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Your quickfire guide to Irish parish records

21 August 2015

Findmypast is home to the largest online collection of Irish family history records, with over 110 million records spanning centuries of Irish history. Central to our collection are Irish Parish records, the details of daily life kept – in most cases – meticulously by priests and vicars until the introduction of compulsory civil registration in Ireland in 1864.

Our latest significant addition to our Irish records includes 10 million Catholic Parish records, which will be free for everyone, forever. They join millions of Church of Ireland Parish records, representing an essential resource for more than 70 million people worldwide with Irish heritage.

Why parish records are so important: The Public Record Office fire of 1922

Findmypast - London office

The information stored in local parishes is especially valuable because so many records burned down in the Public Record Office fire of 1922.

One of the casualties of the Irish Civil War (June 1922-May 1923) was the Public Record Office in Dublin. A fire, caused by explosives and pictured above, ravaged the building and destroyed vast swathes of Irish records.

This makes the information stored in local parishes across Ireland vital for family history researchers looking into their Irish heritage.

Our Irish Catholic Parish Registers are among the latest additions to our unrivaled collection of Irish records. Comprising 10 million records and 40 million names, the Registers span 200 years of Irish history (1670-1900) and offer incredible coverage of 97% of the country, with all 32 counties represented.

The Irish Catholic Parish Registers include baptisms and marriages, and have now been indexed for the first time, meaning you can search by name, year and place. The records will give a wide range of information that goes beyond most collections. As well as the personal details of individuals and their parents and spouses, the Irish Catholic Parish Register also give an insight into Ireland's tumultuous history, showing things like the devastating impact of the Great Famine, which saw baptism rates half within 15 years.

Details will differ slightly depending on whether the record is a baptism, marriage or burial, but a wealth of genealogical information awaits you in each record. For instance, in the baptism records, you can hope to find:

Since this record set is such a priceless resource for Irish family historians, we're making it free forever, giving you the chance to discover more than ever before about your Irish heritage.

Our Church of Ireland parish record search forms were filled out by applicants to the Public Record Office (PRO) in Ireland. These are requests to the PRO to search historical records in order to approve or deny the applications of individuals applying for the Old Age Pension, which was introduced in 1909.

Since civil registration only became mandatory in Ireland in 1864, a number of claimants' records would only have been kept in their local parish archives, and so the parish record search forms form a part of the paperwork for PRO staff looking to grant state pensions to the people for whose records they were searching.

Findmypast - London office

These parish record search forms are on Findmypast as transcripts and images, and contain a number of fields filled in by the person applying for the search to be carried out by the PRO, including:

The fact that a number of these search forms were completed after the fire of 1922 means that they can provide information on records that no longer exist, as PRO staff searched what was left of their archives using the details provided by applicants, which often includes the names and addresses of solicitors and professional genealogists dealing with probate claims.

Fermanagh Parish Registers

Our Fermanagh Parish Registers are parish records taken from the archives of 189 townlands in Devenish parish, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Some of the townlands in Devenish parish cover the nearby counties of Cavan, Monaghan, Sligo and Donegal.

This record set includes baptism, marriage and burial records, each of which providing a great depth of insight into your relatives' lives. For example, the Fermanagh Parish Registers Baptisms record set includes:

Aside from including the all-important mother's maiden name, these records also have a comments section that covers anything from father's profession to whether the child was born out of wedlock.

The set covers 1796-1873. If you have family from the Ulster region, you may find them here.