Going green: Ancestry.com indexes millions of Irish records

Tuesday 15 March 2016
Associated Press/Crux

JUST IN time for St. Patrick’s Day, genealogical research website Ancestry.com is making 10 million Catholic parish records from Ireland — some dating to 1655 — available online for free to help people trace their Irish heritage.

The gold mine of information, available without cost now until 17 March (St Patrick’s Day), includes baptism, confirmation, marriage, and burial records from more than 1,000 parishes in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

‘This will really help people reconstruct their family story,’ said Lisa Elzey, a family historian at Ancestry, which now offers access to 55 million Irish records. ‘There’s all kinds of mysteries within these records.’

The documents, usually in English but sometimes in Latin, and dating from 1655 to 1915, had already been digitized by the National Library of Ireland, but Ancestry took the information and indexed it, making it possible to do much quicker and more efficient searches using names, places, and dates.

The trove contains information on prominent Irish citizens as well as the forebears of famous Irish-Americans.

Included is the 1828 marriage record, in Latin, of President John F. Kennedy’s great-great-grandparents: Edmundus FitzGerald and Maria Lenihan.

The records also include baptism records of author James Joyce and Irish-born White House designer James Hoban.

They tell not only the stories of Irish families, but help explain the cultural and religious fabric of the island, said the Rev Oliver Rafferty, a professor of history and director of Irish Programs at Boston College.

The older records in particular, he said, are fragmented.

‘There are enormous gaps in Catholic records, especially the older ones, much of it because of the periodic persecution of Catholics at various stages of Irish history,’ he said.

The records from parishes in the towns tend to be more complete that those from churches in remote rural areas, said Rafferty, who is familiar with the records because of their availability from the national library.

Photo: US President John F. Kennedy smiled and waved to the crowd as his motorcade drove through New Ross, Ireland, 27 June, 1963. Among the Irish parish records that Ancestry.com is offering free through St. Patrick's Day is the 1828 marriage record, in Latin, of Kennedy's great-great-grandparents Edmundus FitzGerald and Maria Lenihan. (AP)
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