People researching their Irish ancestry have received a welcome boost today as the Catholic parish registers are now available online.
The registers are considered the single most important resource for researching Irish ancestry.
They had already been freely available on microfilm but researchers had to go the National Library of Ireland (NLI) in Dublin to access them.
Now, after the Library took on the mammoth task of transferring all the data on to their website, the registers are available to everyone online.
With millions of people across the world claiming Irish heritage, it is unsurprising that the records have created a great deal of interest.
The internet has already made Irish genealogy more readily available to non-professionals but sketchy records are still hard to manoeuvre and information can still be difficult to uncover.
Some genealogy sites offer some parish records but the Library’s are the most comprehensive and include registers dating back before 1880.
The move has been welcomed by Irish genealogy experts. Last year John Grenham wrote in the Irish Times: “It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of what is about to happen. When the Irish public service gets things right, it can get them spectacularly, gloriously right.”
Journalist and family historian Claire Santry tweeted: “You won’t hear better Irish genealogy news today, tomorrow, this week, this year.”
Ciara Kerrigan from the NLI said: “This is the most significant ever genealogy project in the history of the NLI. The microfilms have been available to visitors to the NLI since the 1970s.
However, their digitization means that, for the first time, anyone who likes will be able to access these registers without having to travel to Dublin.”
The Catholic Church was ahead of the state in keeping such records so its registers are one of its most important legacies to future generations.
To find out more visit the NLI website