Churches and Church History In Ireland

Church History

The following table outlines the major religious movements and events effecting Ireland.

Date Event
1537 King Henry VIII declared himself supreme head of the new church, the Church of England (Anglican)
1541 King Henry VIII becomes King of Ireland
1560 The Anglican Church (Church of Ireland) became the state church under Elizabeth I
1605-09 The plantation of Ulster was started. Scottish presbyterians wer sent to Ireland to displace Irish catholics and strengthen English rule
1619 The earliest known Church of Ireland parish, St. John's in Dublin, is started
1634 Church of Ireland began keeping parish registers - required by law
1637 Presbyterian worship is suppressed by the Church of Ireland
1600s Quaker, Congregationalist, and Baptist movements begin. Huguenot migrations to Ireland also begin
1674 Antim, County Antrim, oldest known Presbyterian register begins
1695-1728 Penal Laws against Catholics begin. Catholic clergy was bannished, forbidden to keep registers, and catholics in general were not allowed to hold office, own property or vote.
1719 The Toleration Ace was passed, protecting Protestant dissenters
1726 Non-conforming Presbyterians separate from the main body and form the presbytery of Antrim
1747 Methodist movement begins
1750s Many Church of Ireland parish registers are kept. Some Catholic parish registers start
1772-95 Catholic Relief Acts gradually restore rights taken away under the Penal Laws
1782 Presbyterian marriages are validated
1816 Methodists divide: Primitive Methodists and Weslyan Methodists
1819 Presbyterian ministers required to keep registers
1829 Irish Catholics are free to worship without penalty of law. Many catholic registers begin
1869 Church of Ireland ceases to be state church
1876 All Church of Ireland registers are to be stored in the Public Record Office in Dublin
1878 Law is amended to allow some ministers to store records in local archives. The Primitive and Wesylan Methodists unite
1922 A separate records repository is created in Belfast for Northern Ireland records. The Public Record office in Dublin is burned, destroying many Church of Ireland records and registers

Church Records

Church records can provide names, dates and places and are considered a primary source for researchers seeking ancestors before civil registration begins in 1864.

Church of Ireland Records

Since the Church of Ireland was the state church, parish records were considered to be civil documents. In 1876, a law was passed stating that all parish registers needed to be stored in the Public Records Office in Dublin. However, in 1878, the law was amended allowing some church parishes to keep copies locally in archives. In 1922, the records were destroyed in Dublin but some of the larger parishes have copies in their own county archives.

Note: It is wise to search Church of Ireland parish registers even if your ancestor did not belong to this church. Since it was the state church, many people were included in the parish registers even though they were not participants in the Church of Ireland.

Church of Ireland records include christenings, burials, and marriages.

Requesting a Church of Ireland record: You can either write to the Representative Church Body Library, Braemor Park, Rathgar, Dublin 14, Ireland or Request a copy from the National Archives, Public Record office of Northern Ireland or write to the minister of the actual parish to see if he will search his parish vestry minutes or registers.

Catholic Records

Parish records were recorded as early as 1820s. Records were kept locally. You can contact a local parish Priest to see if he will search the registers for you or you can request copies of filmed registers through the National Library of Ireland or PRONI (Public Records Office of Northern Ireland). The LDS church also has many catholic parish registers filmed -- see their library catalog holdings for specific details.

Presbyterian Records

Protestant records in Northern Ireland began in the 1800's. Even though mass migrations to NIR began as early as 1605, many records were not kept by local churches. In the late 1700's and early 1800's many presbyterian congregations split off from the main church -- later they were reunited as the main body of Irish Presbyterians. However, individual congregations kept their own records.

Finding Presbyterian records: The PRONI has copies of most Presbyterian records in NIR. They also have records for Donegal, Cavan and Monagahan. You can also contact the Presbyterian Historical Society for information on other records (they are not complete) at room 218, Church House, Fisherwick Place, Belfast BT1 6DW, Northern Ireland. The LDS church also has some copies of Presbyterian records on film and fiche.

Methodist Records

Methodist records can be obtained locally by writing to the local church. Copies of some registers are held at the PRONI and through the LDS Church.

Quaker Records

Quakers emigrated from England to Ireland about 1653. These records are kept in two Quaker repositories in Ireland. Contact the appropriate repository for assistance with their records collections.

Dublin Friends Historical Library
Religious Society of Friends in Ireland
Swanbrook House
Morehampton Road
Dublin 4 Ireland

Religious Society of Friends
Ulster Quarterly Meeting
Friends Meeting House
Railway Street
Lisburn, County Antrim BY28 1EP
Northern Ireland

PRONI and the National Library in Dublin have some copies of Quaker records as does the LDS Church.

Jewish Records

Ireland has very few Jewish synagogues. For information on Jewish records, write to: Irish Jewish Museum, 3/4 Walworth Road, South Circular Road, Dublin 8, Ireland.

Other Churches

For records on other churches within Ireland (LDS, Huguenots, Baptist) see local parishes for details. Some copies of other church records have been filmed at the LDS Church.

Selected Reading in Church History




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