A website launched in July that contains Catholic parish records dating back 300 years has received almost four million page views so far, with most of them coming from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Earlier this summer the National Library of Ireland (NLI) launched the free site, containing 370,000 digitized images of microfilm reels including parish registers. Since July there have been 255,067 unique users, most of whom are from the United State and the United Kingdom. The average time spent on the website is ten minutes.

The site, and others like it, allows Irish history to come alive online and be accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. Before the digitization of the microfilm anyone seeking this information had to visit the NLI on Kildare Street, in Dublin.

Director of the NLI, Sandra Collins, told the Irish Times the records have resonated with the Irish diaspora.

These records are one of the most important sources of information on Irish family history, from before the 1901 census. The parish records date from the 1740s to the 1880s and they cover 1,086 parishes throughout Ireland. They consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.

Commenting on the number of people visiting the website Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys said, “The records are a huge draw in getting people to come to this country and trace their roots.”

Among the 370,000 digital images are the details of the baptisms of Padraig Pearse, Peig Sayers and Thomas McDonagh, as well as details on Anne Devlin’s wedding.

Commenting on the launch of the site this July, the NLI’s Ciara Kerrigan, who has been managing the digitization of the parish registers, said, “This is the most significant ever genealogy project in the history of the NLI. The microfilms have been available to visitors to the NLI since the 1970s.”

In keeping with its aim of enhancing accessibility through making its collections available online, the NLI has been working to digitize the microfilms for over three years under its most ambitious digitization program to date.

For more information, visit www.nli.ie. For more on the launch follow the hashtag #ancestorsonline or follow @NLIreland on Twitter.

Here US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley speaks about the project: