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Irish Genealogy 101

Locating Records from Ireland

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While many people assume that all Irish records have been lost or destroyed, that is just not the case. From the point of view of genealogy, the most significant losses from the 1922 Ireland Public Record Office fire were the 19th-century census returns, the Church of Ireland parish registers, and the testamentary collections. Other records not maintained in the PRO have survived, however, including civil records of births, marriages, and deaths, non Church of Ireland parish records, property records, and later censuses. Even for much of the material that was lost, there are abstracts, transcripts, and fragments of the originals.

The four main categories of Irish records that are relevant to almost everyone doing research on Irish ancestors include:

Civil Records of Birth, Death & Marriage in Ireland

Births, deaths and marriages have been registered in Ireland since 1864. State registration of non-Catholic marriages began in Ireland in 1845. Records are split between the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) in Belfast and the General Register Office (GRO) in Dublin, due to the division of Ireland in 1922. The main points of research access are:
  • The General Register Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast
    Research in the Belfast Office is limited by space constraints, and pre-booking up to two weeks in advance may be necessary. Only the indexes, not the actual registers, are open for public inspection. There is a flat fee charged for up to six hours' research time at GRONI, which includes up to four verifications of index entries (a check of the actual register for details to confirm it is the family you're looking for). Additional verifications are available for an added fee. A full certified copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate costs £6 and can be obtained for you by the staff. Note: Pre-1922 marriage certificates cannot be obtained through GRONI, only through the appropriate local register office.

  • The General Register Office in Dublin
    Research in the Dublin Office is allowed on the indexes only, with the purchase of a photocopy necessary to obtain further information.

Irish Civil Registration Indexes are online through several sources. The largest, free collection is at FamilySearch.org which offers access to the indexes of births (1864-1958), marriages (1845-1958), and deaths (1864-1958). The maiden name of the mother is not included in the birth indexes, and there are no records for the six counties of Northern Ireland after 1921.

Irish Census Records

Government censuses were conducted for all of Ireland once each decade from 1821 - 1911. The census records for 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851 were largely destroyed in the 1922 fire at the Public Record Office in Dublin, although some surviving fragments exist. The Irish census records for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 were completely destroyed prior to 1922, by order of the government for confidentiality purposes. Therefore, the earliest surviving comprehensive census returns for all of Ireland are for 1901 and 1911.

Because of this, the normal rule that census returns should not be available to the public for 100 years has been suspended in the Republic of Ireland. The returns for both 1901 and 1911 can be consulted on microfilm in the National Archives of Ireland. A full microfilm copy of the 1901 census is also available at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City and through local Mormon Family History Centers. Indexes, in published or database form, are available for the 1901 returns of some counties. Copies of the 1901 returns for the six counties now in Northern Ireland are available at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. In addition, some of the local heritage centers have computerised transcripts of the 1901 census returns for their areas.

Irish Church Records

Through the 19th century about 85% of the population of Ireland were Roman Catholic, 5% were members of the Church of Ireland, and the remaining 10% consisted primarily of Presbyterians. Prior to the onset of civil registration in Ireland in 1864, the records of these churches are virtually the only sources for family information.

Irish Property Records

Because of the destruction of 19th-century census returns, surviving land and property records from the period have become significant for genealogical research. Two surveys, each covering the entire country of Ireland, are a rich source for genealogists:
  • Tithe Applotment Books, 1823-1838

  • Griffith's Primary Valuation, 1848-1864

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