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If researching ancestors prior to the introduction of civil registration of all births, deaths and marriages in 1864 (non-Catholic marriages registered from 1845), the main sources of information on family history are the registers kept by local churches. Unfortunately, many of these date from no earlier than the nineteenth century. Nonetheless enough has survived to provide many people with information on their forebears. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland has a vast collection of microfilms and photostat copies of church records, as well as some original material, relating to all denominations in Ulster. The main categories of church records are as follows.

Baptismal registers
Extract from the Larne Presbyterian (now Non-Subscribing Presbyterian) baptismal register Open Enlarged Version  The basic information provided in a baptismal register is the name of the child, the name of the father and the date of baptism. The mother's name will usually be given as will a specific location. The occupation of the father and the date of birth of the child may also be provided. Roman Catholic registers will normally give the names of the sponsors of the child. Occasionally the order of the child in the family (i.e. whether it was the firstborn, second or third in line) will be given.

Marriage registers
Prior to the standardisation of marriage registers after 1845 for non-Catholics and 1864 for Catholics, these will give in their simplest form the date of the marriage and the names of the bride and groom. The residence and the name of the father of each party may be provided. The names of the witnesses might also be given.

Burial registers
Burial registers can be fairly uninformative, with the name of the deceased, the date of burial (not the date of death) and occasionally the occupation and age at death given. The deaths of children will usually include the name of the father, while the burial of a wife may include her husband's name. Rarely will the cause of death be provided. Many Catholic 'burial' registers are actually registers recording payments made at the funeral of the deceased.

Vestry minute books of the Church of Ireland
The vestry was an assembly of parishioners who met to consider parochial business, and took its name from its meeting place - the vestry, or room in the church in which the minister's vestments were kept. The names appearing in the vestry books include those of the churchwardens and sidesmen, those attending vestry meetings, persons appointed to oversee the repair of roads, masons and craftsmen employed to work on the parish church, and persons appointed to care for the elderly and infirm or abandoned children.