Civil Registration: Irish marriage records
Finding an ancestor's copy marriage certificate can really help move on your Irish genealogy research
While the obligation to register births and deaths was not wholeheartedly embraced by the population of Ireland when it was introduced, Irish marriage records are generally considered to be complete right from the start. This is mainly because, while the bride and groom were officially responsible for registering their marriage, priests, ministers and civil officials nearly aways submitted the marriage certificate direct to the local Registrar on their behalf.
Whoever performed this duty, they had just three days to do so, making it less likely the responsibility would be overlooked.
Find out about the Claddagh ring the traditional Irish ring of love and marriage and the area of Galway where it is thought to have originated.On receipt of the certificate, the local Registrar would file it in the local register and record details of the marriage in the local district index.
This index would subsequently be passed on to General Register Office in Dublin where all the local indices were combined to make one national index.
Inevitably, there have been a few cases of Irish marriage records being omitted from the national index even though a certificate was correctly issued and filed in the local Registry. These cases are very rare.
In the last couple of years, a number of websites have begun to offer transcripts of Ireland's civil registration records. Some of these offer free access. Some don't. Some are complete. Others are not. More details are in the Online Databases section below.
Marriage registers, while they contain much more information than the indexes, are unlikely to be an early port of call for most researchers because they are not readily accessible, either online or offline.
It is worth bearing in mind that it was traditional (and still is, in some areas) for a woman to marry in her 'mother' church, ie the church where she was baptised.
This may help you narrow down an area in which to start a search.
Indexes v RegistersWhile the registers provide you with terrific genealogical details ie the address, ages and occupations of the bride and groom, and the names and occupation of their fathers, the indexes don't tell you much.
All they will tell you is the registration district and year (and, from 1878 to 1902 inclusive, the quarter) in which the marriage was registered, the surnames of both parties, and a reference made up of Volume and Page numbers.
However, once you have the reference number you can buy a copy marriage certificate and so get your hands on all the crucial information held on the register.
If you know the names of both bride and groom, finding Irish marriage records in the indexes is straightforward, even if you are not certain exactly where or when the couple married.
Although late registration of Irish marriages was relatively rare, it is worth looking in the Late Registration section at the back of each quarter or volume before moving onto the next one.
If you know the name of only one party to a marriage, but know the location and have a good idea of the date, you should still be able to pinpoint the record in the index.
If you know the name of only one party to a marriage but little more, you should narrow down the options in the indexes as best you can or wait until you have obtained additional info from other sources. The less common a surname, the less difficult narrowing down the options will be.
The reference of each Irish marriage record in the index begins with the name of the Superintendent Registrar's District. Because of the way these districts were established, it may or may not have been your ancestor's nearest town or village. (More about Ireland's civil registration districts.)
So where can you view these indexes?
For more details of how the indexes are arranged, see the main Irish civil registration page.
The information recorded in the civil marriage registers is exactly the same as that recorded on an Irish marriage certificate.
Copies of the actual registers of marriage are not usually available for public inspection except, for reasons that I've yet to understand, on microfilm through LDS Family History Centers (see link in Find Out More section below). Availability is as follows:
In some County Registration Offices in Ireland, marriage records/registers can be viewed by the public by appointment (and payment of a fee) only. Waiting lists may be up to a year long.
Irish marriage records: certificates
Below is a marriage certificate dating from 1862 ie some 17 years after civil registration of marriages had begun but two years before ALL Irish marriages had to be registered. A record of this marriage does not appear in IGI. Click on the thumbnails for a better view.
It is the marriage certificate of my gt gt grandparents George Nichols and Sophia Doolittle.
It's full of wonderfully rich detail. It tells me the groom's profession, the names and occupation of both fathers, the residences of bride and groom in Wicklow Town, and the names of two witnesses (who often, as in this case, are relations)
The only disappointment is the official's decision to record 'full age', meaning over 21 years, rather than actual ages (this is a frequent complaint... our Irish ancestors obviously didn't appreciate how helpful they could have been to later generations).
This marriage took place at the Register Office in Wicklow because, so the story goes, she was a Roman Catholic and he a Methodist, and neither would agree to marrying in the other's place of worship! It was agreed, however, that all the their children would be raised as Catholics.
Some 32 years later, their eldest daughter, Sydney (the woman surrounded by her ten children on Irish Genealogy Toolkit's Home page) married at St Patrick's Roman Catholic church in Wicklow. The format of her marriage certificate (left) was almost identical to that of her parents.
Again, the 'full age' issue crops up here, but the names of the streets where bride and groom lived have been included, reflecting the growth of Wicklow Town in the intervening years.