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 real 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.

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 visual 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, see the Northern Ireland civil registration page.

Ancestors from Northern Ireland?

If your family came from counties Antrim, Armagh, Derry-Londonderry, Down, Fermanagh or Tyrone, see the Northern Ireland civil registration page.

Step 1: Dates  Check the relevant dates. Irish civil registration started in 1845 with the recording of all weddings (civil and religious) EXCEPT those performed in Roman Catholic churches. From 1 January 1864, all births, ALL marriages (including those performed in Roman Catholic churches) and all deaths had to be registered.

In genealogical circles, births, marriages and deaths are known as BMDs.

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 now in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.


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

  • IrishGenealogy – Index. Free. Births to 100 years ago; Marriages to 75 years ago; Deaths to 50 years ago. (Northern Ireland to end 1921.) 
  • FamilySearch – Index to 1958 (Northern Ireland to end 1921). Free
  • Ancestry – Index to 1958 (Northern Ireland to end 1921). Fee/subscription required
  • FindMyPast – Birth and marriage indexes added to database March 2018. Dates and geographical coverage unconfirmed, but not complete. (Northern Ireland to 1921). Free; registration required.
  • GRONI Family History – Pay to view Index, transcriptions or copy 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).

More information about each of these resources.

 IrishGenealogy – Index. Free. Births to 100 years ago; Marriages to 75 years ago; Deaths to 50 years ago. (Northern Ireland to end 1921.) 

FamilySearch – Index to 1958 (Northern Ireland to end 1921). Free

Ancestry – Index to 1958 (Northern Ireland to end 1921). Fee/subscription required

FindMyPast – Birth and marriage indexes added to database March 2018. Dates and geographical coverage unconfirmed, but not complete. (Northern Ireland to 1921). Free; registration required.

GRONI Family History – Pay to view Index, transcriptions or copy 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).

More information about each of these resources.


Step 3: Quoting the 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)
  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. 

More about creating the GRO Index Reference.


Step 4: Copies of Register entries / Certificates   Please note the following:

  • Most researchers will choose to purchase a 'research copy' of the bmd certificate (ie a photocopy of the register entry) for events that took place anywhere on the island up to and including 1921 or in the Republic of Ireland since 1922. 
  • 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. They cannot be ordered online. Download a research copy application form and follow the instructions.
  • 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 try to identify the register entry. 
  • There is also an online ordering service for full-blown official copies of birth, marriage and death certificates at certificates.ie. It does not cover all years; check the dates here. Postal service only.
  • An offline service for full-blown official copies of birth marriage and death certificates is available via GRO Roscommon. Covers 1845/1864 to current. Download an official certificate application form and follow the instructions. The cost is €20 (March 2018) plus postage. Postal service only.
  • RootsIreland – Does not have a database of the Irish civil registration register images. Instead, it has transcriptions of register entries for some areas (not all districts/counties/years are available). Subscriptions of various lengths available, including 24 hours.


TStep 4: Copies of Register entries / Certificates   Please note the following:

Most researchers will choose to purchase a 'research copy' of the bmd certificate (ie a photocopy of the register entry) for events that took place anywhere on the island up to and including 1921 or in the Republic of Ireland since 1922. 

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. They cannot be ordered online. Download a research copy application form and follow the instructions.

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 try to identify the register entry. 

There is also an online ordering service for full-blown official copies of birth, marriage and death certificates at certificates.ie. It does not cover all years; check the dates here. Postal service only.

An offline service for full-blown official copies of birth marriage and death certificates is available via GRO Roscommon. Covers 1845/1864 to current. Download an official certificate application form and follow the instructions. The cost is €20 (March 2018) plus postage. Postal service only.

RootsIreland - Does not have a database of the Irish civil registration register images. Instead, it has transcriptions of register entries for some areas (not all districts/counties/years are available). Subscriptions of various lengths available, including 24 hours.



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 - Part 2 page.


GRONI:

  • General Register Office of Northern Ireland, NISRA, Colby House, Stranmillis Court, Belfast BT9 5RR. Tel: 0300 200 7890 (+44 300 200 7890 if outside the UK). Personal visitors to either the GRONI public search room (need to book in advance) or the PRONI search room can view indexes/register entries covering Northern Ireland from 1845/1864 to current. Online indexes/register entries stop at 100 years ago for births, 75 years for marriages and 50 years for deaths. Find out more about GRONI on the Northern Ireland civil registration page.

PRONI:

  • Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 2 Titanic Boulevard, Belfast. Find out more about PRONI on the Northern Ireland civil registration page.


More about the Irish civil registration records:


Ireland's birth records and the information they contain

Irish marriage records (civil) – often the easiest and most satisfying to discover

Irish deaths 

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

If you are looking for birth, marriage and death records dating from before the Irish civil registration system started, you'll need to search Church Records. Find out how to trace family history through Irish church records.



History and brief overview

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

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

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

Some common abbreviations:

GRO – General Register Office, Dublin/Roscommon

GRONI – General Register Office Northern Ireland, Belfast.

SRD= Superintendent Registrar District

PLU = Poor Law Union

BMDs= Births, marriages & deaths


See Addresses

See the Counties of Ireland pages if you're not sure whether your ancestors' county is north or south of the 1921 border.