Following on my post last week on Kerry Church Records ‘missing’, I got a number of very interesting and helpful comments. In case you have not seen them I am re-publishing two of them over the next couple of weeks. To-day you will see Jim Ryan’s comments on another aspect of what’s ‘missing’ and on transcriptions in general.
Jim Ryan or Dr. James G. Ryan is a writer and publisher who has been active in Irish genealogy for the past 25 years His book Irish Church Records has been a standard guide since its publication so we are privileged to get Jim’s views:
Kay, a very interesting piece, as usual. To add to the confusion caused by transcription, your readers should note that many existing RC church records are themselves transcriptions. The custom in Catholic parishes until the 1850s was that baptisms (and some marriages) took place in the home. The priest would travel the parish on horse-back and take note of the details of baptisms performed in a notebook (or perhaps just commit them to memory) and transcribe the information into the register when back at the parish church. This can be seen very clearly in some parish registers where a series of records by one priest is followed by another series of records by another priest. In some cases these records by different priests are out of date sequence. It was not until after the Synod of Thurles in 1850 that church baptism became mandatory. The practicalities of Catholic records compilation are described in ‘Irish Church Records’
See my book Irish Church Records for those interested. As further evidence of the existence of these notebooks, in recent research in the Franciscan Library in Dublin, I found a priest’s notebook with records for 5 years (1807-11) of baptisms and marriages in Rathangan parish in Wexford. None of the 230 baptisms and 46 marriages recorded found their way into the main register for some reason. The notebook also contains records of anointings, which are almost never (to my knowledge) recorded in registers. We at Ancestor Network are transcribing these and will publish them in our blog series in due course.
Here is a sample. It show entries in the notebook for 1808 including a marriage, offerings at Cleristown (no indication what for), an anointing and a baptism. The reference is Franciscan Library C104. It is interesting that the priest makes no effort to record the name of the person anointed. They are typically e.g …widow Mooney, a child in Cleristown, Joe Murphy’s grandmother.. etc. This suggests that his interest was for accounting rather than any need to transcribe the information, whereas the baptism and marriage records are recorded in detail (even though he never transcribed them!). An anointing cost 1s 1d.
I will add to Jim’s email above that in my experience over the years researching Kerry church records, I have seen quite a number of what passes for ‘original’ records, pages of which were obviously all written up later in time, maybe with the best intentions in the world, from old scraps and torn books. But they are not the records that were orginally noted by the priest officiating. So when we get to the records on IrishGenealogy.ie, you must remember that some are in fact transcriptions of transcriptions with a high probability of human error with each new transcriber.