NEARLY 400,000 Irish Catholic parish records will be made publically accessible via a new genealogy resource website due to be launched this summer.
People researching their Irish family tree from all corners of the globe will be able to search the records - which date from the 1740s to the 1880s – for free, thanks to a new National Gallery of Ireland initiative.
After three years digitising the documents, the library’s entire 390,000 collection of Irish catholic parish register records will be made available to the public for free from July 8.
NLI’s Ciara Kerrigan, who is managing the digitisation project, explained: “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. We are delighted to announce that the project has been progressing well, and we will be able to publish all the digitised records online from July 8 onwards.”
She added: “This is the most significant 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.
From July researchers will be able to search for the relevant record by parish location, where they will find black and white images of all the microfilms held in the original registers.
“There will not be transcripts or indexes for the images,” Ms Kerrigan explained.
“However Ireland’s 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,” she added.
After hearing the news, Fee Berry, who lives in Britain but has roots in Ireland, told The Irish Post: “I nearly didn't find my grandmother because of the cost of seeing the records and my father, who was evacuated when he was eight, couldn't remember anything helpful about her, so if this allows people to access records for free, it's an amazing thing.”
Clare Doyle, Heritage Resource Manager with Ireland Reaching Out, an organisation working to connect the Irish Diaspora around the world, said: “This is a great advancement for those researching their Irish family history. No matter where they are in the world they will be able to access historical information from parish records.”
She added: “We are very grateful to the National Library of Ireland for making this happen and it reaffirms Ireland’s status as one of the leading genealogy centres of the world.”