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Article Published November 16, 2000
Irish Heritage Centres
By: Kyle Betit
A system of heritage centres in Ireland serves people interested in family history. Each centre indexes and computerizes records of a particular county, part of a county or a group of counties. Centres offer to search their databases for a fee for clients seeking information about their ancestors. This system of centres was organized by the Irish Family History Foundation as part of the Irish Genealogical Project, which is now known as Irish Genealogy Limited. You can find current addresses and information about the individual heritage centres (excluding a few independent centres) on the Internet at http://www.irishroots.net. Each county in Ireland is now covered by a heritage centre, although the centre indexing the section of County Cork around Cork City is not yet open for searches, and the County Kerry heritage centre in Killarney is temporarily closed to finish indexing.
The types of records indexed and the services offered vary among the heritage centres as does the quality and completeness of the indexing. Each centre has indexed at least some church records while some have indexed records from a number of religious denominations as well as tombstone inscriptions, tax records, civil registration, census records, newspapers, passenger lists, and other types of records.
Using a Heritage Centre
Accessing Church Register Data: If church registers are only available in local custody (e.g., at the local church), accessing the information through the heritage centre's indexes may be easier than visiting or contacting the church directly. In the case of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly (parts of counties Limerick and Tipperary), the information from church registers is only available through the heritage centre. The microfilmed copies of the parish registers of the Archdiocese in the National Library of Ireland are not available to the public; information from the registers must be obtained from the Tipperary Heritage Unit.
Some heritage centres have also accessed Catholic registers which were not microfilmed by the National Library of Ireland. Thus, a heritage centre may occasionally have information from earlier Catholic parish registers than those available at the National Library of Ireland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, or the Family History Library. For example, no pre-1880 registers for Kilcommon Catholic parish (Erris barony, County Mayo) are available at the National Library of Ireland. However, the Mayo North Heritage Centre has information from registers of this parish dating back to 1843.
Second Opinion on Deteriorated Records: A heritage centre may also be used as a resource for a second opinion on the information contained in deteriorated parish registers. In order to extract information for a database, the staff of the heritage centre has had to read a register carefully and generally has become familiar with the writing and style of the register as a whole. Thus they can help confirm or deny a researcher's reading of an ancestral entry in a damaged, faded or otherwise difficult-to-read parish register.
Formatting Your Request: It is vital to be concise but specific when requesting a search. Indicate the full name of the emigrant and a year when the emigrant left Ireland; include the names of parents and siblings if known. Request that information from the registers include townlands of residence and the names of witnesses and sponsors. A heritage centre may require a standard form to be completed. Forms for some of the centres may be found on the Internet.
Limitations of Services: The information you want from a heritage centre may differ from what the heritage centre is able to provide, so it is essential to find out in advance exactly what services and indexes the centre offers and what the cost of searches will be. A list of services and indexes, with the fees involved, can be obtained from a centre. Some centres have indexed practically all of the extant church records in the county, while others have only completed indexing a portion of the church records. Some centres have indexed a wide variety of other records for their areas.
Check the Original Source: No index is perfect; inaccuracies and omissions occur. Some of the heritage centres' indexes were compiled by persons not experienced with genealogy or old records. An index also may not include all of the information from the original source. The information available from a heritage centre should not be used as a substitute for original records except where unavoidable. Follow-up research should be conducted in the original records. Research in the original records may identify siblings not identified by the heritage centre's index.
Multiple Centres: Since some counties are covered by more than one heritage centre, it may be necessary to have more than one index searched. The southern part of County Tipperary, for example, is serviced by the Brú Ború Heritage Centre, and its northern area by the Tipperary North Family History Foundation. However, the Catholic register indexes of the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly which includes much of the county are available only at a third heritage centre, the Tipperary Heritage Unit.
Extending the Pedigree Further: Some centres will provide information on only one generation of a pedigree at a time. Depending on how early parish registers start for the area in question, you may need to write back to the centre to see if they can take the pedigree back another generation in their indexed or computerized records.
Pinpoint Townland of Origin: If the report fails to identify a townland, it may contain clues for the researcher to take the next step. The names of sponsors or witnesses from the report (in combination with other records) may be utilized to identify the townland. For example, you can search the lists of occupiers in Griffith's Primary Valuation in the townlands located in the parish for the name of the ancestor and the names of sponsors and witnesses.
Converting Catholic Parish to Civil Parish: A successful report on Catholic ancestors will identify the Catholic parish where baptisms or a marriage occurred. In order to search other records, such as tax records, it is necessary to determine the corresponding civil parish. The names and boundaries of the two types of parishes often differ. Brian Mitchell's A Guide to Irish Parish Registers (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988) lists the Catholic parishes corresponding to each civil parish. Samuel Lewis' 1837 Topographical Dictionary of Ireland lists, under each civil parish, the Roman Catholic parishes and chapels. Local Catholic parish histories are also useful for this purpose.
When the Ancestor Was Born Earlier Than the Start of Registers: Even if the registers for the ancestral parish begin too late to include the baptism of the ancestor, the heritage centre's report may be useful for pinpointing the ancestral family's origins. For example, baptisms of younger siblings may be identified. This information can be used just like the ancestor's baptism.
Possible explanations for a negative report include:
Dublin Heritage Group
c/o Dublin Public Libraries,
Tel: 353 1 6269324 (at Ballyfermot Library)
Tel: 353 1 6619000 (Dublin Public Libraries)
Fax: 353 1 6761628
Internet: http://www.iol.ie/dublincitylibrary/dubheritagegrp.htm (indexing Dublin City)
Tipperary Heritage Unit
St. Michael Street
Tel/Fax: 353 62 52725
Internet: http://ireland.iol.ie/~thu/(indexing the Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly)
Wicklow Heritage Centre
Tel: 353 404 20126
Fax: 353 404 61612
Internet: http://www.wicklow.ie/heritage/wh_proj.html (indexing County Wicklow)
IRISH GENEALOGY NEWS AND EVENTS
The General Register Office in Dublin is the major repository on the island of Ireland for birth, death and marriage records and is thus one of the first ports of call for people setting out to trace their ancestors. This guide should prove invaluable not only to this group of researchers, but to the seasoned researcher as well.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Origins of Irish Civil Registration
Registration Act of 1844
Registration Acts of 1863
General Register Office - Dublin
Civil Registration Records
What do the indexes tell you ?
Other Records at the GRO
Local Registration Offices - Ireland
Registration in Northern Ireland
Placenames and Addresses
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Don't Go to the General Register Office If….
More Irish Resources