The Ireland Catholic Parish Registers is the single most important collection needed to trace your Roman Catholic ancestors in Ireland in the 1800’s. According to the 1861 census, almost 78 percent of the population was Catholic; by 1891, this had risen to 89 percent. This collection is made up of baptism, marriage and death records from over 1,000 Catholic parishes across the whole of the island of Ireland - both in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as it is known as today. While baptism and marriage records make up the majority of the collection, death records can be found primarily for parishes in the northern regions.
Approximately 94 percent of Catholic parishes are included in this collection, though not all registers from these parishes are available. For more information, visit the National Library of Ireland website at registers.nli.ie.
It is worth noting that, while the Church of Ireland was the established state church from 1536 to 1870, an overwhelming amount of the Irish population remained Roman Catholic throughout this period. Irish Catholic Emancipation was secured under the Roman Catholic Relief Act in 1829, lifting legal restrictions that were previously in place against all Catholics. By this time, Penal Laws were also lifted, which had forbidden the Catholic Church to maintain parish registers.
Catholic Emancipation brought more freedom to record vital events within the Catholic Church. As such, the bulk of the records in this collection date from the late 1820’s onwards. Where some earlier registers exist back to the 1650’s, they are known to cover the more prosperous and anglicised eastern counties of Ireland.
The records are written in either English or Latin. For help understanding the Latin entries please see our helpful glossary of common terms.
Tips for Using Irish Parish Records
It’s helpful to know family structure and important to know at least a county of origin in Ireland to correctly identify your ancestors in this collection. See our guide on finding ethnic origins here.
Try searching for just a last name and parents’ names to see all of the children born to a couple.