The National Library of Ireland in Dublin today (Wednesday) has placed the entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms held by the National Library of Ireland (NLI) online. Involved are over 370,000 digital images of the microfilm reels on which the parish registers are recorded and which will be accessible free of charge.
These parish register records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census. Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,086 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records. The NLI has been working to digitise the microfilms for over three years under what is had described as its most ambitious digitisation programme to date.
The parish registers provide evidence of direct links between one generation and the next (via baptismal registers) and one family and another (via marriage registers). The NLI holds copies of the registers for most Roman Catholic parishes in Ireland (including the counties of Northern Ireland) up to 1880. These registers consist primarily of baptism and marriage records.
The Catholic parish registers have been available on microfilm since the 1970s but this is the first time they have been placed online. Irish descendants no longer have spen a lot of money to visit the Library in Dublin view these registers.
You can find further information at http://www.nli.ie and especially at http://www.nli.ie/en/family-history-introduction.aspx and at http://www.nli.ie/en/parish-register.aspx.