There is such confusion regarding the Indexing and general ‘who did what, when’ regarding Kerry Catholic Parish Registers that I thought this article written by Tommy O’Connor (now Kerry County Librarian) in 1989 in the The Kerry Magazine would clear up a number of misconceptions.

Indexing of Catholic Parish Registers for the Diocese of Kerry

By Thomas O’Connor, Kerry County Library[1]

A project to index the Catholic Parish Registers was initiated under a Social Employment Scheme, in February, 1988.  The Scheme which was undertaken by Kerry County Library in co-operation with Dr. Diarmuid O Súilleabháin, Bishop of Kerry, is based in Kerry County Library Headquarters, Tralee.

The Diocese of Kerry consists of 53 parishes, which includes the whole County of Kerry plus the Cork parishes of Castletownbere, Allihies, Eyeries, Adrigole, Glengarriff, Boherbue, Bere Island, Dromtarriffe and Millstreet.

The Parish records are in varying states of physical condition, access being through the direct permission of the Parish Priest.  Earliest registers include Killorglin (1798), Tralee (1772), Killarney (1792) and range down to Ballydesmond and Bere Island, where no records are available beyond circa 1870.

The physical condition of some records gave the greatest cause for concern.  Some were properly ruled registers with self-contained columns, properly bound.  Others came from the days when paper seemed to be very scarce indeed, with up to 60 entries crammed into an unruled A4 size page.  Most, up to the mid 1900s were written in Latin (of different standards) hence Christian name Hieronymus, Gulielmus, Dionitius plus phrases such as ‘dispensa in 3+4 consanguanita gradibus; or ‘contraxid in matrimonium cum’.  Throw in the loose pages which served as official registers for some parishes, the incidence of mould from those kept in poor conditions, frayed edges and torn pages which led to details being lost forever, plus the fading ink which utterly tested the eyesight.

Registers were indexed up to 1900 only, in order to preserve the confidentiality of the more recent records, except where the PRISH Priest requested that it be done further and includes both Baptismal and Marriage records.

To date, work has been completed on the parishes of Valentia, Firies, Killeentierna and Killorglin.  At present the parishes of Castlegregory, Beaufort and Milltown are being indexed.  In addition, a group based at Teach Siamsa in Finuge are indexing some of the North Kerry registers including Listowel, Duagh, Tarbert, Lixnaw, Ballylongford, Moyvane, Ballybunion and Causeway.

Therefore, at present approximately 25% of the parishes of the diocese have either been or are in the process of being indexed.  When finally completed a few years from now, a master index will be available, thus giving easy access to this major source of genealogical information.

[1] The Kerry Magazine No. 1, 1989.    Published by The Kerry Archaeological & Historical Society

Note:  Tommy O’Connor, who wrote the article is now Kerry County Librarian.