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.