Until fairly recently, a manual search of the Irish civil registration INDEXES in either Dublin or Belfast was usually the starting point for most family historians.
These days, many of these searches are conducted via the Internet. However, online public access to Ireland's historical civil registration records is officially restricted to a 100-75-50-year cut-off in response to data protection concerns.
While there are indexes online that do not apply this cut-off, there
are currently no online databases that extend past 1921/1958 (NI/ROI).
This page explains when and how civil birth, marriage and death records were collected and collated, and how to find them in the indexes. This information could help you if you run into difficulties finding the individual records you are seeking.
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 at this time.
Only in January 1864 did it become obligatory to register ALL births, ALL marriages and ALL deaths with the local authorities.
To comply with the legislation or risk a fine, citizens made a trip to the local register office to record a birth or death; church or civil officials who conducted weddings were responsible for sending details of marriages to the local register office.
Local register offices were organised into Superintendent Registrar Districts (SRDs), who had to create copies of their registers and send them to the General Register Office (GRO) in Dublin. Indexes were then compiled in Dublin 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 the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (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 data entered into the registers of births, marriages and deaths, they do not contain all the information supplied at the time of registration. They are, after all, indexes, not full-blown transcriptions of the register entries.
Separate indexes were created for Births, Marriages and Deaths. At the GRO Research Room in Dublin, the Births Indexes are bound in Red covers, the Marriages in Green, and the Deaths in Black.
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, each annual index is in alphabetical order (no quarters were used).
From 1878, the indexes are arranged alphabetically by quarter (ie four quarters to one annual volume). Unless you are certain of the date of the event, when searching the indexes manually 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, which are presented in quarters) 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.
From 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.
If you are searching the Irish civil registration indexes online at IrishGenealogy.ie, you will find most index entries have a Group Registration ID; this 'GRID' no + surname (ie 2636887 Santry), is a 'new-style' Index reference number used by the General Register Office in the Republic of Ireland. Note it if it is provided.
In all other cases, whether you're searching the manual books or one of the online databases, you will find each entry in the manual and online indexes contains the following:
To these details you add the year (and quarter, if relevant) to create the old-style Index reference. See the image below to get a clearer idea of this. (Click the image for an enlarged view).
By quoting the correct reference, you can obtain a copy of the register entry, containing all the additional registration details. See Step 4 on the main Civil Registration page.