Archive of the Month
A Colour–coded Resource of What Survives; Where it is; & with Additional Information of Copies, Transcripts and Online Indexes
Archive of the Month – August/September 2016
The List of Church of Ireland Parish Registers has again been extensively revised and updated, and in a collaborative project between the RCB Library and the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS), it now includes live links to parish register sources – copies, transcripts and indexes –available online.
The IGRS was founded in 1936 as a direct response to the destruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland (PROI) in June 1922 during the civil war. It was the world’s first society dedicated to the study of Irish genealogy. 2016 marks its 80th anniversary and this collaborative project is one of the ways the Society is celebrating its important milestone.
The re–launched List represents months of painstaking volunteer work by IGRS Fellow Claire Santry and should significantly assist researchers by providing them with a search tool that links easily to online information.
The list was originally compiled in–house for the PROI, now the National Archives of Ireland (NAI), by Miss Margaret Griffith(1911–2001) Deputy Keeper of the PROI during the 1950s. Griffith’s original list (which was titled the Table of Parochial Records and Copies) was based on inventories returned by the parochial officers about the year 1875/6, and thereafter corrected in the light of subsequent events – most particularly the tragic destruction of the PROI in 1922 when over 500 collections were destroyed. A table showing the position before 1922 had been published in July 1891 as an appendix to the 23rd Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records Office of Ireland. In the light of the 1922 fire, this list changed dramatically – the large numbers of collections underlined indicated that they had been destroyed by in 1922.
The List has been updated regularly since the 1980s. With the appointment of its first professional archivist in 1982, the RCB Library has been pro–actively collecting parish registers into its custody with agreement from PROI – latterly the National Archives of Ireland. Under the terms of the National Archives Act (1986) the Library was officially designated as the Republic’s place of deposit for pre–disestablishment Church of Ireland registers. Today the Library holds over 1,100 collections of parish registers.
The Library is also responsible for the care of registers that remain in local custody, although until they are transferred it is difficult to ascertain exactly what dates are covered. Where register collections remain in local custody it may be assumed that they continue beyond the cover dates given in the List. Efforts are ongoing to encourage local clergy and parishes to transfer non–current registers into the permanent custody of the Library.
In the light of registers being transferred and new knowledge of copies and transcripts being obtained, further extensive amendment to the List was carried out by NAI, most notably by Ms Aideen Ireland, Senior Archivist. In a project devised and undertaken by Dr Susan Hood during 2014, the List was again extensively updated, colour–coded and made available online for the first time through the Church of Ireland website. The colour–coded version of the List was subsequently updated in July 2015 to account for original registers for parishes in Northern Ireland held by the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast.
Re–launched today – the 3 August 2016 – the List of Church of Ireland Parish Registers has now been definitively updated and reformatted and should provide the first port of call for all researchers intending to use Church of Ireland parish registers. It will be maintained and updated on a regular basis as more registers are transferred to the RCB Library and in anticipation of further transcribing, indexing and ultimately digitization of records.
To provide a full and contextual picture about the content of parish collections (many of which include parish registers but also an array of other sources from vestry minutes to magazines, accounts and preacher’s books) in the RCB Library, a parallel project undertaken by Library staff is gradually transferring the detailed hand lists of these collections from their in–house database format to uploaded and accessible pdfs. In alphabetical order these pdfs will systematically appear via the master List of Church of Ireland Parish Registers as and when the work is carried out.
Librarian and Archivist
Dr Susan Hood
Librarian and Archivist