Over the past month, a number of readers of this blog, have got in touch with me to complain that Parish Priests have not replied to their emails requesting information on their ancestors. All of the ‘complainants’ would be located abroad – the UK, USA or Austalia/New Zealand. I know you feel that you are being ignored, as that is what ‘no reply’ signifies to you. To-day I would like to put the case for the Parish Priests (as it is mostly Catholic Parishes we are talking about here).
To be honest, the Parish Priests are inundated with requests and I am finding now that they rarely reply. You have to take into account the numbers of people now researching their ancestors, and generally speaking, the Priests are working alone – one to each parish or one sharing two parishes with maybe a part time secretary for a few hours every week. The days of three or four priests per parish are long gone. Not alone has the Parish Priest to say a daily Mass, officiate at baptisms, weddings, confirmations, funerals, visit the sick and manage and work in close liaison with the Parish Finance Council –he has a non-stop day of work..
You can understand then that your email, asking for information on the Registers, usually to check an entry from the 19th century, not always for the correct parish, not always with the correct data, has understandably a low priority on the Parish Priest’s time. Take into account that County Kerry has historically one of the highest levels of emigration from Ireland since the early 1800s. Most of the enquiries are now coming from Great Great Grandchildren of these early emigrants I have been very surprised by the numbers logging on every day from all parts of the world to www.MyKerryAncestors.com and the number of enquiries I am getting myself from the diaspora, seriously researching their Kerry roots. We are very lucky in Kerry that our Catholic and Church of Ireland Baptism and Marriage records are available on Irish Genealogy. But these records while extremely helpful often do not tell the full story. As an enquirer said to me lately ‘they are very sparse’. If your Great Great Grandfather was John Walsh or Patrick Sullivan, what we call a ‘common’ name’, you need more information to pin down your particular branch of Walsh or Sullivan
There must be some more efficient way to deal with the genuine queries. Could all the registers be brought to one central office with proper systems, safeguards and most importantly – security, where photos of entries could be taken & supplied, at an affordable cost? I think it is over to Jimmy Deenihan, Minister of State for the Diaspora.