Guide to National Archives of Ireland

Church of Ireland


The Church of Ireland

From the period of the Reformation in the sixteenth century until 1870, the Protestant Church of Ireland was an Established Church, a virtual arm of state with civil as well as religious powers and functions. Other records associated with the Church of Ireland include Tithe Applotment Books. For a general account of the records of this Church, see Raymond Refaussť, 'The Archives of the Church of Ireland: an Introduction', Irish Archives Bulletin, 11, 1981, pages 3-11.

Diocesan Records

Under the Public Records (Ireland) Act 1867, the records of the Prerogative and Consistorial or Diocesan Courts of the Church of Ireland were declared to be public records. Almost all of the records deposited were destroyed in 1922. For details of Prerogative and Diocesan Wills and Administrations, see Testamentary Records, and see also Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records.

Marriage Licence Bonds

The Prerogative and Consistorial or Diocesan Courts could issue Marriage Licences to those who did not wish to pursue the method of having banns called. The original Marriage Licences and accompanying Bonds were destroyed in 1922, but the Prerogative and Diocesan indexes to the Bonds have survived, and for convenience are shelved with the testamentary indexes (Case 8). The Betham Abstracts contain details of Prerogative Marriage Licences 1629-1801 and of Dublin Diocese Marriage Licences 1660-1824. Abstracts of Killaloe Diocese Licences are held in the Genealogical Office, and of Ossory Diocese Licences in the Representative Church Body Library. From 1845 the state registered Non-Catholic marriages, and from 1864 marriages of all denominations were registered (see General Register Office).

Parish Registers

Under the Public Records Act 1867, an amendment of 1875 and the Parochial Records Act 1876, Church of Ireland parish registers of marriages prior to 1845 and of baptisms and burials prior to 1871 were declared to be public records. However, registers could be retained in parochial custody if an adequate place of storage was available. The registers of all but four of the 1,006 parishes deposited in the Public Record Office of Ireland were destroyed in 1922. The registers of 637 parishes in local custody fortuitously survived, and in addition transcripts of or extracts from destroyed registers are available in the case of some other parishes.

While repealing the Acts of 1875 and 1876, the National Archives Act 1986 effectively confirmed the status of Church of Ireland Parish Registers as public records. The National Archives is in the process of completing the making of microfilm copies of surviving Church of Ireland parish registers, but not all of these are yet accessible to the public (see card index of available copies). The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast holds microfilm copies of nearly all surviving registers for the Six Counties. A growing number of surviving original registers is in the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin, while others remain in local parochial custody.

The standard, but by no means complete, guide is the National Archives Guide to Parochial Records of the Church of Ireland (typescript), a partly updated version of which is Noel Reid Editor, A Table of Church of Ireland Parochial Records and Copies, Naas 1994. See also Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, An Irish Genealogical Source: Guide to Church Records, Belfast 1974. For further information see Raymond Refaussť, 'Records of the Church of Ireland', in J G Ryan Editor, Irish Church Records, Dublin 1992.

Parochial Returns

In connection with visitations by bishops, clergy not infrequently prepared returns of baptisms, marriages and burials within their parishes for given periods. Most of these Parochial Returns were destroyed in 1922, and only four are now held in the National Archives. For copies of Visitation Returns and other records, see Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records.

Vestry Minutes

Vestry Minute Books and other parish records not containing entries of baptisms, marriages and burials were deemed not to be public records. A considerable number of earlier parish registers containing vestry entries were destroyed in 1922, and many other vestry records had been lost before that date. Vestry records also reflect the role of the parish in local government, dealing with repair of roads, poor relief and other matters, and in some cases contain lists of householders liable to pay cess, a parochial tax. Some surviving Vestry Minute Books have been deposited in the Representative Church Body Library and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

Church Temporalities Commission

No details available of deposited records.