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July 8, 2015
National Library of Ireland Launches Parish Records Website


Wednesday, 8th July 2015

National Library of Ireland Launches Parish Records Website

The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has said that the digitisation of its holding of parish records should transform and greatly enhance genealogy services in Ireland.  The NLI today (08.07.15) officially launched a new web-repository of parish records, dating from the 1740s to the 1880s.

Speaking at the launch of the new site, the Acting Director of the National Library, Catherine Fahy said:  “The Library’s holding of parish records are considered to be the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census.  Up to now, they have only been accessible on microfilm and, as such, those interested in accessing the records had to visit the National Library.  This new web resource provides unlimited access to all members of the public to records covering 1,086 parishes from throughout the island of Ireland.

“This access to the parish records will be transformative for genealogy services, in particular as they will allow those based overseas to consult the records without any barriers.  Effectively, the digitisation of the records is an investment in community, heritage and in our diaspora-engagement,” said Ms Fahy.

The parish registers website will contain more than 370,000 high-quality, digital images of microfilm reels.

The National Library microfilmed the parish records in the 1950s and 1960s.  Some additional filming of registers from a small number of Dublin parishes took place during the late 1990s.

As a result of this work, the NLI holds microfilm copies of more than 3,550 registers from the vast majority of Catholic parishes in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The start date of the registers varies from the 1740/50s in some city parishes in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick, to the 1780/90s in counties such as Kildare, Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny. Registers for parishes along the western seaboard generally do not begin until the 1850/1860s.

Catherine Fahy said: “Apart from this being the Library’s most significant genealogy project, this project is our most ambitious digitisation programme to date. The website builds on and extends the NLI’s existing digital library infrastructure, leveraging many open-source technologies.  It has been designed to be fully responsive, working across mobile, tablet and desktop devices.”

“In using the website for family or community searches, we would recommend that members of the public consult with their local family history resource to help them refine their search.  The website does not contain any transcripts or indexes, so for a search to be successful, some known facts about a person’s life will be necessary.  Effectively, those who access the 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 local genealogical services or family history resources.”

Speaking at today’s launch An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, TD, said: “I would like to congratulate the National Library on their project to make the Catholic parish registers available online.  Given the devastating fire in the Four Courts in 1922, in which so many records were lost, these registers are considered the single most important record of Irish life prior to the 1901 census.

“They will be of great value to experts in the areas of history and genealogy, but also of tremendous interest to people here in Ireland and the Irish diaspora around the world.  No doubt the registers will contribute to the number of genealogical tourists to Ireland, as people of Irish descent access these records online and decide to visit their ancestral home place.”

Minister Heather Humphreys said: “This new digital resource will help people at home and abroad who are interested in tracing their ancestry. The website provides access to church records dating back up to 270 years and includes details like the dates of baptisms and marriages, and the names of the key people involved. The records feature the baptisms of some very well-known historical figures, such as the 1916 Leaders Padraig Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh.

“Making this kind of material available online should help to boost genealogy tourism, and will complement the work of local historical centres in communities around the country. As we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rising next year, I am keen to make as much historical material as possible available online, so we can encourage people around the world to reconnect with their Irish roots.”

Online access to the new website is free of charge.

For more information, visit http://registers.nli.ie/.


Contact: Joanne Ahern / Sebastian Enke, DHR Communications, Tel: 01-4200580 / 087-9881837 / 087-3239496.

Note to Editors

  • A bank of images of parish registers is available to media via the following Dropbox link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/vwd02kv1jabznwv/AAAM83aGep4nDX-xYjhCg5qQa?dl=0. The images include details on the baptisms of Padraig Pearse, Peig Sayers and Thomas MacDonagh as well as the marriage record of Anne Devlin.
  • The dedicated hashtag for this new online resource is #ancestorsonline.
  • The mission of the National Library of Ireland is to collect, preserve, promote and make accessible the documentary and intellectual record of the life of Ireland and to contribute to the provision of access to the larger universe of recorded knowledge. It is open, free of charge, to all those who wish to consult the collections.  The Office of the Chief Herald in Kildare Street and the National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar are both part of the National Library.  Further information is available at nli.ie, @NLIreland.
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