Biggest digitisation of Irish genealogy records set to begin

1 Dec 2014

The National Library of Ireland is to digitise more than 400,000 images of Catholic parish register microfilms and publish them online for free.

In what is being described as the most significant ever digitisation project for Irish genealogy, the microfilms will be available online for free from the National Library of Ireland (NLI) by the summer of 2015.

The records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census.

Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,091 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records. 

“This is the most ambitious digitisation project in the history of the NLI, and our most significant ever genealogy project,” said Colette O’Flaherty, head of special collections at the NLI. 

“We believe it will be of huge assistance to those who wish to research their family history. At this stage, we have converted the microfilm reels on which the registers are recorded into approximately 390,000 digital images. 

“We will be making all these images available, for free, on a dedicated website, which will be launched in summer 2015.”

Valuable parish lore for amateur genealogists and professional researchers

O’Flaherty said anyone tracing Irish family history will be able to search the site from anywhere in the world and search the parish they are interested in and browse through the records.

“The information in the registers varies from parish to parish but, typically, includes the dates of the baptisms or marriages, and the names of the key people involved, including godparents or witnesses. Obviously, such information is extremely valuable for both amateur genealogists and professional researchers.  

“The microfilms have been available to visitors to the NLI since the 1970s,” O’Flaherty said.

“However, this project means that, for the first time, anyone who likes will be able to access these registers without having to travel to Dublin.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years