Historical records

Guide to Church of Ireland (Anglican) parish registers

What Church of Ireland parish registers are held in the National Archives?

Parochial records (baptisms, marriages and burials) of the Church of Ireland (Anglican Church) pre-1870 are public records and may be held on microfilm in the National Archives.

For records post-1870, it will be necessary to contact the Representative Church Body Library (RCB Library), which holds the archives of the Church of Ireland.

There are microfilm or other copies in the National Archives of the surviving Church of Ireland registers for the dioceses of Ferns, Glendalough, Kildare and Meath, as well as many from other parts of the country and a list of the parish registers on microfilm and their respective microfilm numbers held in the National Archives can be searched online.

Why do you not hold records post-1880? 

Generally, the parochial registers held in the National Archives (original, copy or microfilm) do not post-date 1880 though some range into the 20th century. This is because the records were no longer viewed as public records and there was no longer an obligation to transfer them to the Public Record Office of Ireland, now the National Archives.

What registers are held in Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast?

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), located in Belfast, holds copies of all surviving Church of Ireland registers for the dioceses of Armagh, Clogher, Connor, Derry, Dromore, Down, Kilmore and Raphoe. The northern dioceses include the six counties of Northern Ireland as well as counties Cavan, Donegal, Louth, Monaghan and part of county Leitrim. Copies of those registers from within the Republic that were microfilmed by PRONI, are held by the RCB Library.

How do I know what registers survive?

In 2017, the RCB Library launched an updated list of all Church of Ireland parish registers indicating whether they survive and where they may be held. The names and addresses of the clergy are given in the annual Church of Ireland Directory. A list and a card index of registers in the National Archives as well as lists of transcripts and abstracts may also be consulted in the Reading Room.

What are marriage licences?

Records of marriage licences provide information concerning some Church of Ireland marriages before 1845. People wishing to obtain a licence to marry without having banns called were required to enter into a bond with the bishop of the diocese. The licences and bonds do not survive in the majority of cases, but the indexes to the bonds lodged in each Diocesan Court and the Prerogative Court are available in the Reading Room. Betham’s abstracts of Prerogative and Dublin Diocesan marriage licences give further details while other records of marriage licences are indexed in the testamentary card index, available to consult in the Reading Room.

For the period before 1864, church records provide the only record of most baptisms, marriages and burials. The best general introduction to church records are by James G Ryan (ed), Irish Church Records (Dublin, 1992) and by Steven C ffeary-Smyrl’s Dictionary of Dublin Dissent: Dublin’s Protestant dissenting meeting houses, 1660–1920 (Dublin, 2009).

Most parochial registers (regardless of denomination) for the northern counties of Ireland are available on microfilm in PRONI and the best guide is An Irish Genealogical Source: Guide to Church Records (PRONI, 1994).

Alternative research sources
What are searches in Church of Ireland parochial returns?

Supplementary to the registers themselves, alternative research sources include thirteen volumes of searches in Church of Ireland parochial returns (generally baptisms but sometimes also marriages).

Why were they carried out?

The searches were requested in order to ascertain whether the applicant in the period c.19081922 but mainly c.19151922, was entitled to an Old Age Pension based on evidence abstracted from the parochial returns then in existence in the Public Record Office of Ireland. The Old Age Pension was introduced in 1908 for people 70 years or over. These individuals had been born prior to the introduction of civil registration in 1864 and had to use alternative sources to prove their age.

Positive searches provide valuable genealogical data though they are not copies of church records and cannot be used to recreate lost registers. There is a comprehensive finding aid in the National Archives to all parishes covered by those searches and it is also available to search online.

Sometimes only one search, against a specific individual, has been recorded from a given parish. Multiple searches against various individuals in city parishes have been recorded in volume thirteen, listed in ‘Parish Registers and related Material’, which is available in the Reading Room.

What is the Religious Census of 1766?

Another source for research is the religious census of 1766, authorised by the Irish House of Lords in March of that year ‘to return a list of the several families in their parishes to this House on the first Monday after the Recess, distinguishing which are Protestants and which are Papists, as also a list of the several reputed Popish priests and friars residing in their parishes’. For more information see Guide to the Religious Census, 1766.

Genealogical Abstracts of Church of Ireland parish registers

An additional source of research is the transcripts of parish registers made for genealogical purposes. While much of the abstracted data is relevant to a given surname only, the wealth of material transcribed can lead to partial reconstruction of registers. Among the best of these genealogical transcripts must be mentioned the parish searches undertaken by Gertrude Thrift (mainly for Dublin), by James Grove White (mainly for Cork), by Tenison Groves and by TU Sadlier. Some collections are indexed according to surname, of which the Thift Abstracts are the best example, otherwise the listing is according to parish. Parish registers searched for genealogical purposes will be found listed in the M [miscellaneous] finding aids in the National Archives or listed by the surname of the researcher, for example in the Thrift card index.

Is there a list of surviving Church of Ireland parish registers?

Copies of parish registers still extant that have been microfilmed or copied will be found listed in the Church of Ireland card index in the National Archives. Copies of vestry minutes and preachers’ books etc. will also be found enumerated and indexed under the name of the parish.

In the 1950’s and again in the 1980’s, a systematic programme of microfilming of Church of Ireland parish registers was undertaken, with the most comprehensive filming being done in the eastern part of the country. There is a card index to all filmed parish registers for the 1950’s filming, arranged under the name of the parish. There are bound finding aids to the later filming, bound by diocese and then arranged according to union and then by parish. The microfilms of Church of Ireland parish registers are freely available to the public.

How do I find information about Church of Ireland parish registers that may not survive?

Further information on Church of Ireland records, their survival or otherwise, is available on the website of the RCB Library.

Transcripts (and some digitised images) of Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland parochial registers of baptisms, marriages and burials for the pre-1900 period are available free of charge on www.irishgenealogy.ie, which is hosted by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Where do I find Church Records not held in the National Archives?
Roman Catholic parish registers

The National Archives does not hold any registers for Roman Catholic parishes. Some registers that had been held on microfilm in the National Library of Ireland have now been digitised and are available free online at www.registers.nli.ie. These include registers for most Roman Catholic parishes up to 1880, and in a small number of cases up to 1900. Original parochial records (baptisms, marriages and burials) of the Roman Catholic Church remain with the relevant parishes. Please consult the website of the National Library of Ireland for more information.

Records not organised on a parochial basis
Jewish Community

Records of the Jewish community in Ireland, including birth records, may be held in the Irish Jewish Museum at 3 Walworth Road, Dublin 8.

Methodist Church 

Records of the Methodist Church in Ireland include registers of baptisms and marriages of the Irish Methodist circuits and chapels. Many are held by the Wesley Historical Society in Ireland in Belfast (which also has a small archive collection in Dublin). Many Methodist records have been microfilmed by PRONI and researchers should consult Steven C ffeary-Smyrl’s Irish Methodists – where do I start? (Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations, Dublin, 2000) for a guide to Irish Methodist records.

Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Records of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland comprise registers of baptisms and marriages. Many are held by the Presbyterian Historical Society in Belfast. Most Ulster Presbyterian records have been microfilmed by PRONI.

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Records of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Ireland contain transcript registers of births, marriages and deaths from the 17th century onwards. These are held by the Religious Society of Friends Historical Library in Dublin or the Religious Society of Friends, Ulster Quarterly Meeting in Lisburn.

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