Catholic Parish Registers Online

Catholic Parish Registers Online

An historic resource has been made available to the genealogical community in Ireland and around the world with the publication of Ireland’s historic Roman Catholic parish registers, online. The collection covers all counties on the island of Ireland and can be found on  National Library of Ireland Website.

Origins of the Collection


Enda Kenny launching the NLI’s Catholic Parish Registers website

The collection consists of digitised images of the microfilm copies of the parish registers for nearly every parish on the island.   In the 1950s, at the instigation of Dr. Edward MacLysaght, the National Library of Ireland undertook to microfilm every surviving Irish Roman Catholic parish register, from their earliest date up to 1880. This collection includes registers for baptisms and marriages for some parishes that commence in 1740 and 1750. This immensely valuable microfilm collection has now been digitised and on 8th July 2015 was made freely available online.

In the past a family history researcher who wanted to search an original Catholic parish register for the baptisms and marriages of their ancestor had to visit the National Library and scroll through what were fast becoming degraded microfilm on old microfilm readers. Now this work can be done from the comfort of your own home on an extremely easy to navigate site. The registers have not been indexed or transcribed, these are images of each page in the parish register as it was microfilmed between the 1950s and 1970s.  You will still have to manually search the registers for evidence of your ancestor.  

Complementing Other Sources for Irish Baptisms and Marriages

However, the collection of Catholic parish registers online can be used in tandem with other indexed collections, such as the parish register database found on   The collection on are transcripts only and do not provide the researcher with an image of the original page. This means that you cannot verify whether the transcription is correct or complete. On many occasions I have found a record on that was only partly transcribed or in which a name had been transcribed in error.   It is always of value to be able to view the original record, to verify the information as it was recorded at the time of the event.  There are plenty of parish register entries missing from the rootsireland database, now is your chance to check and double check the original registers for the records that might have been previously missed.  Don’t forget that the parish priest may also have made notes in the margin of the register, recording the later marriage and spouse beside the baptism of a child of his parish, or the name of an absconding father on the baptism of the child of an unmarried mother.  You don’t know what surprises the records might hold until you see them for yourself.   Beside the baptismal record for Thomas McDonagh in the parish of Cloughjordan on 2nd February 1878 the parish priest wrote ‘EXECUTED 1916’.  These are the features from the original that bring the records to life.

How to Use the Website

The National Library of Ireland website for Catholic parish registers has a very helpful FAQ, to help you get underway.  You can start by searching for the parish you are interested in by name.  Bear in mind that a Catholic parish may have a different name to its corresponding civil parish.   Some parishes had several names, usually associated with the different chapels within the parish.  All of the associated names for the parish are listed on the site.  There are also maps of each parish in the country, which can be checked by county or by diocese and a simple click through to the registers for that parish.  It very helpful to be able to see the parishes that surround your ancestor’s place of origin. The records for the surrounding parishes may also bear investigation, particularly if your ancestor lived closer to the chapel of a neighbouring parish than his or her own.

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The images are organised as they were on microfilm. This means that each register is listed separately, with the dates of baptism, marriage and burial that are covered by that particular register. Some parishes may have as many as 10 or 12 registers for the period of their history. You may also find that there are two baptismal registers that over lap and cover the same period.   These may be registers for two different chapels within one large parish, and both should be checked for relevant entries.

When you have selected the register that you wish to view, there is another function, Filter Events/Dates, that allows you to select a specific part of the register. If you wish to check for baptisms commencing in June 1826, you can go straight to that starting point, without having to click through the earlier pages in the register, see the image below.  There are also functions to zoom in, brighten the image or control the contrast, making these pages easier to read than they were on microfilm.


This release has made dozing over a microfilm reader (and accidentally hitting the fast forward button), a thing of the past, at least as far as Roman Catholic parish registers are concerned.   We are likely to see these registers, which are free to view on the National Library website, being indexed by the commercial genealogy companies, further enhancing our ability to locate and truly document our Irish ancestors.


Well done to the National Library of Ireland for this historic release.