Thursday 2 January 2014

RCBL focusses on important Meath collection

The Representative Church Body Library's first Archive of the Month for 2014 focusses on a collection of records relating to Meath Diocese. This collection is a package of treasure for any researchers with ancestors from that area, and is available for free public consultation.

Diocesan records from the 16th century to 1870 were among the many casualties of the 1922 fire at the Four Courts; what survives had been retained by the diocese for administrative purposes or had not been transferred to the diocesan regisry at that point.

Despite the losses, the surviving Meath archive provides a fascinating insight to the workings of a Church of Ireland diocese from the late 17th century onwards, including diocesan inspection reports on each parish in the diocese and the working papers of Canon John Healy (1850–1942). Of most interest to Irish genealogists is the 1766 religious census of the town of Navan, County Meath. This gives the names of head of households and records the respective numbers of adults, children, and Protestant and ‘Papist’ servants, organised by location (gate, street etc) in the town.

In addition are detailed returns of every Protestant household in the diocese arranged on a parish by parish basis for 1802 and 1803; and the later 19th century census compiled in the aftermath of disestablishment, again organised by parish, and providing the names of the head of each family, numbers in the each family unit, and other observations.

Concurrent with this census, completed in 1879, is the complementary collection of returns of baptisms and burials for every parish throughout the diocese including summary totals used by the diocese for parish re–organisation with the details of the actual entries.

For some parishes such as Almorita, whose original registers were lost in the 1922 (including baptismal registers to 1884 and burials to 1885) the copied complete nine–year run of entries from 1870 to 1879 may provide hidden gems of family information that otherwise have been lost.

You can find out more about the surviving Meath Diocesan Archives, and how to access the documents, here.