Even writing the above headline, brings on angst. If there is one question that I am asked, more than any other, it is ‘How can I find my Kerry ancestor’s birth or marriage records ?’
That is a million dollar question with almost as many answers. All (including Kerry) births, marriages and deaths were registered by the civil authorities in Ireland from 1864 (Catholics) and non-Roman Catholic from 1845. The General Register Office (Oifig An Ard-Chláraitheora) maintains a family research facility at Werburgh Street, Dublin 2. At this office members of the public, for a prescribed fee, may search the indexes to the registers and purchase photocopies of records identified from the indexes.
We are back then to pre 1864 and that is where the fun starts. If you could call it ‘fun’. The obvious place to go, initially at any rate, is to the Government website www.IrishGenealogy.ie which lists the baptisms/christenings (not births) for both Catholic and non-Catholic children in Kerry. Except of course, it doesn’t list all, but you are not told that. This website listing were transcribed from the original records kept in each parish. Most records were started and kept from the period 1800-1840, the earliest being Tralee which starts in 1772. So back then to the
original records. Many of these are incomplete, some are illegible for particular dates, some are torn, some have suffered the results of dampness, fire and some pages have just disappeared. The main problem then is that having searched Irish Genealogy and not found your particular record or an explanation as why it may not be there, you find it hard to believe that your ancestor’s Irish baptismal record does not seem to exist.
But we have some way to go before we give up. The original records are still kept at the parish churches and microfilm copies are available at the National Library of Ireland. These microfilms are currently being digitised and we are promised that they will be available online by Summer 2015.
Don’t for a minute think this will be some marvellous revelation. Only last week I searched through the microfilms in the NLI for an Ardfert baptism and I will show you here a copy from a page. As you will see the original records are all in Latin, you can pick up the odd name from the better ones but very little from the poor copies. This is what will be available online so prepare yourself for more frustration. John Grenham in his blog yesterday says ‘In other words, the main talent
required is the ability not to run screaming from the microfilm room’.
The biggest mystery to me is how we can have transcriptions from the 1950’s of original records that now do not seem to exist. For instance Albert Casey in his seminal work O’Kief, Coshe Mang, manages to include 3,000,000 (yes million) names from Cork and Kerry parishes. The Kerry parishes records listed in these fifteen volumes include Aghadoe, Aglish, Ardfert, Brosna, Kilcummin, Killarney, Killeentierna, Nohavalday, These records cover
various years for both baptisms and marriages and in some cases, are not available in their home parishes. These are what I call ‘the disappeared’. If any reader would like the dates available for these parishes, please contact me. The O’Kief Coshe Mang books themselves are available in the National Library of Ireland, Co. Kerry Library Archives in Tralee and in a number of U.S. University libraries.
Later on this year, in the 4th edition of Tracing Your Kerry Ancestors, which I am currently completing, there will be twelve pages of Census Substitutes, Shipping Registers, many Estate Tenant Rent Books, Petitions etc., that should yield a number of the ‘missing’ ancestors.
Next Week I will give details of all non-Catholic records for Kerry.