Irish history coming alive – online

National Library digitises some 400,000 parish records, TCD donates items on first World War to Google Cultural Institute, and Little Museum of Ireland puts 160 items online


For the first time, the National Library of Ireland (NLI) is to make a 400,000-strong collection of Catholic parish register microfilms available online from July 8th.

The records date from the 1740s to the 1880s and cover more than 1,000 parishes across the island. The parish register records are the most important source of information on Irish ancestral history prior to the 1901 census.

The NLI said it has taken more than three years to digitise the microfilms.

Currently, anyone who wishes to view the parish records must go to the NLI’s genealogy microfilm reading room in Dublin, or pay an outside researcher to access the records for them. The only online access available to view the documents is through a third party subscription service,

The parish registers typically include information such as dates of baptisms and marriages, and the names of key people involved, such as witnesses or godparents.

The digital images of the registers will be searchable by parish location only and won’t be subscribed or indexed by the National Library .

Ciara Kerrigan, manager of the digitisation of the parish registers, said that it’s the most significant genealogy project in the history of the National Library.

“The microfilms have been available to be viewed by the public since the 1970s,” she said. “For the first time, anyone who likes will be able to access these registers without having to travel to Dublin.”

First World War

The exhibition includes previously unpublished letters and diaries from Irish soldiers serving in France, Iraq and Palestine. Photographs, videos and recruitment posters will also be available to be viewed on the website.

Elsewhere, 160 items have been launched online from the Dublin in the 20th Century exhibit from the Little Museum of Dublin. The exhibit showcases the city’s shift in the last century, from the violent birth of the Irish State to the explosive confidence of the 1990s.