Ireland Catholic Church Records
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). The registers contain the following information.
These are the records that provide the most vital information.
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.
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. Sometimes a priest will search parish records for you.
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
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.
Locating Catholic Records
Original parish registers are in local custody. Sometimes a priest will search parish records for you. Names, addresses, and parishes of priests are listed in the Irish Catholic Directory and Diary.
The National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin holds filmed copies of almost all pre-1880 parish records--the largest collection of Roman catholic parish registers (with about 98% parish coverage for the whole country). In 2015 these microfilms were digitalized and put online at their website, and later on Ancestry and FindMyPast.
Filmed copies of pre-1880 parish registers for Northern Ireland are also kept by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
Many catholic parish records, some as far back as the 1790's, as well as records of other churches, and census records, are being indexed by county Heritage Centers. Heritage Centers are part of a country-wide system, the Ireland Family History Foundation, which has begun to index millions of the records.
- Ancestry.com ($) (Name search can be done for free. Subscription needed to view records).
- RootsIreland (Ireland Family History Foundation) ($)
- 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).
Family History Library
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of many Catholic parish registers.
- Go to the FamilySearch Catalog.
- In the Places box, type the name of a parish.
- Select the parish from the dropdown menu which appears.
- Scroll down and select the topic Church 'Records' if it appears; otherwise try alternate spellings of the parish name.
- Select a title.
- Click View Film Notes to find the film numbers.
Maps showing Catholic parish boundaries for every county in Ireland can be found in:
Grenham, John. Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide. Dublin, Ireland: Gill and Macmillan, 1992. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 D27gj.)
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.
- The National Library of Ireland
- National Archives-Parish records and marriage licenses
- Irish Genealogy-Church records