Irish Church records



Presbyterian Records


In general, Presbyterian registers start much later than those of the Church of Ireland, and early records of Presbyterian baptisms, marriages and deaths are often to be found in the registers of the local Church of Ireland parish. There are exceptions, however. In areas that had a strong Presbyterian population from an early date, particularly in the northeast, some registers date from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The only published listing remains that included in Margaret Falley's Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research, (repr. GPC. 1988). This, however, gives a very incomplete and out of date picture of the extent and location of the records. For the six counties of Northern Ireland, and many of the adjoining counties, the Guide to Church Records: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, (online, PRONI, 2010) provides a good guide to the dates and locations of surviving registers.

A full listing, with details of years covered is in the county-by-county lists.

Nature of the records

Presbyterian registers record the same information as that given in the registers of the Church of Ireland. It should be remembered that after 1845 all non- Roman Catholic marriages, including those of Presbyterians, were registered by the state. From that year, therefore, Presbyterian marriage registers contain all the invaluable information given in state records.

Record Locations

Presbyterian registers are in three main locations:

  • in local custody,
  • in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, and
  • at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Belfast (see presbyterianhistoryireland.com).

TPRONI has microfilm copies of almost all registers in Northern Ireland that have remained in local custody. For the rest of Ireland almost all the records are in local custody. It can be very difficult to locate these, as many congregations in the South have moved, amalgamated or simply disappeared over the last sixty years.

The very congregational basis of Presbyterianism further complicates matters, since it means that Presbyterian records do not cover a definite geographical area; the same town often had two or more Presbyterian churches drawing worshippers from the same community and keeping distinct records.

The very congregational basis of Presbyterianism further complicates matters, as it means that Presbyterian records do not cover a definite geographical area: the same town often had two or more Presbyterian churches drawing worshippers from the same community and keeping distinct records. In the early nineteenth century especially, controversy within the Church fractured the records, with seceding and non-seceding congregations in the same area often in violent opposition to each other. Apart from the PRONI listing, the only guide is History of Congregations (Belfast: PHS, 1982; NLI Ir 274108 p 11), which gives a brief historical outline of the history of each congregation. An online subscription version at presbyterianhistoryireland.com is more up to date. Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) records the existence of Presbyterian congregations within each civil parish, and Pettigrew and Oulton's Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland (1835) includes a list of all Presbyterian ministers in the country, along with the names and locations of their congregations. Brian Mitchell's A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland (Baltimore, Md.: GPC, 2nd ed., 2002; NLI RR 9292 m 36) maps the locations of historical Presbyterian congregations in the nine counties of Ulster. A brief bibliography of histories of Presbyterianism is given under 'Clergymen' in the 'Occupations section. For Dublin especially, Steven Smyrl's Dictionary of Dublin Dissent: Dublin's Protestant Dissenting Meeting Houses, 1660 - 1920 (Dublin: A. & A. Farmer, 2009) is an excellent guide to the congregations and their records.


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