and many are to be found in the Church of Ireland. Others are scattered throughout the countryside and may require the Ordinance Survey maps to identify. Prior to 1880, only 214 Irish Catholic parishes recorded burials compared to 1042 that recorded records of baptisms.

Other Catholic Church Records[edit | edit source]

Payment of Parish Dues

Some parishes will record the payment of parish dues among its parishioners. Sometimes included are receipts for a particular fund-raising effort, usually that of buildings within the parish.

Entry of Converts

These records generally relate to the baptisms of adults and some of the better examples give the date of birth or age of the adult so baptized.

Diocesan Archival Materials

The archive materials contain a certain amount of parish miscellany, usually to do with petitions from parishioners to the dioceses requesting favors. Many of these usually center on the retaining or removal of a particular parish priest. These materials are generally located in the diocesan archives library.

Priests or Nuns

Records relating to the lives of priests and/or nuns in the Catholic church are to be found primarily in two sources. The Irish Catholic Directory (published annually since 1836) and the published list Maynooth Students & Ordinations Index 1795-1982 by Patrick J. Hamell (Maynooth: no date) covering the first 100 years of those who entered the seminary at Maynooth.

Accessing Catholic Records[edit | edit source]

Irish Genealogy[edit | edit source]

  • Irish Genealogy (for most parishes in Dublin City plus some in south county Dublin, parishes in county Kerry and parts of South-West county Cork, and Co. Carlow).

RootsIreland[edit | edit source]

Heritage Centers are part of a country-wide system, the Ireland Family History Foundation, which has indexed millions of records. All Heritage Centers except Cork City, Dublin City, Kerry and south Cork have placed their records on RootsIreland (see above). However there may still be value in visiting the centers and seeking help from staff.

FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has microfilm copies of only some Catholic parish registers. This site contains a list of available parishes (note that unless RC is explicitly mentioned the parish is Anglican), but its completeness cannot be guaranteed.

  1. Go to the FamilySearch Catalog.
  2. In the Places box, type the name of a parish.
  3. Select the parish from the dropdown menu which appears.
  4. Scroll down and select the topic Church 'Records' if it appears; otherwise try alternate spellings of the parish name.
  5. Select a title.
  6. Click View Film Notes to find the film numbers.

Visiting a Parish[edit | edit source]

Original parish registers are in local custody. Sometimes a priest will search parish records for you, and some churches have a website to submit requests . A fee or donation may be required, or the priest might refuse or be unable to search the records. Names, addresses, and parishes of priests are listed in the Irish Catholic Directory and Diary.

Parish Maps[edit | edit source]

Maps showing Catholic parish boundaries for every county in Ireland can be found on the website of John Grenham, or on the website of the National Library of Ireland.

Selected Bibliography[edit | edit source]

1. Betit, Kyle J. “Priests, Nuns and Brothers in Ireland.” The Irish at Home and Abroad, 5:2 (1998).

2. Bevan, Amanda and Andrea Duncan. Tracing Your Ancestors in the Public Record Office 4th Edition. London: Public Record Office Handbooks No. 19, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1990.

3. Falley, Margaret Dickson. Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research. 2 volumes. Evanston, Illinois, privately printed, 1962.

4. Grenham, John. Tracing Your Irish Ancestors. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1992.

5. Hunter, Dean J. “Irish Collection of the Genealogical Society of Utah.” The Irish Genealogist Vol. 8, No. 4 (1993).

6. McCarthy, Tony. The Irish Roots Guide. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 1991.

7. Nolan, William. Tracing the Past, Sources for Local Studies in the Republic of Ireland. Dublin: Geography Publications, 1982.

8. Ryan, James. Irish Records, Sources for Family & Local History. 2d edition. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 1997.

9. Ryan, James. Irish Church Records, Their history, availability and use in family and local history research. Glenageary, Dublin: Flyleaf Press, 1992.

10. Wight, Judith Eccles. A Rose by any Other Name, A Guide to Irish Christian Names. Sandy, Utah, privately printed, 1984.

Go to the following Websites to read more about the Catholic records.