Carp, carp, carp, Mr. Grenham

I’ve just spent the last ten days revising and updating my listing of the Catholic registers online at rootsireland and it’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy: hour after hour of grinding through mismatched parish names and record dates, testing the ones that look dodgy, amending, adding, correcting … argh.

Nice logo. I had it designed for them back in 1994

Still, it was long overdue – rootsireland is by a mile the most useful site for early Irish church records. I’ve been doing piecemeal updates to the listing for the past twenty years, as new records were covered or came online, but never a full-scale run-through. And it was worth the pain, because I learnt a lot.

First, it’s clear that a lot of fresh transcription work is going on in the heritage centres, Or at least some of the heritage centres. For some areas the transcriptions are now well into the first quarter of the twentieth century, and for others nothing has changed in twenty years.

‘Twas ever thus. The good centres have always been very very good and the bad ones horrid. It’s just that some of the horrid are now good and vice versa. (No names, just for now).

A surprising number of recent transcripts end in 1880. This is the cut-off of the National Library microfilms and the implication is clear: those transcripts are from the (sometimes godawful) films. Which means that rootsireland’s advantage over the Ancestry.com/FindMyPast transcripts  – copying directly from the originals – doesn’t exist for those transcripts.

South Tipperary, Waterford diocese – all ending in 1880

Fortunately, these are only a small minority. More often, rootsireland actually has registers missed by NLI – Sligo, Roscommon, Carrick-on-Shannon … And one of the central axioms of Irish genealogy is thus confirmed: no generalisation about Irish records is true, including this one.

The rootsireland listings themselves can be deeply peculiar. In some parts of the country, records that used to be online seem to have vanished. In other parts, centres seem to be keeping a wary eye on the Church’s recently-enunciated ban on making public any records less than 100 years old. In most cases, centres with online records later than the offending date have simply amended the public listing to conform, but left the actual records searchable. Waterford, in particular, has solved the difficulty of having some records going up to the 1950s by just hiding all its finish dates. An Irish solution to an Irish problem.

And there are many other idiosyncrasies.  Wicklow has a fine collection of burial records, both Catholic and C of  I. Not a one is online. And many centres have mis-listed their own records, with the wrong dates listed or entire parishes missing.

Antrim RC registers on rootsireland. Not.

Strangely, because the Ulster Historical Foundation is a seriously scholarly outfit, by far the least reliable listings are for Antrim and Down. Whatever the UHF listing might say, there are no Catholic  baptismal registers anywhere on the planet for Aghagallon before 1828, or Ballymoney before 1853 or Ballyclare before 1869. I suspect a longstanding oversight, but it needs some serious attention.

I ran into Bernadette Marks,the doyenne of the Swords Heritage Centre recently and she reminded me of how unkind I’d been about the centres in the past. I reminded her of how I’d changed my tune. But really it’s still carp carp carp, Mr Grenham.

Carp, carp, carp

So be on your guard about what it is you’re actually searching on the site. Or just look at the (Updated! Free!) listings.

And if you see any mistakes, please let me know. All carps gladly received.

12 thoughts on “Carp, carp, carp, Mr. Grenham”

  1. Thank you for all your tedious work! I haven’t looked at RootsIreland in a couple of years, but had planned to revisit it sometime over the summer. This should help me plan my attack of the site.

  2. Hi John, do you know of any new records for Stranorlar, Donegal, I find it very difficult to obtain school or BMD records before the parish records which start in 1877. Looking for Griffin ancestors who originally came from Wales in the 1600s.
    Thanks,
    Sarah Boyle

  3. This sort of update is always welcome. I’m very curious about some of the transcripts for Ballyporeen/Templetenny in South Tipperary. The registers exist back to 1817 but Ancestry, Findmypast and Roots Ireland all seem to have skipped over transcribing them, which is frustrating since that’s where my own ancestors are from.

    1. Hi

      Actually those records are indeed trancribed – have a look at the Waterford listing under Ballyporeen. Though they don’t say so, the transcripts run baptisms 1817 – 1911 and marriages 1818 – 1911. And the NLI copy is transcribed at FindMyPast and Ancestry.

      John

  4. Hello John, Are there any records anywhere for 1740-1770. My 4xtimes great-grandfather was born in Co. Meath during this period. He converted to the Catholic church (probably on marriage). I have his death record.. (1823), but try as I might I can find no more on him.

    He lived in Dunshaughlin Meath and I have records for his children,grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There was some mention that the family (Webb) came from Athboy.
    Would just love to know who he was, who he married etc.
    Delighted to receive any advice or information. Geraldine.

  5. Thanks for the hard work. Just to let you know the McCloy name is actually Clady in south Derry (beside Portglenone) not Claudy. Just letting you know so you can fix your map.

    Many Thanks,

    Francis McCloy.

  6. I saw your mentioned Mallow as a specific place where the NLI has missed records. What years were missed for baptisms?. I’ve recently been doing research in Mallow in the period 1835-1850. There is a baptismal register for that period on Ancestry, but I haven’t been able to find anyone on it that should be there.

  7. I have often wondered about Slane, Co Meath. It seems a big parish for records to only start in 1851. Church itself dates from 1800ish.

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