Irish Roots

John Grenham


March 2nd

One of the first peculiarities to strike anyone doing family history research is the ubiquity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormons. The reason is straightforward. The Church (of which I am not a member) believes that the family is eternal, extending even into the afterlife. Because the unity of the family after death is so important, individual ancestors can be invited to join the Church; one of the religious duties of every Mormon is to identify, and invite, those ancestors.

Genealogy, then, is a very strong part of Mormon culture, along with its necessary offshoot, the keeping and copying of records. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has the largest collection of microfilms in the world and because so many U.S. immigrants were Irish, many of those records are Irish. They include all of the indexes to state records of births, marriages and deaths, the entire holdings of the Registry of Deeds from 1708 to 1928, about 40% of Roman Catholic parish registers, and much, much more.

Until now, the main way for anyone outside Ireland (and quite a few inside) to research their Irish ancestors has been through the network of public family history research centres attached to most Mormon temples. A copy of any microfilm in Salt Lake can be acquired at cost via these centres. In Ireland, there are centres in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Coleraine, Belfast, and Derry. Addresses and contact details are at www.familysearch.org. In itself this is an extraordinary system, but in 2005 the Library went one better and announced an astonishing plan to digitise all of its microfilm holdings and make them available on line. And, in the teeth of a good deal of public scepticism, they’re actually doing it. More on what Irish records are covered next week.

Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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