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Since Findmypast’s release of Church of Ireland parish record search forms collection, we thought a quick guide to these records was in order, explaining why they’re the key to tracing your Irish ancestors.

Civil registration and the Old Age Pension

Prior to the introduction of compulsory civil registration in Ireland in 1864, a lot of what the state knew about your ancestor would come from the records kept by the local vicar and his parish archive. As there was no real state record kept until this date other than the censuses, those applying for an old age pension in the early years after its introduction in 1909 had to rely on these parish records to prove their claim.

This could be difficult, as proof was accepted only from entries in parish records and census returns held in the Public Records Office. Searches were generally requested on behalf of the applicant by whoever was certifying their claim—often the local vicar who kept the archive or a Justice of the Peace. Many later forms have the address of solicitors or professional genealogists and may have been filled out as part of a probate claim after the named applicant’s death.

The Public Records Office Fire of 1922

As a lot of the original records were destroyed in the Public Records Office fire of 1922, these search forms provide an invaluable record of some of those lost records. They include data taken from registers for births, deaths and marriages and from the 19th century Irish censuses that no longer survive.

The search forms are also remarkably detailed, containing an astonishing amount of information on not just your ancestor, but their family as well. The forms were filled out by staff at the Public Records Office as they searched the various sources. You can often see their notes as they found other family members and for this reason the search forms can be a pot of gold if you are researching your Irish ancestors.

Very often the whole family will be listed with dates of birth and the address. Sometimes you will see the letters NF written on the form, even if there are names and dates filled in. This means that the applicant was not found, even if members of their family were. You may find out not just your ancestor’s name, date of birth and address but also the names of their parents and other family members.

For more stories on tracing your Irish heritage from Findmypast click here.