People wishing to trace their Irish ancestry may soon be helped by a project to make Church of Ireland parish registers available online.
The records include parish registers for baptism, marriage and burials.
They could fill in vital gaps for millions of people with Irish heritage across the world.
The parish registers are being digitised after a €100,000 capital grant, announced by the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht.
The work will be carried out by the Representative Church Body Library. The digitisation of Church of Ireland Parish Registers will form a vital part of the wider cultural digitisation scheme.
There will be around 1,110 sets of parish registers – 840 of which have records that have not yet been digitised.
It has the potential to become a hugely significant resource, with some of the records dating as far back as the 1600s.
Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ms Josepha Madigan TD said: “This digitisation project will make it possible for people all over Ireland and indeed the world to access these unique records as they represent an important body of evidence about the Church’s history.
“Digitisation of this type also provides a vital channel to connect with our Diaspora – which is estimated to be up to 70 million people worldwide – and in turn encourages cultural tourism.”
Millions of people across the world have Irish heritage, but it is often difficult to trace their ancestry further than a few generations due to a lack of available records.
This can be a cause of frustration and sadness for many people, particularly those on the other side of the world who long to know more about where they came from.
Digitising the parish registers will make it far easier for people to find missing branches of their family tree and could be helpful in tracing their ancestry further back than they could have ever done before.
The information gathered will be shared with a worldwide audience via the website Irish Genealogy Over time, more and more records will be added from local register collections that are currently still in parish custody.
Dr Susan Hood, RCB Librarian and Archivist, said: “With the right imaging equipment and technical support, which this funding makes possible, we can commence the massive task of making these records accessible and discoverable for all, by creating digital surrogates of original records (some of which are the oldest such records).
“Most importantly this will ensure the long–term preservation of the originals. It is extremely good news not just for the Library, but the Church at large and indeed the generations of clergy and record keepers who have kept these records safe.”
Genealogy website findmypast are offering a 30% discount on their monthly and annual subscriptions. Click here to find out more.
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling