The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has announced that it will be digitizing its parish records and as of July 8 will provide free online access.

This is a big moment for Irish genealogy.

The parish register records are the most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the Census of 1901. They date from the 1740s to the 1880s, cover 1,091 parishes throughout Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.

They are especially important for finding ancestors pre-1864, when Ireland began civil registration of births, marriages and deaths. 

Currently, anyone who needs the parish records to fill in the missing branches in their family tree must go to the NLI’s Genealogy Microfilm Reading Room on Kildare Street in Dublin, or pay an outside service or researcher to access the records for them. Access has been hampered in recent years by high demand and increased pressure on resources. The only online access to date has been through a third party paid genealogical service,

Putting the records online opens access to people across Ireland and for the Irish diaspora around the world.

The National Library first announced details of the project in December, and just shared the July launch date.

“This is a great advancement for those researching their Irish family history,” commented Clare Doyle, Heritage Resource Manager with Ireland Reaching Out, Ireland’s program for the diaspora.“

“No matter where they are in the world they will be able to access historical information from parish records. . . It reaffirms Ireland’s status as one of the leading genealogy centers of the world.”

Read more: Millions more Irish birth, marriage and death records free online