Scotch-Irish-L Archives

Archiver > Scotch-Irish > 2011-04 > 1302362442

Subject: Re: [S-I] Visiting PRONI for research
Date: Sat, 9 Apr 2011 15:20:42 +0000 (UTC)
In-Reply-To: <94923C9336D442B9A8BB3E13F2349D02@DDZ9H291>

Hi Geraldine, alas, usually they tell us that you can't find church records in Ireland before about 1830. Of course this is wrong. You can but it isn't easy and they are spotty, so you have to use other kinds of records too.

However today it is easier than, say, last year. has the indexes to many church records from most counties in Ireland on line. You can search them for free but you must pay to see a transcribed record. Still, you can get started with the free index and delay checking the record till you get to PRONI, unless you are sure it's the right one. Then the information might take you back another generation. You might want that information before you go to Ireland. How complete this index is for our usual interests -- Antrim and Down -- no one seems to know. The agency providing the indexes (Ulster Historical Foundation) hasn't provided data on what is indexed and what is not. I've emailed them, so have others. No response. Other counties in Ireland have this information available. on their webpages. (I hope someone tells me I'm wrong and they've addressed that problem). It still gives you an idea as to what exists.

Most but not all Presbyterian records in the historical society are in PRONI. PRONI has been research facilities and so the Presby Society has encouraged people to go there for church records. Generally at PRONI you use microfilm. You can learn what they got on the website. FIANNA maintains good webpages with information regarding what records exist for what churches and where they are.

You can also consult a book like Ryan "Irish Records". It lists every congregation and explains what basic records exist for it (baptisms, marriages, deaths), their dates, and where they were held when the book was published. I have a copy if you have a congregation in mind.

Usually these congregations are listed in the civil parish or alphabetically. This makes is very difficult for people not familiar with geography in Northern Ireland to determine which churches the ancestors might have gone to. If you know where they were, you might print out a map (PRONI site has many) and note where various congregations are to help figure out which ones are probably too far away and so don't need searched. If you found hits on your surname with the on line index, above, that could also pinpoint geographical areas for you to search.

Excepting for the on line index, you generally have to search the church records individually. This takes a long time, which is why you must narrow down your search.

Some church records are in the FHL. You may have time to check them before you go. METTAM (use author index or ask for more help here) is a microfilmed transcription of a number of Ulster parishes. You can order the film and check before leaving.

At this point of course you'll need to have a list of the congregations so you can tell what you may have already checked (to avoid wasting time) or decided you weren't checking.

Feel free to post here what your surnames are and where you think they might be. There may be people here who can help. A surname book like Bell's "Book of Scotch-Irish Surnames" (Is that the title??)... eh... well, we can look up what he says. Often he can identify what is the most common county or even parish for a surname to be found.

Depending on your exact research, you may also find that the Linen Hall Library can help. People spend decades in PRONI writing books about their families and communities, then publish. The book is in the library, not PRONI. Their books can lead you to specific PRONI records that might take you decades to find, like it took them.

Beyond baptisms, marriages, and deaths, there are presbytery minutes. They contain names. The early Irish ones I seem to recall start from about 1700 and are published. I know they are in the local seminary library. Probably in the Presbyterian Historical Society too. There is also an on line database of Ulster graveyard transcriptions. .

The records of some larger congregations in Belfast are published and probably in the Linen Hall Library. Sometimes more distant congregations called upon them for minsterial support or mortcloths (cloths to cover corpse on way to kirk and graveyard) can find the names of people living far away in the Belfast church records. Congregational histories are wonderful as well. Few are indexed. the FHL in Salt Lake has a large collection of Northern Irish local and congregational histories. (I have a collection of RP congregations in Antrim).

Also there's more and more Irish church records in IGI at It's important to check large databases like this, if you can, because you can often be mistaken about where and who the family is. By checking the larger databases you can find more groups with the surname or records relating to the family in another denomination that you'd never think to check. One lister here many years ago couldn't find any trace of his surname in Presbyterian records in his county of origin. But someone here knew that county quite well. His surname was a common Irish surname in that county, but they were largely Catholic.

It's also good, since it's now free, to check Griffiths Valuation, if you haven't. It can also identify where the surname occurs. is a short and sweet representation. However the whole thing including images is here: .

If you do know where your family was living or the surname is fairly uncommon, you can use the above site to determine what estate they lived on. Then you can use the PRONI website to identify estate records in PRONI. Those records may contain the names of your ancestors.

So with a little preparation you can arrive well prepared -- and already on your way with the research.

I hope someone knows a good place to stay. The B&Bs in Britain and Ireland are wonderful, by the way. The owners are friendly and they're clean and home like. I always stay in them. The term 'en suite' means private bath. Most Americans want a private bath. People in Belfast are all very friendly. The food is good and the ATMs work. Do try an American restaurant. The bookstore at Queens University had huge amounts of locally published local history. Some I've never been able to get outside of Northern Ireland.

If you have time, read the chapter on Presbyterian records in Falley "Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research". It's in a nearby library. It'll fill you in on many details.

I find driving in Belfast (or Dublin, etc) nerve wracking. Not only do you drive on the wrong side but there are many one way streets and much congestion. Buses go everywhere.

Just remember your ancestors set out in the wilderness without a map and they did okay. You have their genes so you'll do just fine!

If you give us more details we can help more specifically. Several people here are professional researchers in Northern Ireland and they give very good advice.

Linda Merle

----- Original Message -----
From: "Geraldine McKeown" <>
Sent: Friday, April 8, 2011 11:15:42 PM
Subject: [S-I] Visiting PRONI for research

My husband and I will be in Belfast in late May to research his McKeown line. The family came from Ireland to Delaware around 1832. We believe they came from Co Down. I seem to fit the description of a Newbie who is planning to research Presbyterian church records at PRONI and Linen Hall Library.I have been searching their websites. Can anyone suggest a plan of research in Belfast? It seems that the more I read the less seems to be available from this time period of 1780-1832. Also can anyone suggest accommodations in the area near the new PRONI location ?

Geraldine McKeown

To unsubscribe from the list, please send an email to with the word 'unsubscribe' without the quotes in the subject and the body of the message

This thread: