The Catholic Parish Registers Online: Revolutionizing the Search for 19th Century Irish Ancestors

Each week I receive correspondence from people with Civil War ancestors in search of their family’s origins in Ireland– something which is unfortunately often extremely difficult to determine. However, today has seen the release of a set of records that promises to open up new avenues for those seeking such information. To much fanfare in Ireland, the National Library of Ireland has made their entire collection of Catholic Parish Register microfilm images available online for the first time– even better, it’s all free. These microfilms contain information on baptisms and marriages for most of the parishes in Ireland up to c. 1880 and are the most important surviving source relating to Irish people in the 19th century. There are some gaps in the collection, both in terms of the parishes available and in the records which survived, but it is nonetheless a groundbreaking resource; over 390,000 digital images cover more than 1,000 Irish parishes. An attractive interface based on a topographical map of Ireland brings you to the scans of the microfilms for each parish. Unfortunately the material is not searchable beyond parish level, so it isn’t possible to search for individuals by name in these records. However, if you suspect your family came from a particular parish or area, you can work your way through the relevant microfilm images to see if their details are recorded. This website will undoubtedly be an important tool in the armoury of everyone looking for the origins of  Irish veterans of the American Civil War, and indeed anyone with connections or an interest in 19th century Ireland. You can begin exploring the registers by clicking here.

The National Library of Ireland (YvonneM)

The National Library of Ireland (YvonneM)


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Categories: Research, Resources, Update

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

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11 Comments on “The Catholic Parish Registers Online: Revolutionizing the Search for 19th Century Irish Ancestors”

  1. July 8, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

    Been waiting for this. Hope to find my GF’s baptismal records.

    • July 10, 2015 at 10:55 am #

      Jim, be aware that there is a cutoff date for the registers, usually in the 1880s, but sometimes before that year. Some records go up to a later date, and some parishes don’t have the marriage register on the site! So don’t be disappointed if you can’t find your grandfather on this site. You will have to consult John Grenham’s book Tracing Your Irish Ancestors to see if the missing registers exist. But note I’ve discovered omissions in this book, so despite its status as the ‘bible’ of Irish genealogy, it has its shortcomings! Check it out in your local library before you buy it.

    • July 21, 2015 at 11:20 am #

      Let me know how you get on Jim- happy hunting!

  2. July 8, 2015 at 9:19 pm #

    Hello Damian, Cork researchers are especially happy. Not only do we now have direct access to Cloyne Diocese records in North and East County Cork, but also first time ever online access to the City Churches St Mary’s, St Michael’s RC Blackrock and St Patrick’s.

    Given the high numbers of Corkmen involved in The Civil War, this should certainly help your research.

    Ann Marie

    Sent from my iPad


    • July 21, 2015 at 11:20 am #

      Hey Ann Marie,

      Absolutely! I am going to have to delve into the Cork records on the trail of a few Civil War people alright- I have a few city people especially who there is decent information for which should be traceable. All I have to do now is find the time :-)

      Kind Regards,


  3. July 10, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    Agreed, Damian! There are a few records that are not available online, but this is a serious ‘game-changer’ as they say!Now, if we could just find a sponsor to provide a searchable database to the registers, ti would make life a lot easier for some people, although, given the sometimes atrocious writing in some registers, this could create as many problems as it solves! .

    • July 21, 2015 at 11:19 am #

      That will make all the difference Tony- I expect that it won’t be long before they are registered, which will really open them up for people. Exciting times for people carrying out this research!

  4. July 10, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    Thanks a million for this info…

  5. July 13, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    Having the parish records online is a fantastic resource. Kudos to the National Library.
    Here’s a hint to those beginning a search for Irish CW vets. You may be lucky enough to get your ancestor’s parish name from their military pension records. My g-granddad listed “Lurgan Parish, Co. Cavan” as his place of origin, rather than “Ireland.” That opened all the doors for our family research. I have often thought that he had a strong identification with his home parish to list it rather than just the county or the country. He was “of Lurgan” as well as “of Ireland.” Good luck searching!

    • July 21, 2015 at 11:06 am #

      Hi Lois,

      That is a good tip and one that people would do well to follow!

      Kind Regards,


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