Tips on Finding YOUR Kerry Ancestor in Parish Registers.
In July 2015, a real breakthrough happened when the National Library of Ireland, released digital images of the Catholic Parish Registers (in Ireland North & South) which they had microfilmed in the 1950s & 1960s. For most family researchers the listing of baptisms and marriages on these sources are the gold standard evidence of actual existence. They also provide links from one generation to the next.
For anyone looking for Kerry ancestors, we have been extremely lucky to have transcriptions of the these same registers available on www.genealogy.ie for some years now. These transcriptions were copied from the registers in the late 1990s and while there are spelling mistakes, they are mostly 90% accurate. Considering the work involved in deciphering the handwriting, translation from original Latin entries and the poor state of some registers, 90% accuracy is excellent. But to be able to see the actual image of the original entry online (and no charge involved) is invaluable. If there are errors in the transcriptions, this is where you will find them.
Tips on finding YOUR ancestor in the Parish Registers
You need to know your Kerry ancestor’s date of birth/baptism or marriage, and the Church where the ceremony took place. If you have no idea of a date, or perhaps even a location my advice is to log on to www.IrishGenealogy.ie , enter your ancestor’s name and enter Kerry as the location. Any extra information you have prior to your search here will make a difference in getting the correct record e.g. father’s name, rough idea of the year of the birth etc. Another search facility is provided on the free website FamilySearch.org. The Ireland Collections include Ireland Births and Baptisms, 1620-1881 and Ireland Civil Registration Indexes, 1845-1958.
- Log on to Registers.Nli.ie
- Click on the date range for either Baptisms or Marriages that you require
- Select the Event, the Year and the Month
- Once you are on the page of the register, you may have to zoom and move the page(s)
up and down until you get to where you want to be. I am not going to tell you that this is the easiest research you will ever do, but have patience. Its an excellent site, be sure and use all the available buttons on the top right hand corner to zoom, brighten, darken, download, print etc.
An Easier Option
An easier option has been provided by FindMyPast. The Catholic Parish Registers are actually indexed on this site. FindMyPast.ie is normally a subscription website but they say ‘We feel that these new records are so important to Irish genealogy that we’ve decided to make them free forever’.
They also have some great tips to help your search on this website including a helpful video
Missing Parish Registers
The one thing that really puzzles, not to say exasperates people is the ‘missing’ records. So there is no sign of a baptism or maybe a marriage in www.IrishGenealogy.ie of your ancestor. And the worst part of this is that there is no notice or anyone to tell you that ‘actually that year is missing in X Parish’. Pages and indeed entire books have gone missing in a a number of parishes. There are various explanations for this from ‘no idea why’, ‘fire’, flood’, ‘lost’. ‘illegible’ to grehounds eating records, Black and Tans’, The only advice I can give is to consult Kerry Births & Marriage Records online or my book Finding Your Ancesors in Kerry pgs. 56-80. It would help in keeping this ‘Missing’ list up to date if you find any other location missing, to email me.
But Firstly you should try ALL variations of the surname. Spelling wasn’t standardised in the 19th century and some families names were not entered with the exact spelling that we use now.
My 2xgrgrandfather John and his brother Robert Downing were convicted in Tralee Court on 18th Mar 1830 to 7 years for stealing and transported on the “Andromeda” to Australia. Their parents were Bartholomew Downing and Bridget Burns of Kenmare. John& Robert were born approx 1810/1812. Another brother Bartholomew died in NSW Australia in 1885 being born in abt 1819 Co Kerry. Bartholomew the father was born before 1770 in Tralee Co Kerry. Both died unknown. The Kerry Newspaper has their convictions, sentence etc . John married Bridget Reynolds from Ennistymon on 1st Nov 1850 near Gundagai NSW. She was 16 and John 38years. Bridget came to Aus on the “Thomas Abuthnot” 1850 as an orphan. Robert married Margaret Quilty and produced 15 children. At one stage he owned hotels one named Killarney Inn. John and Bridget had 11 children. Robert employed Johanna Hayes 15 from the “Thomas Abuthnot’ in 1850 as a nursemaid. John died 17/4/1875 Robert died 13/10/1891 and Bartholomew (Jnr) died 24/8/1885. All buried in the Downing family plot at Tumut Pioneer Cemetry in NSW. Can you help me with any further information regarding his Ireland roots?
Gail, thank you for this information. The Downings were a well known Kenmare family and there was a Fr. Dowling in what is now known as Queensland in 1850 who was very good in defending the interests of the Earl Grey girls (not all orphans) who settled there. In my book The Kerry Girls: Emigration and the Earl Grey Scheme, I list the 20 Dingle girls who were on the Thomas Arbuthnot. I am sure they made friends with their neighbours the Clare girls from Ennistymon on the journey there.
As I saw, the Downings were from kenmare, but Church records do not start there until 1819. I doubt very much if the Downings were from Tralee – their Church records start there in 1772 and there is no Downing listed. The Assizes where the conviction took place, would have been Tralee ok.
Thanks for that but I am at a brick wall regarding the Downings in Ireland. Robert Downing/Downey went on to being very successful in the Tumut area. His grandson Reginald Downing was a member of the NSW Labor Party and had the Sydney Courthouse THE DOWNING CENTRE named after him due to his sterling service in the NSW Government.The Australian Biography doesn’t mention his Irish convict grandfather as a convict. Perhaps the research hadn’t located it at the time. My family didnt know of it until I unearthed it!
Gail, I am afraid that I don’t know a lot about this Robert Downing – but I would like to find out. I will send you a Query Form separately and you might fill me in on your ‘brick wall’ and we can see if it’s solveable. Kay