The National Library of Ireland’s complete collection of Catholic parish register microfilms is to be made available online for free later this year.
On 8 July, the NLI will launch a dedicated website with over 390,000 digital images of the microfilm reels on which the parish registers are recorded.
The NLI said it has been working for over three years to digitise the microfilms.
According to the NLI, the parish register records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history before the 1901 Census. Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,091 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, and consist mainly of baptismal and marriage records.
“We announced initial details of this project last December, and received a hugely enthusiastic response from people worldwide with an interest in Irish family history,” said NLI’s Ciara Kerrigan, who is managing the digitisation of the parish registers.
“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. 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 Ms. 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.”