The entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms held by the National Library of Ireland – 400,000 films amounting to the most important source of Irish family history – is to be made available online this July.
The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has been working to digitise the microfilms for more than three years under its most ambitious digitisation programme to date.
Announced in December, the archive of parish register microfilms will go live on 8 July.
The parish register 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.
The most important source of information on Irish family history
“This is the most significant-ever genealogy project in the history of the NLI. The microfilms have been available to visitors to the NLI since the 1970s,” explained Ciara Kerrigan, who is managing the digitisation of the parish records.
“However, their digitisation means that, for the first time, anyone who likes will be able to access these registers without having to travel to Dublin.”
Typically, the parish registers include information such as the dates of baptisms and marriages, and the names of the key people involved, including godparents or witnesses.
The digital images of the registers will be searchable by parish location only, and will not be transcribed or indexed by the NLI.
“The images will be in black and white, and will be of the microfilms of the original registers,” explained Kerrigan.
“There will not be transcripts or indexes for the images.
“However, the nationwide network of local family history centres holds indexes and transcripts of parish registers for their local areas.
“So those who access our new online resource will be able to cross-reference the information they uncover, and identify wider links and connections to their ancestral community by also liaising with the relevant local family history centre.”
Irish church image via Shutterstock