Before the start of civil registration for all in 1864, church records are virtually the only direct source of family information.
The vast majority of the population of Ireland was Roman Catholic, and the single most important source of Irish genealogical information is Roman Catholic records. As a result of many years of microfilming, the National Library of Ireland has copies of virtually all the surviving registers. All are now open for public research.
The LDS Family History Library has microfilms of around 40% of the registers, available through the Family History Library network and their CD British Isles Vital Records Index, 2nd Edition has transcripts of 12 parishes, mainly in Co. Roscommon. These are also now available online at pilot.familysearch.org.
In addition, the local heritage centre network has database transcripts of about 85% of the Catholic registers. A large proportion of these records are now online at the pay-per-view site www.brsgenealogy.com. Many of the records not covered by the heritage centres are being made available free at www.irishgenealogy.ie.
Church of Ireland
When the Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1869, its marriage registers before 1845, and baptismal and burial registers before 1870, became public records. As a result, around two-thirds of the total registers were held in the PRO in 1922 and these were all destroyed. Fortunately many transcripts had been made. In all, some material survives for about 60% of Church of Ireland parishes. The National Archives of Ireland and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland have microfilm copies of almost all of the surviving registers. Most of the originals are now in the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin. Many of these are being made available free at www.irishgenealogy.ie.
Generally, Presbyterian registers start much later than those of the Church of Ireland. Early records of Presbyterian baptisms, marriages and deaths are often to be found in the registers of the local Church of Ireland parish. Apart from records still in local custody, the main collections of Irish Presbyterian registers are in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, and at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Belfast.
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