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Irish Genealogy:  Church of Ireland Records

Availability of Church of Ireland Records in Youghal in Cork
Grenham’s Irish Surnames (CD)

The Anglican church became the Established or State Church in Ireland under the reign of Elizabeth I in 1560, assuming the property and structure of the Catholic church.  Although never representing a majority of the Irish, many individuals of other denominations can be found in the Church of Ireland records, especially in marriage and burial records as well as vestry minutes.  

The parish registers for the Church of Ireland started earlier than those of other religions, in fact, the earliest records are those of St. John’s in  Dublin which date from 1619.  There was a law passed in 1634 requiring records to be kept, but  it was mostly ignored.  The majority of the surviving records date from between 1750 and 1800.  

The Church of Ireland was disestablished as the State Church in 1869 and in 1876 a law was passed (later amended) which required the records of the Church of Ireland be sent to the Public Records Office in Dublin for safekeeping.  The law was later amended to so that churches that had a safe environment for their records could keep them.  The sad part, of course, was the 1922 fire which destroyed the records of over 1,000 Church of Ireland parishes.  

For those churches where records do survive, you will find christenings (baptisms), marriages and burials.  Although the records will vary with the church and time, christenings typically list the child’s name, date of the christening (sometimes the birth date), names of the parents, legitimacy (very important for inheritance), and sometimes residences and occupations.  Before 1845, marriages will typically give only the names of the bride and groom and the date.  After 1845 (when there are also civil records of Protestant marriages) you will get the residence, marital status (bachelor, widow, spinster), the father’s names for both the bride and groom and their occupations and the names of witnesses.   Burial records only give the name, age, burial date and place.  Microfilms of extant records are held at the National Archives (as they were considered state records), with copies for the northern counties (plus Leitrim, Donegal, Louth and Monaghan) also available at PRONI

The public notice of a marriage, through the reading of Banns traditionally required that an upcoming marriage was announced or posted in the church so that anyone with an objection to the marriage could make their objection known.  An alternate to this was to obtain a Marriage License from the Bishop, requiring a bond to insure that no obstacle to the marriage existed.  The original Marriage License Bonds were destroyed in the fire, however, the indexes do exist at the National Archives and on microfilm at the Family History Library.    

The Representative Church Body Library on the outskirts of Dublin is the archive for the Church of Ireland and holds the original records of about 800 parishes (most of which are also microfilmed and available elsewhere). 

One other record to check are the Vestry Books for the Church of Ireland parish.  These are the records of the meeting in the local parish that concern not only the members of the parish, but also non-members as the Church of Ireland performed civil as well as religious functions.  PRONI and the Representative Church Body Library have collections of the Vestry Books, but many of these remain in local custody.

Happy Hunting!



© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2013