Irish Civil Registration


Irish civil registration

Birth, marriage and death records


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. They also survive intact - and it's not often that can be said of Irish genealogy records!

The only complication in locating Irish civil records results from the division of Ireland in 1922. Historical resources are split between GRONI – the General Register Office of Northern Ireland – which is in Belfast, and GROIreland – the General Register Office of Ireland – which has a Research Room in Dublin for personal visitors but has its HQ in Roscommon. 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 relatively easy.

See the Infographic (above) for BASIC details of how Irish family historians can explore this collection of vital records and apply for birth, marriage and death certificates. Read on for more in-depth step-by-step instructions and general information.


Accessing the Irish Civil Registration Records - Step by step

For the majority of family historians searching for their ancestors since 1845/1864, the details in the infographic above will be sufficient to guide them to the relevant records of births, marriages and deaths. Below is a more detailed step-by-step guide.

Ancestors from Northern Ireland?

If your family came from counties Antrim, Armagh, Derry-Londonderry, Down, Fermanagh or Tyrone, you'll find GRONI's online service for Northern Irish civil registration records quicker and easier to use.

Ancestors from Northern Ireland?

If your family came from counties Antrim, Armagh, Derry-Londonderry, Down, Fermanagh or Tyrone, you'll find GRONI's online service for Northern Irish civil registration records quicker and easier to use.

Step 1: Dates  Check the relevant dates. Irish civil registration started in 1845 with the recording of non-Catholic marriages and civil weddings held at local register offices. From 1 January 1864, all births, all marriages and all deaths (bmds) had to be registered. If the bmd you seek dates from before 1845/1864 you will have to seek out the relevant church records.

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


Step 2: Indexes  You can search the ONLINE Irish civil registration indexes at the sites below:

  • FamilySearch – Index to 1958 (Northern Ireland counties to 1922). Free
  • Ancestry – Index to 1958 (Northern Ireland counties to 1922). Fee/subscription required
  • FindMyPast – Index to 1958 (Northern Ireland counties to 1922). Fee/subscription required
  • IrishGenealogy – Index. Free. Births to 100 years ago; Marriages to 75 years ago; Deaths to 50 years ago. Marriages from 1882 are shown with both the bride's and groom's names. (Northern Ireland counties to 1922.)
  • GRONI Family History – Pay to view Index, transcriptions or certificates.  Births to 100 years ago. Marriages to 75 years ago. Deaths to 50 years ago. Northern Ireland counties only.

You can search the indexes OFFLINE by making personal visits to the Public Research Rooms in Dublin and Belfast (see Addresses below).


Step 3: Reference  Having found a registration entry of interest in the index, you create the full GRO Index Reference. Historically, this is made up of five or six elements:

  1. Surname
  2. Year of the event
  3. Quarter of the year in which event took place (not required for all years... see Indexes page)
  4. SRD/District/Poor Law Union where event registered
  5. Volume number
  6. Page number.

Alternatively, if you are using the IrishGenealogy.ie database, the Group Registration ID, if provided, plus the Surname will suffice.


Step 4: Certificates   Please note the following:

  • Most researchers will choose to purchase a 'research copy' of the bmd certificate (ie a photocopy of the original register entry) for events that took place anywhere on the island up to 1922 or in the Republic of Ireland since then. 
  • If you have the GRO Index reference/Group Registration ID, you can order a 'research copy' of the bmd registration for just €4 from GRO Roscommon or any local registration office in the Republic of Ireland.
  • If you don't/can't quote the reference, you can still apply for a 'research copy' by providing as much information as possible; GRO staff will then make a search for you and you'll be charged €6 (€4 for the copy certificate and €2 for the search)
  • You cannot order/request research copies online. You have to download an application form here and post/fax it to GRO Roscommon with credit card details or Euro cheque.
  • If you want an image of the certificate emailed to you, provide your email address, otherwise a photocopy will be sent by post.
  • Some researchers will want to obtain a full-blown copy of the certificate. This can be done by downloading the same application form (link above) and posting it to GRO Roscommon. The cost is €20 (October 2015) plus postage. Postal service only.
  • There is also an online ordering service for full-blown copies at certificates.ie but it doesn't cover all years. Postal service only. See details on the site.
  • RootsIreland – Does not have a database of the Irish civil registration indexes. Instead, it has pay-to-view transcriptions of civil registration certificates for some districts (not all districts/years are available).


Addresses

GRO:

  • General Register Office, Government Offices, Convent Road, Roscommon, Co Roscommon. Tel: +353(0)90 663 2900. No public research facilities. Postal service only. See Step 4 above for more details.
  • GRO Research Room, Werburgh Street, Dublin 1. Hours 9.30-4.30 Mon to Fri. Applications in person only. For a fee, the Irish civil registration index books can be searched here and 'research copies' purchased. See Indexes page.


GRONI:

  • General Register Office of Northern Ireland, Oxford House, 49/55 Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL, UK. Tel: +44 (0)28 9151 3101. Researchers can visit the public search room (need to book in advance), order by post or, since 31 March 2014, use the 'extended' online search-and-view service.  Find out more about GRONI on the Northern Ireland civil registration page.


More about the Irish civil registration records:


  • How much have Irish names changed since civil registration was introduced?


History and brief overview

The Irish civil registration system was introduced in April 1845 but was initially restricted to non-Catholic church weddings and civil weddings held in register offices.

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

Registrations were collated according to Superintendent Register Districts, now known as local registration districts, by county.

GRO – General Register Office, Dublin/Roscommon

GRONI – General Register Office Northern Ireland, Belfast.

See Addresses at bottom of page.

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