Before you start your research in Irish church records, you must know the name of the place (town or village) where your ancestor lived and their religion.
Parish registers were collected and remain at a local level, so knowing these vital pieces of information is crucial.
For the period prior to 1864 church registers are the only records available of most births, deaths and marriages (and sometimes burials).
It is important to bear in mind that the creation of new Catholic parishes in the 19th century can sometimes mean that registers relevant to a particular area may be divided between two parishes.
Helpfully the National Library of Ireland website includes details of the variant names of the parish too and this lessens confusion.
Because the Church of Ireland was the state church in Ireland between 15, record-keeping during this period was difficult for the Catholic Church, meaning few records survive from before the latter half of the 18th century.
Early records tend to be found in the more prosperous and Anglicized areas such as the towns and cities in the east of Ireland.
Be warned though, many of the Catholic registers contain spelling errors, especially of place names, and some are not complete.
The information contained in them can be hit and miss.
Baptismal records - Roman Catholic baptismal records usually include: Relationships of the witnessed to the people getting married might be included, though this is much less common.
Where to find the Roman Catholic records - Roman Catholic Church registers were microfilmed in the 1950s and 1960s by the National Library of Ireland. Since 2015, these registers can be accessed freely online through the National Library of Ireland's microsite Catholic Registers at the NLI.
Some fragmented Catholic records survive for areas such as Galway and Waterford city (1680s) and Wexford town (1671).