Image courtesy of Joe Maher,

Image courtesy of Joe Maher,

I can say without fear of contradiction that trying to find your ancestor in the records available to us in Kerry can be a nightmare. Not always, but often enough   In my commissioned searches which might go back to the early 1800s, I can have great success and then I can hit a brick wall looking for a baptism for 1850.  Not a sign, as if the person never existed.   In fact I have had cases where an entire family were missing.   ‘Missing’ records have been the subject of numerous emails to me over the past couple of years.  Since March I have been doing voluntary duty at the Genealogical Advisory Service in the National Library of Ireland, (Dublin) and it has given me a great overview of the state  of the Kerry records as it exists at the moment.  As of now this is the state of play:

Civil Registration of Births/Marriage/Deaths became law in Ireland for Church of Ireland in 1845 and for Catholics in 1864. The indexes of these records are available to view and copy-certificates to purchase to researchers, who visit in person the Government Registration Office, Werburgh St., Dublin.  They are due to be published online on Irish Genealogy ‘shortly’ ! (written March 2015).   All Baptisms will be listed online from 1864 to 1914, Marriages from 1864 to 1964 and Deaths from 1864 to quite recently.

  • PRE-1864 Records In theory, all Kerry Baptisms and Marriages from the early 1800s are listed online at Irish Genealogy. In practice a number of years are ‘missing’ as per the table of the Catholic parishes here.  These are secondary sources and have a number of transcription errors.    

MKA Blog IG page C'civeenYou might ask why they are ‘missing’.  There are a number of reasons – ‘lost’, ‘missing without explanation’, ‘fire’, ‘flood’, the ‘Black and Tans’, ‘illegible’.  Some of these reasons are understandable.  Due to the Penal Laws, it was not possible or legal for Catholic Priests to keep a record of Births or Marriages so very few records survive until the early to middle part  of the 19th Century.  Parish Priests of the early nineteenth century, particularly in rural areas,  lived a precarious lifestyle, didn’t have secretaries, a number didn’t have a permanent residence, not to mention an office and it is a miracle that so many registers have in fact survived.  What remains of the original parish registers are still kept in local custody.  They are often in a fragile state and may not be accessible to researchers.

Church of Ireland Records

The Church of Ireland records have had an equally perilous history.  Virtually intact until the fire in the Public Record Offices in 1922, those that had not been kept in Kerry in local custody perished in this unfortunate fire.  Some parishes were wise enough to keep copies before dispatching the originals to the Custom House and they may be still in local custody. It is possible to see some Church of Ireland Parish records on Irish Genealogy, it is possible see some on the alternative sources outlined here or some have been deposited in the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin.

Alternative Sources of Kerry Baptisms/Marriages/Deaths prior to 1864.

  • It is always advisable to check with the free LDS Website I have found baptisms/marriages on that site that are not reflected on IrishGenealogy.  The reason I am told is that the LDS listings were taken years earlier than the transcripts on IrishGenealogy, when original records were still in place in an individual parish.
  • It is also advisable before giving up, to check the microfiche records in the National Library of Ireland. We have been promised that these will be scanned and digitised by ‘Summer’ 2015 and will be added to IrishGenealogy  Again these scanned records pre-date the IrishGenealogy listings.
  • Where I have listed OCM, these are the 16 volumes of O’Kief Coshe Mange. The 16 volumes of primary genealogical and historical records are available in the Local History Dept of Tralee Library or the National Library of Ireland, Kildare St.., Dublin and in a number of North American libraries.  They are not online.  They are well worth consulting – I found a mine in 13 pages of indexes of baptisms and marriages in Ardfert in these books.   LIST MISSING KERRY RECORDS