Anpharoiste – Transcribing the Irish Catholic Parish Registers

My latest foray into digital humanities is by far my most ambitious. Anpharoiste (“the parish”) will be a platform for curating and crowdsourcing the transcription of a remarkable genealogical resource that has become available online.

In July 2015, the National Library of Ireland (NLI) published digitized copies of microfilm images of Irish Catholic parish registers of baptisms and marriages on a dedicated free-to-access website.

The NLI website describes a collection of ~ 373,000 digital images from 550 microfilm reels of 3,500+ registers from 1,086 parishes in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Parish Registers

The start dates of the registers vary from the 1740 – 50s in some city parishes in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick, to the 1780 – 90s in counties such as Kildare, Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny. Registers for parishes along the western seaboard do not generally begin until the 1850 – 60s.

Microfilm Images

In 1949, Dr Edward MacLysaght, Chief Herald of Ireland and Keeper of Manuscripts at the National Library of Ireland, approached the Bishop of Limerick offering the NLI’s services to help in the permanent preservation of the genealogical information contained within the Catholic Church’s collection of parish registers. The NLI’s offer to microfilm parochial registers was taken up by every member of the Hierarchy. Although civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1864, records were not accurately kept for a number of years, so a cut-off date of 1880 was applied for the microfilming of registers.

The usual procedure followed in relation to the microfilming was to send a senior member of NLI staff to a diocese to collect the registers, bring them to the NLI in Kildare Street for filming, and then return the registers to the diocese. The filming of registers diocese by diocese began in the 1950s and was completed over a period of 20 years. Additional filming of registers from a small number of Dublin parishes took place during the late 1990s.

Digital Images

Church registers of marriage and baptism are considered to be the single most important source for family history researchers prior to the 1901 census. In many cases, the registers contain the only surviving record of particular individuals and families. With growing numbers of people engaged in family history research and limited on-site facilities at the NLI in Dublin, the decision was taken in 2010 to digitize the parish register microfilms.

In October 2014, the NLI Board formally approved the making available of the microfilm images online on a dedicated free-to-access website. The individual registers have been reassembled virtually and made available to users via a topographical database.

The digitization of the Catholic parish register microfilms is the NLI’s most ambitious digitization project to date. It demonstrates the NLI’s commitment to enhancing accessibility through making its collections available online.

Anpharoiste

The “materials” of Anpharoiste will be digital images of parish registers that are associated with two experimental, government-assisted emigrations of poor people – including my father’s ancestors – from the south of Ireland to Upper Canada in 1823 and 1825.

The “structure and function” of Anpharoiste will be  supported by my own installation of Omeka – a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions – including the Scripto plug-in for crowdsourcing the transcription of the digital images.

Next: The cool URIs of the Irish Catholic Parish Registers websitewebsite

The Cool URIs of the Irish Catholic Parish Registers website

Classes and URIs

The Irish Catholic Parish Registers (ICPR) project on the National Library of Ireland (NLI) website is constructed using three main classes of objects:

  1. Parish
  2. Reel
  3. Image

Home of the Irish Catholic Parish Register project

The URIs that reference instances of these classes (e.g. the Parish of Knocklong and Glenbrohane) are constructed according to a regular pattern:

Class URI Pattern
Parish http://registers.nli.ie/parishes/pppp, where pppp varies from 0001 to 1134.
Reel http://registers.nli.ie/registers/vtls000rrrrrr#page/1/mode/1up, where rrrrrr generally varies from 631891 to 635395 and from 639776 to 639824, with identifier 637417 falling in-between.
Image http://registers.nli.ie/pages/vtls000rrrrrr_nnn, where rrrrrr varies as above, and nnn varies from 001 to the total number of images in that reel.

Table 1. Three main classes of objects and their URIs in the ICPR project.

The patterning of the URIs used in the ICPR project qualify them as Cool URIs. Cool URIs greatly assist our mining data about the individual parishes, reels, and images – and, ultimately, our incorporating a subset of the ICPR project within Anphroiste. 1

First, let’s disregard the content of the human-readable documents associated with these URIs (e.g. the meaning contained within the home page of a given parish) and restrict ourselves to analyzing these URIs in order to describe the structure of the ICPR website, beginning with

  • counting the number of instances within these classes, and
  • determining the distribution of the number of instances of one class that are associated with a single instance of another class (e.g. the distribution of number of reels per parish, the distribution of number of images per reel, the distribution of number of images per parish, etc)

Parishes

As Table 1 indicates, the URIs that reference individual parishes include four-digit identifiers (ranging from 0001 to 1134).

Eight of the URIs in this series (containing the identifiers 0105, 0106, 0402, 0479, 0487, 0515, 0729, and 1130) are associated with no parish at all and resolve to the “404 File not Found” page. Of the remaining 1,126 URIs:

  • 44 (3.9%) are associated with parishes for which the NLI holds no digital images of their registers and resolve to a document reporting alternative sources of information (see Parishes excluded from the ICPR project)
  • 1,082 (96.1%) are associated with parishes for which the NLI holds one or more reels of images of their registers. 2
1,082 unique URIs reference different parishes in the Irish Catholic Parish Registers project.

Reels

As Table 1 indicates, the URIs that reference individual digital reels include a six-digit identifier – generally ranging from 631891 to 635395 and from 639776 to 639824. For more information on the stand-alone identifier that falls between these two ranges, see Digital Reel 637417 in the Irish Catholic Parish Registers project.

In fact, there are a few breaks within these two blocks of identifiers; the list of identifiers used in URIs that reference reels of images is:

  • 631891 to 632373 (383 IDs)
  • 632277 to 633290 (1,014 IDs)
  • 633292 to 633433 (142 IDs)
  • 633436 to 633563 (128 IDs)
  • 633565 to 635395 (1,831 IDs)
  • 637417 (1 ID)
  • 639776 to 639824 (49 IDs)
3,548 unique URIs reference different reels of images in the Irish Catholic Parish Registers project.

Parishes and Reels

The number of reels of images associated with a given parish ranges from 1 to 44 (for the parish of St. Andrew’s, Dublin city). Table 2 and Figure 1 provide the distribution of number of digital reels per parish.

Reels Parishes (n) Parishes (%)
1 235 21.7%
2 279 25.8%
3 228 21.1%
4 143 13.2%
5 72 6.7%
6 48 4.4%
7 28 2.6%
8 14 1.3%
9 8 0.7%
10 7 0.6%
11 2 0.2%
12 2 0.2%
13 2 0.2%
14 2 0.2%
15 1 0.1%
16 2 0.2%
17 1 0.1%
19 1 0.1%
20 – 29 1 0.1%
30 – 39 4 0.4%
40 – 49 2 0.2%
Total 1,082 100.0%

Table 2. Distribution of number of digital reels per parish.

Irish Catholic Parish Registers project - Distribution of number of digital reels per parish

Figure 1. Distribution of number of digital reels per parish.

On the other hand – with one exception alone – every digital reel of images is associated with one and only one parish. The one exception is the digital reel referenced by the stand-alone identifier 637417 (see above and Digital Reel 637417 in the Irish Catholic Parish Registers project, for more information).

Reels and Images

As Table 1 indicates, the URIs that reference individual digital images include a six-digit identifier for the reel and a three-digit identifier for the page number.

The number of images associated with a given digital reel ranges from 3 to 578 (for the parish of Harrington St., Dublin city) for a total of 372,756 images. 3

372,756 unique URIs reference different images in the Irish Catholic Parish Registers project.

Table 3 provides the distribution of number of images per reel.

Images per Reel Reels (n)

Reels (%)

1-50 1,032 29.1%
51-100 942 26.6%
101-150 729 20.5%
151-200 482 13.6%
201-250 196 5.5%
251-300 93 2.6%
301-350 40 1.1%
351-400 19 0.5%
401-450 9 0.3%
451-500 2 0.1%
501-550 2 0.1%
551-600 2 0.1%
Total 3,548 100.0%

Table 3. Distribution of number of digital images per reel.

Some things to do along these lines of analysis

  • Our count of 1,082 parishes in the Irish Catholic Parish Registers project is at odds with the NLI’s official figure of 1,086. Some work is required to resolve the discrepancy.
  • We should derive the distribution of number of images/parish from the parish-reel(s) and reel-images tables.

Summary

We have used the URIs that reference instances of the three main classes of the Irish Catholic Parish Register project to describe the main features of the structure of the ICPR website:

  • counting the number of instances within these classes, and
  • determining the distribution of the number of instances of one class that are associated with a single instance of another class

Let’s now examine the content of the human-readable documents associated with these URIs (e.g. the meaning contained within the home page of a given parish), beginning with the names of the Irish Catholic Parish Registers project.

 

  1. We will describe our data mining tools and techniques in more detail elsewhere.
  2. Our figure of 1,082 parishes is at odds with the NLI’s official count of 1,086 parishes for which it holds images of their registers. Some work is required to resolve the discrepancy.
  3. The source code for vtls ID=634188 has no number of images, but our inspection of the web page showed 78 images and the comment “List of inhabitants showing Christmas dues 1834, Easter dues 1835 and remembrance masses for July 27, 1835 – May 13, 1837”.

Parishes excluded from the Irish Catholic Parish Registers project

As we have seen, the URIs that reference individual parishes in the ICPR project include four-digit identifiers (ranging from 0001 to 1134), and 44  of these URIs are associated with parishes for which the NLI holds no digital images of their registers and resolve to a document reporting alternative sources of information.

Table 1 identifies these parishes and includes comments provided by the ICPR project:

Identifier Parish Comment
1 0013 Ballydesmond, Diocese of Kerry, County of Cork. An index to baptisms and marriages from 1850 is available at Irish Genealogy.
2 0114 Knocknagoshel, Diocese of Kerry, County of Cork. An index to baptisms from 1800 is available at Irish Genealogy.
3 0415 Clonfert, Diocese of Clonfert, County of Galway. An index to baptisms from 1884 and marriages from 1894 is available at Roots Ireland.
4 0416 Fahy and Kilquain, Diocese of Clonfert, County of Galway. An index to baptisms from 1871 and marriages form 1894 is available at Roots Ireland.
5 0451 Blaris, Diocese of Down and Connor, Counties of Down and Antrim. An index to marriages from 1818 is available at Roots Ireland.
6 0452 Bangor, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Down. Registers are in local custody only from 1855 onwards.
7 0453 Kilmore, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Down. An index to baptisms from 1837 and burials from 1896 is available at Roots Ireland.
8 0504 Artane, Clontarf, Coolock, Santry, Dublin City, Archdiocese of Dublin, County of Dublin. An index to baptisms and marriages from 1771 is available at Roots Ireland. In 1879 Clontarf, Killester, Coolock, Raheny separated from Fairview, Artane, Glasnevin and Santry to form the parishes of Clontarf and Fairview respectively.
9 0507 Bohernabreena, Archdiocese of Dublin, County of Dublin. An index to baptisms from 1863 is available at www.irishgenealogy.ie
10 0511 Aughrim St., Dublin city, Archdiocese of Dublin, County of Dublin. Aughrim St. parish was created from St. Paul’s parish, Arran Quay in c. 1876-1877. An index to baptisms and marriages from 1888 is available at www.ancestry.com
11 0512 Berkeley Road, Dublin city, Archdiocese of Dublin, County of Dublin. Originally part of St. Michan’s parish, Berkeley Road parish was created in 1890. Registers are held in local custoy.
12 0513 Cabra, Dublin city, Archdiocese of Dublin, County of Dublin. Cabra was constituted from St. Paul’s parish, Arran Quay in 1941.
13 0526 Monkstown, Archdiocese of Dublin, County of Dublin. Constituted in 1902 from Dun Laoghaire parish. An index to baptisms from 1855 and marriages from 1865 is available at Roots Ireland.
14 0528 Sandymount, Archdiocese of Dublin, County of Dublin. Parish constituted in 1851. Records held in local custody.
15 0531 Rathgar, Archdiocese of Dublin, County of Dublin. Constituted in 1882 from Rathmines. Records held in local custody.
16 0566 Oran, Diocese of Elphin, Counties of Galway and Roscommon. An index to baptisms from 1865 and marriages from 1864 is available at Roots Ireland.
17 0639 St. Nicholas North, Galway city, Diocese of Galway, County of Galway. An index to baptisms, marriages and burials from 1818 is available at Roots Ireland.
18 0643 Kilshanny, Diocese of Galway, County of Clare.
19 0644 Salthill, Diocese of Galway, County of Galway. Parish constituted in 1840. Records held in local custody.
20 0683 Killorglin, Diocese of Kerry, County of Kerry. An index to baptisms and marriages from 1798 is available at Irish Genealogy.
21 0684 Prior, Diocese of Kerry, County of Kerry. An index to baptisms and marriages from 1850 is available at Irish Genealogy.
22 0740 Ballycroy, Diocese of Killala, County of Mayo. An index to baptisms from 1885 and marriages from 1890 is available at Roots Ireland.
23 0748 Kilcommon Erris, Diocese of Killala, County of Mayo. An index to baptisms from 1860 and marriages from 1843 is available at Roots Ireland.
24 0755 Moygownagh, Diocese of Killala, County of Mayo. An index to baptisms from 1877 and marriages form 1881 is available at Roots Ireland.
25 0853 Ballinaglera, Diocese of Kilmore, County of Leitrim. An index to baptisms from 1882 and marriages from 1887 is available at Roots Ireland.
26 0854 Drumreilly Upper, Diocese of Kilmore, County of Leitrim. An index to baptisms from 1878 and marriages from 1870 is available at Roots Ireland.
27 0965 Rathcore and Rathmolyon, Diocese of Meath, County of Meath. An index to baptisms and marriages from 1878 is available at Roots Ireland.
28 1025 Stranorlar, Diocese of Raphoe, County of Donegal. An index to baptisms and marriages from 1877 is available at Roots Ireland.
29 1026 Termon and Gartan, Diocese of Raphoe, County of Donegal. An index to baptisms from 1877 and marriages from 1880 is available at Roots Ireland.
30 1027 Glencolmkille, Diocese of Raphoe, County of Donegal. Baptism records from 1880 and marriage records from 1881 are held in local custoy.
31 1028 Annagry, Diocese of Raphoe, County of Donegal. An index to baptism and marriage records from 1894 onwards is available at the Parish of Annagry Family History Resource, https://annagrygenealogyresource.wordpress.com
32 1029 Urney, Diocese of Derry, Counties of Tyrone and Donegal. Registers of baptism and marriages from 1866 are held in local custody.
33 1084 Kilkerrin and Clonberne, Archdiocese of Tuam, County of Galway. An index to baptisms and marriages form 1892 is available at Roots Ireland.
34 1085 Killursa and Killower, Archdiocese of Tuam, County of Galway. An index to baptism and marriages from 1880 is available at Roots Ireland.
35 1123 Union Workhouse, Belfast city, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Antrim. An index of baptisms from 1738 is available at Roots Ireland.
36 1124 Glenariffe, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Antrim. An index to baptisms is available at Roots Ireland.
37 1125 Holy Rosary, Belfast city, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Antrim. An index to baptisms from 1888 is available at Roots Ireland.
38 1126 Holy Family, Belfast city, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Antrim. An index to baptisms from 1869 is available at Roots Ireland
39 1127 St. Paul’s, Belfast city, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Antrim. An index to baptisms from 1824 is available at Roots Ireland.
40 1128 St. Brigid’s, Belfast city, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Antrim. An index to baptisms from 1839 is available at Roots Ireland
41 1129 St. Vincent de Paul, Belfast city, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Antrim. An index to baptisms from 1874 is available at Roots Ireland.
42 1132 Sacred Heart, Belfast city, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Antrim. An index to baptisms from 1849 is available at Roots Ireland.
43 1133 St. Mac Nissi, Larne, Diocese of Down and Connor, County of Antrim. An index to baptisms and marriages form 1828 onwards is available at www,ancestryireland.com
44 1134 Rathdown Union Workhouse, Archdiocese of Dublin, County of Wicklow. An index to baptisms from 1841 and marriages from 1876 is available at Roots Ireland.

Table 1. Parishes for which the NLI holds no digital images of their registers.

Belfast city (7) and Dublin city (3) together account for nearly one-quarter of the parishes for which the NLI holds no digital images.

Table 2 provides the distribution by diocese of these 44 parishes:

Diocese Number of Parishes with No Digital Images
Percent of Total Parishes with No Digital Images
Down and Connor, County of Antrim 12 27.3%
Dublin, County of Dublin 9 20.5%
Galway, County of Galway 4 9.1%
Raphoe, County of Donegal 4 9.1%
Killala, County of Mayo 3 6.8%
Kerry, County of Cork 2 4.6%
Kerry, County of Kerry 2 4.6%
Kilmore, County of Leitrim 2 4.6%
Tuam, County of Galway 2 4.6%
Other 4 9.1%

Table 2. Distribution by diocese of parishes for which the NLI holds no digital images of their registers.

Finally, Table 3 provides the distribution of alternative sources of information about the registers of these parishes:

Alternative Source Number of Parishes with this Alternative Source Percent of Parishes with this Alternative Source
 Local custodian 7 15.9%
Roots Ireland 28 63.6%
 Irish Genealogy 4 9.1%
Ancestry 1 2.3%
Other 2 4.6%
None 2 4.6%

Table 3. Distribution of alternative sources of information about parishes for which the NLI holds no digital images of their registers.

Presumably, a local custodian also holds the registers of the 33 parishes for which the ICPR project indicates that an online index exists.

Previous: Parsing the Irish Catholic Parish Registers website

Digital Reel 637417 in the Irish Catholic Parish Registers project

The Irish Catholic Parish Registers project includes 3,548 digital reels of images associated with 1,134 parishes. All but one of these digital reels contain images associated with a single parish; digital reel 637417 contains some or all of the images associated with 34 different parishes from the Archdiocese of Tuam, including parts of Counties Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon:

Parish IDs Parish Diocese County
0103 Athenry Tuam Galway
0104 Abbeyknockmoy Tuam Galway
1035 Achill Tuam Mayo
1036 Addergoole and Liskeevy Tuam Galway
1037 Aughagower Tuam Mayo
1038 Aghamore Tuam Mayo
1040 Annagh Tuam Mayo
1041 Annaghdown Tuam Galway
1042 Aran Islands Tuam Galway
1043 Aughaval Tuam Mayo
1044 Balla Tuam Mayo
1045 Ballinakill Tuam Galway
1046 Omey Tuam Galway
1047 Ballinrobe Tuam Mayo
1048 Burriscarra Tuam Mayo
1050 Bekan Tuam Mayo
1052 Burrishoole Tuam Mayo
1053 Donaghpatrick Tuam Galway
1054 Moyrus Tuam Galway
1055 Clare Island Tuam Mayo
1056 Kilcolman Tuam Mayo
1059 Crossboyne and Taugheen Tuam Mayo
1061 Dunmore Tuam Galway
1067 Kilcommon and Robeen Tuam Mayo
1068 Kilgeever Tuam Mayo
1071 Killereran Tuam Galway
1073 Kiltulla Tuam Roscommon
1074 Knock Tuam Mayo
1075 Lackagh Tuam Galway
1076 Mayo Abbey Tuam Mayo
1081 Templetoher Tuam Galway
1082 Tuam Tuam Galway
1083 Turlough Tuam Mayo
1086 Kilvine Tuam Mayo