Irish research – online parish registers from NLI for 2015

The world of Irish genealogy and family history is ablaze with the news that the National Library of Ireland (NLI) is to make its collection of Catholic parish register microfilms available online – and free!

The NLI’s press release, reproduced by Chris Paton in his must-read British GENES blog, explains their singificance:

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 Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.

However this won’t be an Ancestry/Findmypast experience, with easy(ish) search, index and transcriptions:

The 390,000 digital images due to be published by the NLI will be searchable by parish location only. They will not be transcribed or indexed by the NLI, and the images will be of the microfilms of the original registers, which – in some cases – were in poor condition when the microfilming took place. The images will be in black and white.

The news was broken on the Irish Times online site by another must-read, John Grenham, in his Irish Roots column. He says:

The Library’s aim is to reproduce on the internet the service already available to the public in the microfilm reading room in Kildare Street in Dublin, where images of 98 per cent of parish registers before 1880 can already be viewed by anybody.

So we’ll have to do a lot of work to get our results. But what an opportunity! And, as John Grenham says, “Clearly, once these images are… easily available… swarms of transcribers will descend.” Who knows what the results may be?

Many thanks to the NLI, to John Grenham for getting the news out so quickly, and to Chris Paton for making the press release available and for tweeting about it.

Thanks, too, to Joyce from the irl-wexford-request list for reminding us about the NLI’s existing information on their Catholic parish registers holdings.

Photo of statue of Billy Byrne, Wicklow, Co Wicklow

Statue of Billy Byrne, Wicklow

I had a look at their records from the Diocese of Ferns, which includes Carnew, and saw that the baptism records start in January 1785, too late for Nicholas Delaney (born around 1772). Marriages start in 1893, and deaths in 1894. Still, I may find something that will point me towards other members of his family who were alive in 1798: his (nameless) mother and his Uncle Patrick. Or perhaps I might discover a younger sibling or cousin.

And it’ll be good to have another site to add to my list of free online history and genealogy resources over on the A Rebel Hand website. The Shoestring Genealogist is very happy!

As with many of the good things in life, we’ll have to wait for this exciting present from the NLI. Until summer 2015, to be precise. But the general buzz on social media is that it’ll be worth waiting for.

It’s a bit like being a child and having to w-a-i-t all those long cold days of December to find out whether you’re going to get the Christmas present you were promised. Except that we know we’re getting our gift – it’s just a question of exactly what’s in that exciting bundle that we won’t know until next summer.

Can you bear waiting? What do you hope the NLI elves will bring you?

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About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia. My respectable Welsh ancestors sometimes get a look in.
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