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 Introduction to Irish Church Records
Irish Catholic
Church baptism and marriage records
are a priceless resource for the family researcher, especially prior to 1864 because prior to that year no official (civil) records were kept. There is a register in the National Library which details the Catholic records in existence from each church in the country up to 1880. Getting to see the actual records in the local churches is understandably problematic owing to the fragile nature of the books and the amount of time it takes to go through them.  Someone would have to be in attendance at all times.  However, some Parish Priests will allow you to see the CHurch Records where your ancestors are recorded.  Many of the registers date from the late 1700s but most of churches only began recording well into the 1800s. You might also find that there are gaps in the records because a book is missing and this can be really frustrating.  Fortunately, the gaps are few, but they do exist. Some dioceses are better served than others when it comes to disseminating the information in the records.  For instance, the Waterford Heritage and Genealogical Centre has taken every entry in all the Irish Church Record books from the hundreds of parishes in the diocese of Waterford and Lismore and committed them to computer.  For a fee, they will do search for you.  It's best to have as much information as possible before you contact them.  Search for Waterford Heritage Genealogy Centre.

Most of the Church Records up to 1880 are on microfilm and can be accessed at the National Library, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Irish Family History Foundation is a paid online service that you can use to search Church Records for many counties in Ireland.   See below for more sources.


There are two main registers from the Catholic churches in Ireland - Baptism and Marriage.  Some churches have  Confirmation records as well. These recorded the names of the twelve year old children who were confirmed in any given year. We have often been asked if the Irish church records include death and/or burial records.  Unfortunately the answer is 'no'.  

Irish Burial Records
Church Records in Ireland do not inckude burial records. Sometimes there is a burial record kept by the family of the cemetery custodian.  In Ireland some cemeteries are under the care of the Catholic Parish while others are under the care of the County Council.  Always best to inquire locally first as a good local contact can very often bypass the bereaucracy of Diocese or County Council.  All I can say is....each cemetery is different.  While almost all have modern records, we are not so lucky when we come to look for old records.  Of course we do have the head-stones and some cemeteries have recorded the headstone details.  

Baptismal Records Ireland

One of the most important and useful of the Church Records. The names in these books are usually in Latin, and this is another reason why the service in Waterford is worth availing of.  They have already done the translation for you. For instance, Jacobus is James and Gulielmi is William.  For Catholic parents in the 1800s, having their children baptised was often more important than having their birth registered in some official register so this might be where you find your ancestor. Babies were normally baptised as soon as possible after birth so the date of baptism is a good indication of when the baby was born. Some of the baptism entries have a short address such as the name of a townland or sub-division of a townland.  Don't expect this always to be the case as it varied from priest to priest.  You will find the sponsors' names, and these names can be important in later research as they were almost always close relatives or neighbours. The mother's maiden name is always used, which makes identification easier. Be sure to remember to check various spellings of the name because the priest may have entered it differently from the way the family spelled it.  An obvious example is the use or non-use of the prefix O'... so that O'Riordan might be entered as Riordan.

Catholic Marriage Records in Ireland

The information contained in the Catholic Church Marriage register can be sparse enough, depending on the officiating priest.  Bride's and groom's names will be found, date and location of marriage, and  the witnesses are also listed. Watch out for changes in parish names when conducting searches.  There was some reorganisation in the Catholic Church parish structure  during the 1800s, and you may find that a parish has been divided or amalgamated with another parish.


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Protestant Church Records 

The National Libary of Ireland at Kildare Street, Dublin, has a listing of the Protestant Church Records available throughout the country.  The original Protestant Church records had been kept in the Four Courts in Dublin along with  countless other records.  Sadly, these too, were lost when the building was shelled by one side and dynamited by the other during the civil war in 1922. Fortunately, copies had been kept by many of the Churches in their respective parishes and the National Libary listing will guide you to these. It is worth checking the county registrar's offices as they sometimes hold the Protestant church records.
From the National Archives website the following information is obtained -  Information on Church of Ireland parish registers which survive, and their location is available in the National Archives.  The information is listed in 'A Table of Church of Ireland Parochial Records and Copies' by Noel Reid (Naas, 1994).
The Representative Church Body Library has records but does not offer a research service.  You can engage a genealogist to search for information if you can't get there yourself. Info below.

Church of Ireland House Dublin
Church Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin 6

Tel: +353 (0)1 4978 422
Fax: +353 (0)1 4978 821




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