Preacher’s Books

Preacher’s Books

Preacher’s books form part of the collection of Church of Ireland parish records lodged in the Representative Church Body Library in Churchtown, Dublin.   A preacher’s book can be quite a dry and sparse document, but nevertheless sometimes informative. It is a record of the date of and time of the church service, the name of the reader and preacher and the text used in the sermon, the number of the congregation and the number taking communion and the amount of the collection. The last column in the book is reserved for remarks or observations and it is here where the genealogist might find valuable information, such as references to baptisms, marriages or burials.  Considering the great loss of Church of Ireland parish registers in the 1922 Public Records Office fire, any source that might contain references to vital events in a parish can prove extremely valuable to anyone researching their Irish family history.

The Woods Family of Ballymacward

For example, the Woods came from the parish of Ballymacward, the Church of Ireland parish registers for which were destroyed in 1922.  The Woods family lived in the townland of Balymacward, a townland in the civil parish of Ballymacward, Co. Galway. The family appear in the 1901 census, with the head of the household, Thomas Woods, described as a 41 year old married farmer who was born in Co. Galway and who belonged to the Church of Ireland. Thomas was residing with his wife Elizabeth, also 41 years of age, and their children; Mary Jane, George H., Annie E., Richard, Gerty, Catherine and Robert.

Ballymacward is located in the Registration District of Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. A search of the civil birth index found birth registrations for some but not all of the Woods children. The birth registrations for Mary Jane, Richard and Gerty identified their mother as Elizabeth Mason and confirmed the family address as Ballymacward through the mid-1880s up to 1901. The birth of Annie E. Woods in ca. 1888/1889 was not registered with the civil authorities. 

The baptismal record for Annie E. Woods did not survive because the Church of Ireland parish register for Ballymacward dating from 1819 to 1889 was destroyed in the 1922 Public Records Office fire.  This means that there was no record of Annie E. Woods birth or baptism.

Ballymacward Preacher’s Book

A search was made of the preacher’s book for the Church of Ireland parish of Ballymacward (RCBL P.968.8.1), which commences in 1885. On the page for Easter 1889 a note referring to the baptism of Annie E. Woods was found in the ‘Remarks’ column.

Bapt. Annie Elizabeth Woods

This entry in the preacher’s book is evidence that Annie Elizabeth Woods was baptised in the Church of Ireland parish of Ballymacward on 17th March 1889 by Rev. E.E. Rush.


Preacher's Book

Ballymacward Preacher’s Book Right Hand Page RCB Library P.986.8.1

Other comments in the preacher’s book tell us more about the parish and parishioners. The minister frequently makes a note of bad weather, possibly explaining a fall in the number of the attending congregation. Another entry in the ‘Remarks’ column stated the following:

[weather] fine – some of the children have whooping cough, read with Mrs. McCullagh

Mrs. McCullagh died a couple of weeks later and her death is also recorded in the ‘Remarks’ column. There are references to donations to the Temperance Society as well as to a Miss Parker taking the Woods [children] for S[unday] School.

What appears to be a rather dry document, on closer inspection has started to build a picture of the life of the parishioners, including some vital records that are a substitute for the loss of the original parish register.

Preacher’s Books at the RCBL

Preacher’s books are listed in the extensive RCBL Catalogue for Church of Ireland parish registers. The parish register list can be accessed online at the RCBL website The name of each parish is a link to the RCBL Catalogue pages for that parish. Each catalogue page lists not just the baptismal, marriage and burial registers, but also the vestry minute books, account books and preacher’s books, among others. This should tell you whether there are surviving preacher’s books and the dates for which they survive.

The preacher’s books are not available for research online. If you identify preacher’s books that survive for a particular parish you can commission us to search the item for relevant references to your family, although there is no guarantee that all events that took place in a parish will be recorded in the preacher’s book.

For more information on the preacher’s books found in the RCBL: