This latest update will delight Ireland Reaching Out volunteers and members all over the world, who have been eagerly awaiting this news since the National Library of Ireland first announced details of the project last December. Since then, the response on the Ireland XO website has been overwhelming, with many people expressing their relief and excitement at finally being able to access these digitised images online.
Fee Berry, living in the UK said: “I nearly didn't find my grandmother because of the cost of seeing the records. My father, who was evacuated when he was eight, couldn't remember anything helpful about her. If this allows people to access records for free, it's an amazing thing.”
The parish register records are without doubt the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the Census of 1901. They date from the 1740s to the 1880s, cover 1,091 parishes throughout Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.
The NLI’s Ciara Kerrigan, who is managing the digitisation of the parish registers, said that this represented the most significant ever genealogy project in the NLI’s history. Since the 1970s, the microfilms have been freely available to visitors to the NLI. Their mass digitisation now means that, for the first time, anyone who has an internet connection will be able to access these registers without making the journey to Dublin.
Commenting today, Clare Doyle, Heritage Resource Manager with Ireland Reaching Out said: “This is a great advancement for those researching their Irish family history. No matter where they are in the world they will be able to access historical information from parish records. We are very grateful to the National Library of Ireland for making this happen and it reaffirms Ireland’s status as one of the leading genealogy centres of the world.”
Ireland Reaching Out anticipate a surge in queries from people of Irish descent on their website (www.irelandxo.com) as a direct result of the new NLI online church records facility. Ireland XO volunteers will be on hand to help people interpret their initial findings and hopefully connect them back to their ancestor's Parish of origin, and maybe even introduce them to living relatives.
Free online access to the historical Church records is not the only good news for people researching their Irish family history this summer, as Ireland Reaching Out will be launching their new website in May. The new design will mean a smoother and faster experience for all visitors to irelandxo.com, with many more interactive features to be announced in coming months.