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Irish Civil Registration

The earliest Irish vital records date from 1845


Irish Civil Registration

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The General Register Office of Northern Ireland launched an online search-and-view database on 31 March 2014.

You can access an overview of the facility here and search here.

As a result of this major development, some of the information on this page is out of date and incorrect. I am in the process of completely refreshing how this information is presented, and it's taking rather longer than anticipated. I hope to have it completed by Thursday 10 April at the latest. In the meantime, please exercise caution.


Irish civil registration forms the backbone of genealogical research in Ireland because birth, marriage and death records help us to identify family groups. Being 'Government' records (not church records) these Irish 'vital records' are often the most accurate documentary evidence of our ancestors' lives and they also survive intact. And it's not often that can be said of Irish genealogy records!

Summary

The old Dispensary in Skibbereen, Co Cork.
Local vital records were collated in Skibbereen's old Dispensary.
The only complication in locating Irish civil registration records results from the division of Ireland in 1922. Resources are split between GRONI in Belfast and GRO in Dublin. Contact details are at the foot of this page.

If you already know the names, approximate date and location of your ancestor's birth, marriage or death, finding these life events in Irish civil registration resources and obtaining copies of relevant certificates is easy.

You have a choice of action, too. You can look for the event in the official indexes, which are available both online and offline. You can wade through unindexed registers (where available). Or you might even make a straightforward application by post or online to the appropriate GRO without the official reference.

For many genealogists, however, it's not quite so simple an exercise because they don't start with sufficient information.

In this case, understanding the Irish civil registration system, knowing where records can be accessed, and appreciating the limitations of different sources, will prove valuable.


For general information, scroll down the page or follow these links:

Or, choose these pages for an indepth look at the Irish civil registration system:


Indexes

In brief

The Irish civil registration system was introduced in April 1845 but was initially restricted to non-Catholic marriages. Births, deaths and Catholic marriages were not included.

Only in January 1864 did it become obligatory to register all births, marriages and deaths with the local authorities.

Registrations were collated according to Superindent Register Districts, now known as local registration districts.


GRO - General Register Office, Dublin (and now Roscommon)

GRONI - General Register Office Northern Ireland, Belfast.


See the Counties of Ireland pages if you're not sure whether your ancestors' county is north or south of the 1922 border.

After Irish civil registration was introduced, indexes were compiled in Dublin by the GRO either quarterly or annually (depending on the year) on receipt of registers from all the Superintendent Registrar Districts (SRDs) across Ireland.

From 1922, details of births, marriages and deaths that took place in SRDs in the six counties of Northern Ireland were sent to GRONI for indexing, while registers for the remaining 26 counties continued to be sent to GRO Dublin (until 2005 when the GRO moved to Roscommon).

Although the indices are compiled from the original registration volumes, they do not contain all the information supplied at the time of registration. They are, after all, indexes, not the full-blown registration documents.

  • Birth – Alongside each named birth entry in the index is a reference. By quoting this reference, the original birth registration document can be located. From this, a copy certificate can be produced, providing all pertinent details.

  • Marriage – Pre-1966 marriage indexes show the first and family names of the newly wed but not the name of the spouse. Quoting the adjacent reference leads to a copy of the marriage registration document (ie marriage certificate).

  • Death – The name of the deceased is recorded in the index but it's only if you quote the adjacent reference that the original register entry can be found. A death certificate is then produced, providing details such as cause and place of death.

    In essence, then, the indexes alone will not move your Irish genealogy research very far. But the reference number will.


    The registration number

    Each entry in the indexes contains the following:

  • Surname
  • Christian name
  • name of Registration District in which the birth, marriage or death took place
  • Volume number and page number of the local register in which the entry was recorded.

    So, to provide an example, my great-grandad Tierney's birth in the townland of Ballymacadam, co Tipperary, is recorded in the 1872 index book as: Tierney Patrick Clogheen 9 722.


    Arrangement of the volumes

  • From 1845-1863, the marriage indexes (which include only non-Catholic marriages) are arranged alphabetically and are hand-written. After this date, the indexes are typed.
  • From 1864 to 1877, the indexes are in alphabetical order in one book per year.
  • From 1878 to 1902, the indexes are arranged alphabetically by quarter (ie four quarters to one volume). Unless you are certain of the date of the event, you need to check all four quarters and bear in mind that a birth, marriage or death that occured in one quarter may not have been registered until the following quarter.
  • From 1903, the birth indexes (but not the marriage or death indexes) are in alphabetical order in one book per year. The maiden name of the baby's mother is recorded, too, for the first time. This makes searching for a large family of children much easier.
  • In 1922, following the division of the island into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the GRO function was split between GRO Dublin and GRONI Belfast.


    Late, overseas and military registrations

    Each volume of the Irish civil registration indexes has a section at the back where late registrations were entered. These entries may have been registered only just outside the six-week registration limit or they may have been several years late.

    From 1879 there are also separate pages for the registrations of overseas births and deaths for Irish soldiers and Irish civil servants.

    To view Irish civil registration indexes

    Online

    Irish BMD records The free FamilySearch Irish Civil Registration Indexes Collection from the LDS Church is an outstanding genealogy resource, despite its limitations. The most important of these are the 'cut off' date of end-1921 for records relating to the six counties of Northern Ireland, the absence of the maiden name of the mother in the birth indexes, and a handful of gaps in coverage.

  • There are some records for Northern Ireland in this Irish Civil Registration Collection but no indication of how many. Anecdotal evidence suggests the number is very small.

  • There are gaps in birth registration coverage for 1867, 1869, 1880 and 1892-93.

  • There is just one gap in death registration coverage: Quarter 3 of 1894.

    The same limitations and gaps apply to Ancestry's versionAncestry Irish bmd collection link of the same collection. The advantage of this version is that its search engine is, in my opinion, far superior, plus it offers better options for marriages. The downside is that it is not free!

    A third version of the same core data is now also available, this time on FindMyPast. It, also, is not free, but it has a neat Marriage Finder facility that can be very useful.

    Elsewhere on the web, transcripts of indexes for some counties or smaller localities are also available, free of charge. If you can't find any through Google or one of the other major search engines, you may find that local family history groups or heritage centres can advise you.

    Additionally, RootsIreland has a database that runs into millions of birth, marriage and death records (taken from both church records and the Irish civil registration registers). It is a pay to view online facility; you have to buy credits. Not all counties are yet included... check the site's home page.


    Belfast

    On 31 March 2014, the General Register Office of Northern Ireland launched its online search and view facility for births, marriages and deaths that had taken place in Northern Ireland. The records that can be searched online are as follows:

  •     birth records over 100 years old

  •     marriage records over 75 years old

  •     death records (including World War II death records) over 50 years old The online facility allows you to view – for a fee – basic details, enhanced details and/or a copy of the original registration entry (certificate). Find out more about what is available here or begin your search of the Northern Irish civil registration records.

    For births, marriages and deaths that are not included in the online facility, researchers can view computerised indexes in the Public Search Room at GRONI. The indexes cover all life events and all years since Irish civil registration began. Only the indexes (not the registers) are available for public inspection.

    To view the indexes, you need to make an appointment well in advance. Up to six hours' research at GRONI costs £14. This includes up to two verifications of index entries (verification involves a member of staff checking the register and reading the entry to you.) Additional verifications cost £4 each. If a certificate is purchased on the day, and as a result of this research, it costs £8.

    If not purchased as a result of a personal search of the indexes, a full certified copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate costs £15. These can be ordered online or by post (here). Prices correct January 2013. (Pre-1922 marriage certificates cannot be obtained through GRONI; you have to apply to the appropriate local register office.)


    Dublin

    Irish GRO Indexes on shelves.
    Although the GRO's head office is in Roscommon, family historians can make personal visits to the GRO's Research Room in Dublin (address below) to study the Irish civil registration indexes to births, marriages and deaths. No appointment is necessary. All staff are (in my experience) superbly helpful and will patiently explain how the records are filed and your search options.

    Bear in mind that you have to carry out your own research and that only the indexes (not the registers) are available for public inspection. They are not computerised. You wade through the heavy index books manually and may have to be patient if another researcher is using the book you want.

    General Register Office Research Room, Werburgh Street, Dublin
    After studying the indexes and noting the full references for your ancestors' life events, staff will take photocopies of the relevant register entries (allow half an hour per photocopy).

    An all-day search covering all years and all indexes costs €20 (up to three people can share one all-day search; each can order eight photocopies at €4 each if the index reference is submitted).

    Alternatively, you can make a €2 search covering a maximum of five years of Irish bmd index books. All photocopies ordered cost €4.

    If you make a personal visit to the Research Room to submit your order, photocopies of the bmd certificates are €4 each.

    Photocopy requests with no GRO index reference attract an additional €2 'search fee' per certificate. Prices correct at October 2013.


    Local Civil Registration Offices (Republic only)

    You can also visit your local civil registration office to obtain 'research' photocopies of births, marriages and deaths. Photocopies of the certificates cost €4 if the GRO index reference is supplied; €2 is added as a search fee if the reference is not known. Prices correct at October 2013.


    To view Irish civil registration registers

    Family History Centers

    Some years ago the LDS (Mormons) microfilmed all Irish civil registration registers as follows:

    • Pre-1871 marriage and death registers for all Ireland.
    • Birth registers 1864 to March 1881 inclusive for all Ireland.
    • Birth registers 1900 to 1913 inclusive for all Ireland.
    • Birth registers 1930 to 1955 inclusive for Republic of Ireland.
    • Birth registers 1922 to 1959 for Northern Ireland.
    • Marriage registers 1922 to 1959 for Northern Ireland.
    • Death registers 1922 to 1959 for Northern Ireland.
    • Some registrations of life events at sea or overseas or for military personnel.
    These microfilms can be ordered and viewed via LDS Family History Centers around the world. (Similarly, microfilms of the indexes are also available for order for those without regular Internet access).

    The Irish civil registration registers contain duplicates of the original registration document completed at the time a birth, marriage or death was notified. In effect, these documents are copies of birth, marriage and death certificates.

    Duplicates of the majority of these registers are held by the GRO in Roscommon and GRONI in Belfast, and copies of entries can be obtained by following the instructions below for ordering certificates.

    One notable exception to these details is that pre-1922 marriage registers for the six counties that now make up Northern Ireland are not held by GRONI but by local register offices. Although you can search GRONI's indexes for these marriage entries, you have to apply to the local register office for a certified copy of a certificates. (Alternatively, genealogists can obtain a copy certificate by post from GRO in Roscommon.)

    Most local registration district offices also retain their original registers and some will allow public access to them, subject to advance bookings and payment of a fee.

    The original registers can also be viewed on microfilm at Family History Centers run by the LDS Church (Mormons). See box above for details of their holding and availability.


    Obtaining copies of Irish civil registration certificates

    If you have already located your ancestor in the indexes or registers, you will know the relevant reference number to use when submitting an application for a copy certificate. The procedure is straightforward – just follow the instructions on GRONI or GRO's websites, or see 'Online purchase' below.

    If you have not yet obtained the reference number and you cannot readily access the indexes/registers to find it, all is not necessarily lost. You can submit your application to GRO/GRONI in the usual manner and provide as much information as you can. Don't expect the impossible, however.

    While the staff will undertake a search when they are given sufficient information, they will not do so if the search is likely to be too time consuming. In most cases, this will mean you need to supply names, dates and location.

    Apply to the correct office for copy certificates:

    • For births 1864 to present in the Republic: GRO, Roscommon.
    • For births 1864 to 1921 in Northern Ireland: either GRO, Roscommon, or GRONI, Belfast.*
    • For births 1922 to present in Northern Ireland: GRONI, Belfast.
    • For marriages 1845 to present in the Republic: GRO, Roscommon.
    • For marriages 1845 to 1921 in Northern Ireland: either GRO, Roscommon, or the appropriate register office in Northern Ireland.*
    • For marriages 1922 to present in Northern Ireland: GRONI, Belfast.
    • For deaths 1864 to present in the Republic: GRO, Roscommon.
    • For deaths 1864 to 1921 in Northern Ireland: either GRO, Roscommon, or GRONI, Belfast.*
    • For deaths 1922 to present in Northern Ireland: GRONI, Belfast.

    * The Roscommon option is considerably cheaper if all you want is a 'genealogical research' copy, ie you can read all the details but don't need an authorised certificate for legal purposes.


    Online purchase

    The Civil Registration Service in the Republic has an online facility at www.certificates.ie for the purchase of Irish civil registration certificates. These are 'long form', official certificates that can be used for most administrative and legal purposes.

    At October 2013, the following certificates are available:

    • Births registered anywhere on the island 1864-December 1921
    • Births registered in the Republic 1922-present
    • Marriages registered anywhere on the island January 1913-December 1921
    • Marriages registered in the Republic 1922-present
    • Deaths registered in the Republic 1924-present

    You need to provide all pertinent information about the birth, marriage or death. There is no research facility. See the FAQ section of the website.

    Certificates cost a hefty €20 each, plus postage, so they are considerably more expensive than the so-called 'research copy' available through the GRO postal service, but the online payment facility is preferred by some people.

    All local civil registration offices in the Republic are now connected to the same computer database, and can provide these certificates. The addresses and opening hours of the local offices are on the www.certificates.ie website.

    GRONorthernIreland (GRONI) also offers an online service for ordering civil registration certificates for life events that have taken place in the six counties of Northern Ireland. Each certificate costs £15 plus postage (free to UK addresses only). Details can be found at NIDirect.


    Contact details


    GRO:

    • General Register Office (GRO), Government Offices, Convent Road, Roscommon, co Roscommon. Tel: (00 353)(0)90 663 2900. Website. No public research facilities. Postal service only. Application forms can be downloaded from that link and sent with credit card details or Euro cheque. (For 'Research copies' you can request email delivery via the website's Contact form. There's no difference in price.)
    • General Register Office (GRO) Research Room, Werburgh Street, Dublin 1. Hours 9.30-4.30 Mon to Fri.
      Applications in person only.
      Please note this new address for the Dublin Research Room, effective 30 September 2013. Werburgh Street is behind Dublin Castle.


    GRONI:

    • General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI), Oxford House, 49/55 Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL, UK. Tel: (00 44) (0)28 9151 3101. GRONI (scroll down page)
      Application can be made in person, by phone or fax or online.



    • For indepth information about Irish civil registration resources for births, marriages and deaths, see links at top of page.

    • If you are looking for birth, marriage and death records dating from before the Irish civil registration system started, you need to see if Church Records can help you. Find out how to trace family history through Irish parish registers.


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