At the beginning of a register of baptisms for the Roman Catholic (RC) parish of Ballymena, Co. Antrim, can be found a census, or membership register. It notes only the parish’s RC inhabitants and is arranged by street address or townland. Although the census is not dated, based upon the ages of those recorded it has been possible to date the return to approximately 1887.
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This Index was compiled by a small group of IGRS members during the week after the launch online of the National Library of Ireland’s database of RC parish registers, which took place in July 2015. There are approximately 2,200 entries in this Index, each one linked back to the relevant scanned page of the census in the NLI’s RC parish register database.
In addition to each person’s name, address, age and relationship to the head of the household, the census also notes information under a further eight other headings or categories: First Confession; First Communion; Confirmation; Last Easter Communion; Communicating How Often; Mass; Sodality; and Rosary.
Further, a few entries have other notes about such issues as illegitimacy, mixed marriages, emigration and nonattendance at church. Typically, those dealing with attendance include notes such as these: “never out”, “never at duty”, “20 years away” and “no practice”.
There are some obvious errors and/or omissions in the census, in particular some children have been noted as parents. Also, in some instances adults have been recorded simply as Mr or Mrs, without any Christian names being noted.
Beyond the streets in the urban areas of Balltymena, the rural areas covered by the census include these townlands: Ballyclava, Ballygarvey, Clogher, Clinty, Clonavon, Dunclug, Spencetown, Ballycowan, Ballylesson, Ballykeel, Ballycraigy, Ballymarlow, Caherty, Crebilly, Cross, Crumbkille, Deerfin, Donnyvadan, Galgad, Lisnamurican, Liminary, Tannybrake, Tully. Careful checking of this list of townlands will soon establish that few are rendered according to official spellings as established from the mid-nineteenth century. For instance, in the census, Dunnyvadden, is spelled erroneously as Donnyvadan, It is important to be aware of these inconsistencies, because generally, official records will use official spellings. Help is at hand though, researchers should refer to the online Index to Townlands (1901 edition) which is free to all on the IGRS website.