Best Genealogy Sites for Irish Research: National Library of Ireland


The National Library of Ireland is a one of my favorite repositories when visiting Ireland. I spent many days (probably more like weeks) hunched over an old microfilm machine pouring over Roman Catholic parish registers. When the Library announced their plans to digitize these microfilms I have to say I was skeptical...the quality of many of the films I had viewed was terrible. I'm happy to say that I was wrong and that they did an excellent job on the digitization improving the quality beyond what I expected. That's not to say that they could do anything about the priest's terrible handwriting or spelling of names, but at least the majority are readable. The digitized images arrived in 2015. For some who just wanted to type a name into a search engine there was a high level of frustration. I on the other hand, having used the old microfilms was thrilled. The site provided the ability to quickly filter and move to a particular year where you could begin to read page by page.


In a joint effort, Ancestry and Findmypast (select Ireland and type in Roman Catholic) worked together over the next year to create an index of the records which appeared in 2016. Remember, these are only Roman Catholic records and only cover the parishes where the records were on microfilm at the National Library. An example I've used in the past is that the records from Kilvine in Mayo were not at the Library, so they are not in the database. I'll discuss my experience with the indexes when I write about Ancestry and Findmypast. The other index is the one at RootsIreland.ie which I wrote about a few weeks ago. The difference is that the RootsIreland index was created from the original parish registers and in many cases the indexers were local people. Some of these records have been connected to the images at the National Library, but if not, you can easily find them using the filtering on the site.

Who is Jeremy Moughty listed in a burial record (one of the few localities with Roman Catholic burials)? I've never seen that given name in any of the records I've viewed. I can filter the images at the National Library site to see the original image.

I selected Deaths (burials in the case of church records) in January of 1853 and when I click "Apply," the site jumps to that point (no need to crank the microfilm reader). Sometimes you may need to scroll back or forward to get to the exact point. Many priests "latinized" the names in their records and in this case Jeremias (not Jeremy) was what was written. Looking at alternatives for Jeremiah, I found Dermot, Derby, Darby, as well as variations of Jeremiah and Jeremy and yes, I had a Darby Moughty in my records. The record provides a locality, Balllinahinch, which fits what I know about this family. What I can't tell from this record is the age of the person who was buried. Based on other evidence, the date this property moved to his son Bernard in the Revision Books, I believe this is the father, but I have to keep in mind that it could have been a child.


Sometimes you'll want to go manually through the images to see if names were written down differently from what you expect. Indexes and database searches can leave you with no results because the information has been recorded in a way you do not expect. Here's also a place where knowing a corroborating detail can be important. I was looking for the marriage of Bernard Moughty and Mary Glennon. Their first child was baptized in the parish of Newtowncashel in County Longford in 1841 (with the surname Murtha). Marriages for that area began in 1830 but I was unable to find the marriage. I began browsing the marriages in 1841 working backwards. What I found was the marriage of Joannum (John) Moughty to Mariam (Mary) Glennon on 6 Sep 1840. There are no other Bernards and no other Mary/Mariam Glennons in that time frame so I believe I have the correct marriage with the given name incorrectly recorded. I would not have found this unless I browsed the records. If you have a name which might have multiple spellings, it's a good idea to browse the records. Also check if you have big gaps between children.

The other database I want to point out at the National Library is the Sources database. When I began my research in the early 1990s there were a series of books I could only find at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or the National Library of Ireland titled Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilisation. It was better known by it's shortened name...The Hayes Manuscripts. Begun in 1941 by the then Director of The National Library, Richard Hayes, his goal was to collect "all sources of information on everything relating to Ireland or to Irishmen for all periods," a rather large undertaking. The series contains 23 volumes, broken down by People, Subjects, Places, Dates and Manuscripts.


Most Irish family researchers will run out of records that name their ancestors pretty quickly. This resource is not likely to name your farmer or cottier ancestors, but it will possibly name their landlord and provide information on where estate records are located. It also might provide background information on the location where your ancestors lived, or the events that took place during the time he/she lived.

About 2007 a project was undertaken to covert this resource into a database covering the manuscript sources. You can link to it from the home page of the National Library. This database does not show you the original document but tells you where it is located. The documents are not all located at the National Library, but in repositories all over the World. If the item is in the collection of the National Library, it will give you the call number. They've kept the original notations, so when you see the Archive listed as Dublin: Public Records Office, that is now the National Archives of Ireland. Likewise, Belfast: Public Records Office is the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).


When I use this database I'm typically searching for a landlord or a locality in Ireland. The results might be a manuscript or an article in a journal. You might be able to find the journal articles through JSTOR or by using WorldCat.org to find a local library with the journal. You can also use WorldCat to find copies of books that your local library may be able to request through Inter-library Loan. Below is a video tour of the National Library website.


Of course, if you're in Dublin, make sure you visit the Library. It is a "closed stack" library which means you will need a Reader's Ticket to order material. Right now there is limited access but hopefully they'll be able to fully open soon. If you're interested in researching in Ireland, I've just confirmed the dates and hotels for the October 2021 Research Trips.




Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!



It's not too late to sign up for Virtual Celtic Connections Conference. It kicked off on July 31st, but the lectures will be available to review until September 30th. You can also take part in the Chats. I had one on Saturday and both the recording and transcript are online.




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