Parish baptismal and marriage records back where they belong

I HAVE read with some astonishment and much disbelief the recent spate of letters to the Irish Examiner concerning the alleged movement of the Cloyne diocesan baptism and marriage records.

All the letters contain the same inaccuracies and misinformation.

As explained by Msgr Denis O’Callaghan (Irish Examiner letters, April 20), the parish records are the property of the individual parishes, and this fact pertains in all other dioceses in Ireland. They were microfilmed and placed for the benefit of individual researchers who would view them on a microfiche machine at the National Library (NL) in Dublin.

For separate parishes in the diocese of Cloyne, one was expected to produce a letter from the parish priest in order to get a reader’s card.

One then had to book a microfiche machine (probably queuing for hours or days) and spend more hours or days trying to trace even one individual name, with the result that one had to make numerous visits to the NL.

If you lived down the country like I do, this arrangement was very costly in time and money.

‘Professional genealogists’ based in Dublin (some of whom worked for the NL) saw an opening for profit to be made from the use of these private parish records and exploited this niche market for many years, servicing thousands of foreign requests to trace their roots. This is piracy.

With the advent of computers and technology, heritage centres were set up countrywide to computerise parish baptism and marriage records (most parishes did not possess death records).

Mallow parish was chosen as the centre for the 46 parishes of the diocese of Cloyne, covering most of east and north Co Cork.

This project, which is ongoing for a number of years now, has enabled Mallow parish to employ a large number of people to index and computerise the parish records.

Finance to run this project had to be got from somewhere, so the diocese had to take back possession of what is church property (which was being exploited for commercial gain in the NL) and utilise the financial proceeds of a family history research centre to fund the ongoing costs of the project.

This is happening all over Ireland and one will have to pay for such a service in Galway or Tipperary or Dublin as in Mallow.

Mallow Heritage Centre is to be congratulated for the energy and commitment they have put into the computerisation and dissemination of the parish baptismal and marriage records. They have also computerised the 1901 census, the 1828 Tithe Applottment Records, Griffiths Valuation of the 1840s, and are in the process of computerising the 1911 census, gravestone inscriptions and national school roll-books as they become available.

So not alone are the parish baptism and marriage records still available, they are available to a greater degree than heretofore and Mallow Heritage Centre includes a broader choice of records. Who would travel all the way to the NL in Dublin (a day trip to Dublin from Mallow has an overall cost of over a e100) to sit at a microfiche machine for hours or days with inconclusive results and migraine, when you can email or write to Mallow Heritage Centre and get your request processed easier with more conclusive results and for less cost.

If you employ a ‘professional genealogist’ to do the work, you will end up paying a lot more.

I have dealt with Mallow Heritage Centre on a number of occasions and found the staff there to be very courteous and helpful, and extremely knowledgeable. The contributors to your letters page on the subject need not worry as the parish records are still available. Some of your correspondents on this matter seem have got their information mixed up. The state (civil) records for births, deaths and marriages, covering the period from 1864 to the present, have recently been moved from their repository in Mallow to the Registration Office in Cork city.

One cannot now do any research in Mallow on the state records for the 20 registration districts of north Co Cork unless one makes an appointment to do so at the office in Cork city (Mondays only, waiting list applies). Neither Mallow Heritage Centre nor the church authorities have any function in this move. Perhaps the letter-writers on the subject of the Cloyne diocesan records will direct their frustration this time to the state authorities responsible for the removal of the registration books on births, deaths and marriages for north County Cork.

The parish registers of Cloyne belong to the parishes of Cloyne and the Mallow Heritage Centre is the official and agreed repository for the computer copies.

I must again congratulate Msgr Denis O’Callaghan and the highly efficient staff of the centre for making these records widely available at such a reasonable cost.

Colin O’Callaghan

Rossaghroe

Buttevant

Co Cork

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