Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SLIG 2011 ~ Irish Family History Research ~ Day 3

Taking a look at the schedule for Wednesday I knew I was going to get some religion ~ Irish Church records were front and center for three of the four lectures! 

Some general notes ~ An important point to be aware of is that there is a difference between civil and religious parishes in Ireland and that the Catholic parishes/dioceses and Church of Ireland parishes/dioceses are separate and do not overlap. 
  • Be sure to check the FamilySearch wiki for your ancestor's County in Ireland to learn more about these jurisdictions and their particular locations in detail. 
  • Be sure to take a look at local County research guides (published as a series) as they provide an interesting and informative overview of the history and culture for your particular area.

  • Catholic Church Records
    • Ouimette provided an excellent overview of the Roman Catholic Church in Irish history and culture.  We had an abbreviated history lesson starting with St. Patrick and moving in greater detail from 1541 through the 1870s.  
    • The Roman Catholic Church has flourished in Ireland even in the face of (and perhaps in direct contravention to) English rule and religious persecution.  It is imperative to understand the political and cultural history of Ireland to truly understand our ancestors.
    • Roman Catholic records were maintained on the parish level and registers were regularly kept for births/baptisms and marriages.  It was less common to have death/burial registers.  The Catholic parishes did not consider their records "public records" and did not forward them to Dublin and/or they only sent copies while maintaining the originals. 
    • Ouimette laid out the types of records to be found and how to identify your ancestor's Catholic parish.
    • Keep in mind that Latin was the "lingua franca" of the Church and oftentimes records will contain some written Latin.  Ouimette provided us with several of the standard terms and the FamilySearch wiki has an excellent table laying out words and terms that may be found in various registers.
    • Original parish registers continue to be held on the parish level and microfilm copies of certain of the registers are available at the National Library of Ireland in Dublin. 
    • Approximately one-third of the NLI microfilms are available at the FHL.
    • Ouimette also suggested that County Heritage Centres (some better than others) have indexes available online.

  • Church of Ireland Records
    • Rencher took over at this point to give us an overview of the Church of Ireland's place in Irish history and the status of its records.
    • Rencher provided a timeline of important historical dates as well as a summary of the records maintained by the Church of Ireland (COI).
      • Although many of the COI's registers were destroyed in the Public Records Office explosion and fire of 1922, substitutes as well as some indexes to these records are available and Rencher provided suggestions on additional avenues of research.  
    • Rencher provided two great charts (I like color!) laying out the schematic history of the COI diocesan organization both historically and today.  These charts were quite helpful in understanding the administrative strucure of the COI.
    • In addition to birth, marriage and burial records, other COI records exist and were summarized as follows:
      • Vestry Minutes
      • Bastardy Bonds
      • Pew Schedules/Assignments
      • Parish Deeds
    • Be sure to search out published Parish histories and registers.
    • A key point Rencher made was that oftentimes pre-1922 records had been extracted and/or indexed and this is another avenue of records to be researched.
    • He provided an excellent bibliography and an appendix showing a map of COI dioceses.
    • Finally, it is important to remember that due to persecution of Catholics and the fact that COI was the established State church, no matter your ancestor's religion, you should always check COI records.

  • Presbyterian Church Records
    • Dean Hunter returned to provide an overview of the Presbyterian Church records in Ireland.
    • The Presbyterian Church was the dominant church in Ulster as its adherents were the Scottish who arrived in the North of Ireland under the English plantation scheme.
    • Hunter provided a background of the types of records to be found as well as their locations in Belfast.
    • He suggested that preliminary research be conducted online through the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).
    • Additionally he provided a lengthy bibliography to assist researchers looking into Presbyterian records.

  • Irish Civil Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths
    • Ouimette was back to outline the standard vital records research as it applies to Ireland. He provided a history of civil registration in Ireland and put it an the timeframe that it may be applicable to our ancestors.
    • He outlined the types of records available:
      • Original manuscripts
      • Published indexes
      • Microfilm copies maintained at the FHL
      • Digitized images and searchable indexes
      • Birth Registers
      • Marriage Registers
      • Death Registers
    • Ouimette explained how to acquire copies of entries from the various registers and how to use the registers as a "springboard" to other records.
    • He advised that you should always learn why a record was created ~ it is important to gain an understanding of what things you should be looking for in a record, who might have copies of it, and how it was used.
    • We have to know the jurisdiction(s) we should be looking in for the record (as well as surrounding jurisdictions).
    • Always use a year range and surname variants in your research ~ keep an open mind as far as dates and spelling go because it was not important to our ancestors and it was only more recently standardized.
    • Keep in mind that indexes and registers are not perfect and sometimes very good reasons existed for "errors" in dates.
      • As an example after registration was mandated by law, penalties were levied for late registration.  People often used dates that complied with their later reporting dates and did not trigger a fine.
    • Be sure to look not only in national registers but also local registers.
    • Indexes for many Irish civil registrations are now online at 

I had always heard that there is a dearth of Irish records for the genealogist but after today's sessions I came away more aware of the wealth of records that are out there.  It does seem to be a more involved process to find them and acquire the birth, marriage and death information of my ancestors.  Since I enjoy puzzles and like the thrill of the hunt, today's sessions gave me some ideas on where to start my search.

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