March 4, 2021
When researching Irish ancestors, church records are a valuable resource. Before civil registration was instituted in Ireland in 1864, church records were the only source for births, marriages, and deaths. That source did depend on what denomination your ancestors were. The Penal Laws (1695-1710) forced Irish Catholics and Protestant dissenters (such as Presbyterians) to accept the reformed Christian faith, the English state-established Anglican Church (Church of Ireland). Among the laws was the restriction of keeping church records.
For many years, these non-Anglican Church denominations did not keep records, though some did go against the law secretly. Unfortunately, baptismal and marriage records before 1864 are church records. The Penal Laws were repealed in 1791, so you never know until you check what you may find!
Some online resources to check for church records are RootsIreland, Irish Genealogy, Ancestry Library Edition, FamilySearch, and the Ulster History Foundation. For example, on the Irish Genealogy website, you can find Catholic baptism records for County Kerry back to the mid-1700s in some places! FindMyPast Library Edition (in-Library use only) also has many Catholic and other ecclesiastical records.
Exhaust those research sources, and you may be lucky and find the record you were looking for. Just remember: If you are lucky enough to be Irish, then you are lucky enough!
Midwest Genealogy Center
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