Session minutes of Presbyterian churches concern the daily affairs of the congregation and often predate the registers of births and marriages by as much as a century. It is within the body of the minutes that lurid details about your ancestor’s life may be found as church leaders dealt with discipline cases. Session minutes sometimes contain references to vital events such as baptisms and marriage. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast: www.proni.gov.uk and the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland (PHSI): www.presbyterianhistoryireland.com have large collections of these from all branches of the Presbyterian faith in Ireland. Each has its own online catalog. If not deposited, then session minutes may still be with the local congregation.
One major example of how you need to consider several repositories in the search for records is the case of the Presbyterian congregation of Aghadowey, County Londonderry. It was from the geographic area around this congregation that the first wave of Scots-Irish, as a group, came to Colonial America in 1718: www.1718migration.org.uk They founded Londonderry, New Hampshire. While baptismal registers survive for the Aghadowey Presbyterian Church from 1855 and marriages from 1845, the PHSI has session minutes (1702-1761), which of course pre-dates that first important emigration. Interspersed with these session minutes are notations of early marriages. A study of those colonial Londonderry, New Hampshire families would not be complete without consulting these early session minutes.
A typical session minute book will be in manuscript form and arranged chronological. It will include communion lists, some vital information, disciplinary actions, accounting records, membership records alongside business minutes for the congregation.