Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that a new resource which allows people to go online to find their Irish genealogy will boost tourism.
The launch of the digitisation of 1,086 Irish parish records was held this week, with the Taoiseach and former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave there to witness. The three-year project saw researchers at the National Library of Ireland place 370,000 microfilms images online.
The images documenting births, deaths and marriages of parish members are available for interested researchers to find their genealogical background. Previously, the information was only available at the library on microfilm.
The Taoiseach said it would be a great resource for history enthusiasts, and will give a boost to tourists who come over wishing to find their ancestors' home.
Speaking at the launch, Kenny said it would be "tremendous interest to people here in Ireland and the Irish diaspora around the world. No doubt the registers will contribute to the number of genealogical tourists to Ireland, as people of Irish descent access these records online and decide to visit their ancestral home place”.
Project manager Ciara Kerrigan explained that, due to the fire in the Four Courts in 1922, the parish records are often the sole source for people trying to research family history prior to the 1901 census.
“If you’re looking for records of Irish people in the 18th and 19th centuries, no other records for them exist apart from these church records," she said.
A person can search the resource by entering the parish name and the year of the birth/death/marriage. Unfortunately, as no keyword search exists yet, it is not possible to search by name. However, it is, as Kerrigan added: "an absolutely critical step in the road because unless you can pinpoint when and where people were baptised, you’re not going to be able to build up a very comprehensive family tree."