Tracing roots is to become much easier with the provision of an internet site which aims to list all available records of births, deaths and marriages from previous centuries.

The Irish Roots website (www.irish-roots.net) will eventually hold details of all church records, which in some cases go back to the year 1600.

Already the website holds details of over 5.5m records of births, over 2.4m records of marriages, and over 1m deaths from that time period.

It is the culmination of 25 years' work by historians who have studied every conceivable resource, from records of baptisms and marriages to gravestone inscriptions.

The website was officially launched today on the Jeanie Johnston in Dublin by Arts Minister Séamus Brennan and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

It is free to do a general search on the site, but €5 for a more detailed search thereafter.

The Irish Family History Foundation, which runs the website, says all money goes back into making the site bigger and better.