The Representative Church Body Library (RCBL) has published a colourful online presentation of the Killoughter Vestry Minute Book, 1813–1916 as November's Archive of the Month slot on the Church of Ireland website.
Alongside parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, vestry books form an important and significant component of the records of the Church of Ireland as they record the civil and religious activities of the parish, the administrative decisions of the vestry, and details of those responsible for taking those decisions.
The earliest vestry minute book for the parish of Killoughter (located in north Cavan, close to the village of Redhills) provides a unique record of the origins, development and concerns of this rural parish in the diocese of Kilmore, from its establishment in 1813 up to 1916.
The records of the vestry meetings include the names of those who held the principal vestry offices and were usually signed by the clergy, who traditionally chaired the meetings, and in some instances by the churchwardens or other members of the vestry who had attended the meeting. Frequently the addresses of these individuals are included in the records, providing valuable detail for family historians.
Wider issues relevant to the Church and of social and economic concern to the rural Cavan community are raised in the volume, for example the parish cess – the tax levied on the occupants of the parish, regardless of their religious denomination – which was particularly unpopular with local Roman Catholics and Presbyterians who gained no benefits in paying it. The May 1841 even records the names of individuals nominated to collect the tax in each townland.
The online exhibition has been researched and written by Dr Jonathan Cherry, an historical geographer and lecturer at Dublin City University (DCU). "Peppered with the names of people and places, the importance of the vestry book to genealogists cannot be over-estimated," he says. "However, having had the opportunity to read through and write a short commentary on the vestry book, I was struck by the rich incidental information contained in the manuscript, and in particular the detail that allowed insights to be formed into the landscape of rural Cavan in the early 19th century and the social conditions prevailing at that time."
The entire Killoughter vestry minute book has been digitised and is available to view, free, from the Archive of the Month presentation page (click the link above).