Archive of the Month: A snapshot of parish life in Killucan between 1696 and 1786

Local and family historians with an interest in the county Westmeath parish of Killucan and its vicinity will be particularly pleased to know that the earliest register of baptisms, marriages and burials covering the 90-year period from 1696-1786 has been transcribed with indexes, which are now available online, as May's Archive of the Month.

Continuing its commitment to publish and make more widely available the vast collection of parish registers available in its custody, the RCB Library in Dublin where the Killucan registers (along with thousands of others) are held, has collaborated with Andrew Whiteside, a local historian and archivist, who has painstakingly worked through the extensive original volume transcribing all of the entries and additional information, and producing indexes of names.

The register provides a particularly enlightening window to local life in provincial Ireland, documenting community experience in and around Killucan (with its neighbouring village of Rathwire, and Kinnegad) especially because it is so early – dating back to 1696, and continuing for the greater part of the 18th century until 1786. In addition to the baptismal marriage and burial entries, it further contains a whole range of administrative records recording the parish's role in administering local parish life – similar to that of the local authority today, including poor relief, education, social welfare, road maintenance and tree planting, and overseeing law and order – which provide additional colour about the socio-economic history of the eastern part of Westmeath.

Although it is a Church of Ireland record, its remit is much wider and the contents document the lives of Roman Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter (including Anabaptists and Quakers) people who lived and worked in this community. It further contains unique references to some of the poorest people in the district whose existence is not documented elsewhere. Because one of the responsibilities of the parish was to maintain lists of 'indigent, disabled and marginalised inhabitants' for the distribution of poor money, the deaths of several people not recorded in burial registers are included. There are also mentions of foundlings and people passing through. These glimpses help us to re-construct society and landscape in the various localities of this parish that otherwise would be impossible.

From the RCB Library, Dr Susan Hood who co-ordinates the Archive of the Month initiative said: "We commend the work of Andrew Whiteside who has faithfully reproduced the contents of this early parish register that opens a window to social and cultural life in provincial Ireland during the late 17th and 18th centuries and highlights the value of parish registers for research."

Andrew Whiteside says: "I am delighted to make a contribution to understanding the history of this place, especially as online publication of the earliest register coincides with the bicentenary celebrations of the 'new' parish church in Killucan (completed in 1813) to meet the needs of the then expanding parish which came after the volume covered by this work. I hope it is of value to family and local historians alike."

To view the Killucan register transcripts and indexes see:

Source: RCB Library