The records are not indexed or transcribed and thus there is no search engine where you can simply type in a name to see results. Instead you search for your parish of interest and then scroll through the images to hopefully find the record you want.
But what about those of us who don't know the parish our Irish ancestors were in? What about those, like me, who only know a county of origin? Well, I have developed a plan for methodically and carefully searching the records in a somewhat organized fashion.
|Faded page of Parish Records|
Step 1: Look at what you know or what family lore has indicated. In my McGinnis family we have two family stories. One branch of the family who settled in Ontario circa 1833 says the family was in Belfast. My branch also says Belfast. Another branch has a photo of their ancestor and on the back it says Katesbridge.
Since I don't want to just start frantically searching all of Co. Down or Armagh, I needed to find out what Parishes cover Katesbridge and Belfast. Of course I googled it! After quite a hunt I figured out that Katesbridge, Co. Down is in the Parishes of Newry and Drumballeyroney. Belfast city has 15 different parishes so I decided to start with Newry, then Drumballeyroney
Step 2: Next stop was National Library of Ireland where I typed in the parish name (Newry) in the search field. The page that loaded gave me the list of microfilms available for Newry and the dates for the surviving records. I am searching for several baptisms ranging in years from 1807 to 1831 and one baptism circa 1844-1846. Newry had some of those years so I simply began scrolling through the online images until I finished 1825.
|List of Microfilms for Newry Parish|
Step 4: Use the Filter Tool! I needed to jump to 1844 so I clicked on the microfilm and immediately used the Filter Tool. (Filter Events/Dates). By choosing Event=Baptisms and Year=1844 I was taken to the exact page to start my search.
Step 5: Both Newry and Drumballeyroney came up empty for me so I turned to Belfast. Of the 15 parishes in Belfast city only 8 have surviving records and of those 8 only 2 had records early enough for my needs. That search also had no results for me. Now came the tricky part - figuring out where to search next.
Step 6: I extended my search to parishes near Belfast and Katesbridge. To do this I used the map found with the online parish records. Click on "Go to Map" at the top right of the screen, right beside the search engine where you can enter the parish name.
By clicking and drilling down you can get a map of parishes. I printed this map and put a red star in Newry. I began systematically began searching adjacent parishes.
|Newry Parish and Adjacent Parishes|
My goal is to search a wide range of parishes surrounding Newry, Belfast and Drumballyroney. That means I must move on to Step 7.
Step 7: Using GenUki I was able to bring up a list of adjacent towns to Katesbridge. I can do the same for Belfast. This will help me decide which might be where my McGinnis ancestors lived or worshipped. I also brought up a list of nearby churches
Step 8: I printed these lists off and created a file folder for my search plan (maps, lists of parishes, record of where I've searched and so on) as this will be a long-term project.
Step 9: Go through each parish and eliminate them as having the records you seek. Eventually you will either have success and find your ancestor(s) or you will discover that your ancestors do not appear in the surviving parish records.
Step 10: I suggest you create a notebook for this project and make notes as you search each set of records. My notebook lists the Parish, the film number, the dates covered and the condition of the records. As well I noted any McGinnis (Magennis) names I found in case one day I find a connection to my family.
|My Research Notebook for Irish Catholic Parish Records|
But my motto is "Leave no stone (aka record) unturned!"