Irish Roots

October 10th, 2011

John Grenham


Irishgenealogy.ie added 750,000 new Roman Catholic parish register transcripts last week, bringing its total records to just under 3 million, almost all (hallelujah!) with matching images. For Dublin city in particular, the site shines a spotlight of clarity on an area that has long been a shameful secret of Irish research: until now it has simply been impossible to find ancestors in Dublin before the start of civil registration in 1864. The problem is purely practical. City parishes dealt with enormous numbers of baptisms and marriages, to the point where a manual search of one year of a baptismal register in a single parish could take half-a-day. Add in the fact that most 19th-century Dublin families seem to have moved around the city like sand hoppers, and the job of finding a specific Dublin baptism has been completely impractical, at least until now.

The new transcripts and images of Dublin marriages from the mid-1850s are particularly welcome. The growing self-confidence of Catholic administrators meant that the registers were set up to record not only the names of the couple's fathers, but also the names of their mothers, along with the addresses of both sets of parents. Then as now, Dublin was a magnet for migrants from all over the island, and it can be next nigh impossible to make the link back from Dublin to rural origins. These marriage records can bridge the gap. You can have a look at an example here.

There are inevitable quibbles. The new advanced search facility is baffling. Despite repeated attempts, I can't fathom how it is supposed to work - at the very least it needs some serious explanation. And the default variants remain very limited, with only Kerry surname variants and no forename variants. But for completing the Dublin records alone, the site (and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and the Minister) deserve the highest praise. This is what databases and the internet were made for.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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