How to find your family history using Irish Catholic records.
Roman Catholic baptism, marriage and burial registers, unlike so many of their Church of Ireland counterparts, were not damaged in the 1922 fire at the old GRO. That's the good news. There are some real highlights, however. A number of urban registers date back to the mid-1700s (St Mary's in Limerick City (1745), or St Catherine's in Dublin (1740), for example) and even some small country parishes managed to keep their Roman Catholic baptism and marriage registers more or less intact from these early days (Wicklow (1747), Nobber in co Meath (1754) and Kilkerley in co Louth (1752) are examples).
But the very oldest Irish Catholic records leap back almost another century; registers survive for Wexford Town since 1671.
Admittedly, legibility is poor for the first 15 years or so, and there are quite a few gaps in coverage across the centuries, but if your Catholic ancestors hailed from this town you have a real chance of being able to trace your family history over four centuries. That's exceptional for Irish genealogy.
In general, the oldest records hail from the more prosperous and anglicised eastern half of the island. Registers for more densely populated and poorer parishes in the west and north usually do not start until the mid-19th century. Of course, the poorer areas were also those that supplied the greatest numbers of emigrants which means that the descendants of those that left Ireland are the most likely to be frustrated by the lack of Catholic records.
A marriage entry typically includes the first name, surname, age, father's name and occupation, and place of residence for each of bride and groom. In addition, the address of the church where the ceremony took place is provided, as is the name of the officiating priest, and the names of two witnesses.
The latter are often a brother or best friend of the groom and a sister or best friend of the bride but this is not always the case.
The place of residence was sometimes omitted in earlier registers but after the 1860s this became rarer because priests were provided with new registers which included a section for addresses.