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Where were the Loughglynn Parish records sent before 1817

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Joined: 02 Jun 2004
Posts: 33
Location: Florida

PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:21 pm    Post subject: Where were the Loughglynn Parish records sent before 1817 Reply with quote

I'm sure like many researchers we've all picked up a copy of "Tracing Your Irish Ancestors" and looked at the earliest dates for records available in each Catholic parish. In my particular parish of interest, I'm given a date of 1817. I find myself asking...but what about the birth, marriages and deaths that occurred prior to that period of time??? I see that Boyle has records that date back to 1792 and St. Peter's & Drum has records back to 1789. The dates for these records tend to indicate that the Catholic Church was interested in documenting these events prior to 1817. So if Loughglynn wasn't around to provide this documentation, who was doing it if it was required by the Catholic Church? Were there priests that were sent out from some larger existing parish who would travel through the land and handle the religious needs for these small areas that had no established church of their own as yet? If yes, would these traveling priests maintain the BMD records and bring them back to their home parish?

I was taken for a walk out into a field by my cousins during one of my return trips to Ireland and was shown a place that contained a "Mass Stone". It was here that I was told Sunday mass was held in years gone by when it was "against the law" to openly practice the Catholic faith. I am given faith in the knowledge that a priest was there and was tending to the religious needs of the community. I am additionally hoping that he kept records that somehow may have survived.

I ask these questions here in the hope that someone else may have pondered the same questions and may have researched the issue and can present us with some of the early history of Catholic church records in general for this critical time period in our genealogical research.
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Mike Lennon

Joined: 14 Jan 2005
Posts: 30
Location: Dublin, Ireland

PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The evolution of Catholic parish records was influenced by a mix of religion, government policy and economics. The 18th century (1700-1799) was the century of the Penal Laws which tried to suppress the practice of Catholicism. Hence, we had an underground church during most of this period and any written confirmation that a priest officiated at a baptism or marriage could be used to prosecute under the Penal laws.

From about 1780 onwards, there was a relaxation of the Penal Laws. You correctly identify that St. Peter's Parish in Athlone began recording baptisms and marriage in 1789. The parish priest, Edmund French, was appointed bishop of Elphin diocese in 1787 and continued to live in Athlone while bishop. He began the process of bringing the church "overground", which included the keeping of records, not for the benefit of us genealogists two centuries later but as a system of bookkeeping - each entry has the stipend paid for the baptism or marriage. Boyle parish followed suit in 1792 as did other parishes over the following decades. Most parishes in the diocese fell into line by the early 1830s, influenced no doubt by the enactment of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. Within these early record books, you will find notations showing how the stipends were divided between the parish clergy and how much was forwarded to the bishop.

This ad hoc system continued until 1864 when the State required the registration of births, marriages and deaths. The Act bringing this into force made the clergy of all churches agents of the State in witnessing marriages and forwarding details to the local registrars. This requirement saw the introduction of standarized books to be used by the churches for recording baptisms and marriages.

In summary, the Catholic Church from 1790 onwards was still in crisis, trying to re-establish its structures, and building little chapels took precedence over record-keeping. Other influences on when records began in a parish would be the age and health of the parish priest. Records often began to be kept with the appointment of a new priest to replace an old man who had died. The 1817 start in Loughglynn is relatively early compared to the generality of parishes in Elphin and indeed other west of Ireland dioceses.

Hope the above has given some background to your query.

Mike Lennon
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Joined: 15 Jan 2005
Posts: 45
Location: Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Mike for the excellent reply to Ed's query.

It is very difficult to understand the effect the Penal Laws had on the very soul of the Irish people. The dis-establishment of the Church of Ireland in 1829 was only the tip of the iceberg in giving the Catholics back their civil and religious freedoms. As you say, building a church, often a one-room thatch, was more important, than keeping records. Paper, too, was a premium product, and every available space on a page was utilized.

The tallying of the monies at the end of the week is a glimpse into the priest's house. Maybe, after the tea of a Sunday evening, he and his curate would sit down with the register and enter the weeks events. Sometimes, you can see it was done from memory, as a woman's first name if oft forgotten, or entered as "Mrs" so-and-so. 2/6 (two shillings and 6 pence) was a large sum of money for a baptism for a tenant farmer whose yearly rent might be 5 pounds, and a pound of top quality wool sold for 2 shillings.

The "Old English" Catholics that were part of the plantations centuries before, still retained their religion even after the Reformation in Europe and England. These Catholic "gentry" still had their lands, and sometimes with land and dowries involved, they married in the Church of Ireland, and Banns were posted. If your ancestors are of this 'class", I would check local C of I records. Even here, the earlist records are 1634, with most starting mid to late 1700's.

Having Catholic records back to 1817 is wonderful, but because of the paucity of information, establishing direct links between families is difficult. The naming patterns contribute their own difficulties to genealogical research.

After Civil Registration, (1845 for C of I marriages and 1864 for all others) the onus was on the parents to register a birth and on the bride & groom to register the marriage. However, in the case of marriage, most often the person legally entitled to perform the cermony, would complete the registration.

Happy hunting!
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