The Society possesses a library of some 12,000 books and pamphlets. These are mainly concerned with ecclesiastical history and in particular Presbyterian history. The collection includes a large number of congregational histories. A microfilm copy of The Witness, a Presbyterian newspaper, covering the period 1874-1941, is also available for consultation as are the printed minutes of the General Assembly beginning in 1840.
Manuscript material includes session minutes, baptisms and marriages from individual churches as well as some presbytery minutes. These include session accounts for Armagh Presbyterian Church for 1707-32, session minutes for Aghadowey Presbyterian Church for 1702-61 and baptisms from Cullybackey (Cuningham Memorial) Presbyterian Church covering the period 1726-1815. The Guide to Church Records published by the Ulster Historical Foundation indicates which congregational records are available at the Presbyterian Historical Society. The Society also has a duplicate set of the microfilm copies of Presbyterian church registers held by PRONI covering the vast majority of Presbyterian congregations in Ireland.
Of particular interest is the large amount of biographical data available on Presbyterian ministers. This material can be accessed through a card index, while there are also handwritten and printed ‘fasti’ providing information on clergymen. A small collection of private papers of Presbyterian ministers is also available. These include some of the papers of the most distinguished Presbyterian minister in the nineteenth century, the Reverend Henry Cooke.
We seek to collect items and material of Presbyterian interest and these may be viewed in our offices at 26 College Green, Belfast. We are always pleased to receive any items of historical interest. The Society's library has been built up gradually over many years through donations, bequests and purchases. One of the most significant contributions was a bequest from the estate of the Rev Robert McCahon in 1942.
The Society welcomes donations of old pamphlets, congregational histories or records, congregational relics, minute books, communion tokens or plates or material relating to controversies of the day. These may be made as gifts or as permanent loans to the Society. The Society also has a portable exhibition of Presbyterian history which can be borrowed by Presbyteries and congregations.
The Society is funded through donations and fees, together with a valuable financial contribution each year from the Incidental Fund of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Queries on membership are welcomed and should be addressed to the Society's Librarian, Valerie Adams.
For more information see the brief guide to documentary sources for the study of Presbyterianism in Ireland
Some of the items in our collection