Irish Catholic Parish Registers On Ancestry

Ancestry gives you access to browse, search and view collections of Irish Catholic baptism, marriage, and burial records. These records are from the Church parish registers.

Ancestry has nearly twenty different collections for this material, which can be confusing. Some are small and represent a handful of parishes. Some are older and have a lower quality of indexing.

We’ll explain the differences between the collections and point you towards the best sources for your research.

But first, we’ll take a look at where the records come from.

What Are The Irish Catholic Parish Registers?

Let’s do a quick review of the organization of the Catholic Church across the country.

Parishes and dioceses

The Catholic Church is organized geographically into parishes served by one main church and a parish priest. A large parish may have several churches but there is a single administration and register.

Parishes are collected into wider geographical areas governed by a diocese with a Bishop or Archbishop.

For example, there are 34 Catholic parishes in County Cavan. Most are part of the Kilmore Diocese, which also governs some parishes in neighboring counties like County Meath.

However, there are a handful of Cavan parishes that fall under the neighboring Meath Diocese.

So it’s worth keeping an eye on which diocese is associated with the parish records you find.

Parish registers

Parish priests carry out baptisms, marriages, and funerals (burials) for their local community. They are also responsible for recording the details of these events in parish registers.

The registers are usually stored within church buildings.

Ancestry’s Sources For Irish Catholic Parish Records

One of the reasons why there are so many different collections on Ancestry is that it has prepared digital archives from multiple sources.

You’ll get a better understanding when you know a little about the main sources I describe here.

National Library Of Ireland

The National Library of Ireland is in Dublin. In the 1950s and 60s, it microfilmed the registers of most Catholic parishes in Ireland.

Genealogy Quotes By Writers x
Genealogy Quotes By Writers

A small number of parishes are missing. There are also some gaps within the records for a specific parish.

Anyone in Dublin can view the microfilms at the Library. The images are also available for free on their website.

The NLI has also given licenses to several different organizations to prepare transcripts and make digital archives.

The NLI insists that images from their archives are freely available. This is great news for Ancestry customers. Unlike some collections, you get to view the source images with the most basic Ancestry subscription.

You can even view them with a free or guest account!

These images are in black-and-white. There are some problems with the quality of the images in parts of the collection.

That is usually due to issues with the microfilm. It isn’t Ancestry’s fault!

E-Celtic Limited

If you look at the description for some of the smaller collections, you’ll see that the source “E-Celtic Limited”.

This is a private company that was contracted by about 19 parishes to work on their registers.

It’s a tiny fraction of parishes, but you’ll be happy if your relatives lived in one of them! This is because the images are top quality and in color.

However, I’ve seen some complaints about the transcription and indexes. It seems that some of the transcribers weren’t familiar with Irish place names.

FamilySearch.org

FamilySearch is the massive genealogical archive maintained by the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

Ancestry has licensed several of its collections. Be warned that some of these collections are of lower quality and have a limited number of parishes.

I took a look at one description on the Family Search website and they seemed a little apologetic about the quality:

There are only a few localities included, and the years included are random. None of the indexes for areas are complete.

Unfortunately, these collections don’t have images on Ancestry.com.

You can always check on the FamilySearch.org website with a free account. But the collections I checked for this article don’t have images on Family Search either.

Digitized Books And Individual Church Registers

Some collections are indexes to digitized copies of books. One example is a book that compiles all the marriages published in the Hibernian Magazine over a number of years.

There are also some individual churches that published their registers in the early 1900s.

You’ll find that the search results include the image of the page where your search term appears.

Or course, these collections are very narrow in terms of who they apply to. But you could strike lucky!

What’s The Difference Between Parish Records And Civil Records?

The parish records are maintained by the Catholic churches.

In contrast, the state maintains civil records. Civil registration of births and deaths was introduced in Ireland in 1864.

Civil registration for marriages was introduced earlier in 1845, but only for non-Catholic marriages. Catholic marriages were included in civil registration from 1864.

Advantages of the parish records

One advantage of the Catholic parish records is that they can get you back further than 1864. We can usually get back to the the1840s for most counties. Some go back even earlier.

The other big advantage to parish records is that full transcripts and the original images are often available on online sites.

Ancestry.com has the indexes to Irish civil records. However, you won’t get the images or full transcripts. These can be ordered from the Irish General Records Office for a fee.

The Many Different Irish Catholic Parish Collections On Ancestry

Here is a rundown of the different collections on Ancestry. I’ll work down from the most useful to the ones that are very specific in terms of location.

Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915

  • Source: National Library of Ireland
  • Link
  • Images: Yes (and free)

This is the biggest of the collections and covers over one thousand parishes across the entire island.

The collection mostly includes baptism and marriage records. There is a much smaller number of death records, and most of these are from the Ulster region.

The index is titled “1655-1915” but most of the parishes only go back to about the 1830s. The earlier dates tend to be for the eastern parts of the island.

Ireland, Select Catholic Marriage Registers, 1778-1942

  • Source: E-Celtic Limited
  • Link
  • Images: Yes (great quality and in color)

This collection has about 60 parishes. You can see the list in the link above (scroll to the bottom of the Ancestry page).

Ireland, Select Catholic Death and Burial Registers, 1767-1992

  • Source: E-Celtic Limited
  • Link
  • Images: Yes (great quality and in color)

This collection has about 20 parishes. You can see the list in the link above (scroll to the bottom of the Ancestry page).

Ireland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911

  • Source: FamilySearch
  • Link
  • Images: No

This collection includes Church Of Ireland records as well as Catholic. It’s a bit of a hodge-podge from FamilySearch sourced from microfilms of church and civil records.

Ireland, Select Deaths, 1864-1870

  • Source: FamilySearch
  • Link
  • Images: No

A very limited number of parishes are included.

Ireland, Select Marriages, 1619-1898

  • Source: FamilySearch
  • Link
  • Images: No

A very limited number of parishes are included and the years are fairly random.

Ireland, Selections of Catholic Parish Marriages and Banns, 1742-1884

  • Source: National Library Of Ireland
  • Link
  • Images: No

This collection is limited to a small number of parishes, mostly in Meath and Roscommon.

Scroll to the bottom of the page linked above to see which parishes.

Ireland, Selections of Catholic Parish Baptisms, 1742-1881

  • Source: National Library Of Ireland
  • Link
  • Images: No

This collection is limited to a small number of parishes, mostly in Meath and Roscommon.

Scroll to the bottom of the page linked above to see which parishes.

Ireland, Selections of Catholic Parish Deaths, 1756-1881

  • Source: National Library Of Ireland
  • Link
  • Images: No

This collection is limited to a small number of parishes, mostly in Meath and Roscommon.

Scroll to the bottom of the page linked above to see which parishes.

Other Collections

There are plenty of other small collections that I won’t go into in detail.

It’s worth having a browse through the Ancestry catalog while setting the filters to “Ireland” and births/marriages/deaths.

I’ll show you how to do that next.

How To Browse The Catalog On Ancestry.com

We’ve got a general tutorial on how to use the Ancestry card catalog.

There are plenty of tips in there such as not to bother using the Title search.

My advice for the specific Irish collections is to start by filtering the location in the left pane to Ireland.

Then choose the category of “Birth, Marriage & Death, including Parish”.

That gives you about two pages that list the various collections. You can usually tell from the titles as to which are Catholic parish records.

When you click on any of the links, scroll down past the search form to the description at the bottom of the page.

You’ll see a summary of the source, followed by a lengthier description. If the collection is limited to a smaller set of parishes, they will be listed out here.

Are The Irish Catholic Parish Registers Available Elsewhere?

There is one free alternative and one paid alternative.

National Library Of Ireland (free)

You can access and browse the microfilm of the registers for free at the National Library website.

The drawback is that the search capabilities are very limited. You can search by an individual parish, but then you’ll need to scroll through images of the pages from the register.

FindMyPast (paid)

Find My Past also entered into a partnership with the National Library to prepare transcripts and searchable indexes for the Catholic registers.

You can check out our separate tutorial on searching the Irish Catholic records on Find My Past.

Not available on FamilySearch.org

You may be used to getting access to records for free on FamilySearch.org, the website run by the Church Of Jesus Christ Of The Latter-day Saints (the Mormons).

However, the rights to reproduce the full images of the Catholic parish records have not been made available to FamilySearch.org.

This appears to be due to differences in religious practice between the two organizations. The Catholic hierarchy objects to the practice of “proxy baptism”.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.