Where to look for your Irish Family History


English Records

Online Irish Resources

Great granddad You've probably heard it before but it's worth repeating. The first place you start looking is within your own family.

Ask your relatives where they come from, for family records, old documents, letters from back home, family legends. Maybe one of your cousins has been doing family history research and you could work together on your joint family tree. Go through the records in the attic. Check your own birth certificate, your parents marriage and birth certificate. Follow the trail of brothers and sister, aunts and uncles who may know parts of your family history that were lost or forgotten in your own branch. Sometimes you will come up against people who don't want to go digging in the past. Be kind.

Keep your notes organised. I've learned this from experience. Note the source of each piece of information. Once you have some shape to your family and how far you can go back, start looking at the records available online or in your local genealogical centre. Sometimes the records are only available locally. Decide if you want to make a trip yourself to consult the actual records or if it would be cheaper and quicker to pay someone locally. If you send me an email with your family details I'll send you a free assessment of where to look next. See my homepage for more details.

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Information in Ireland
These are the main repositories in Ireland. Most can only be searched in person. Please check my homepage for hourly rates. You can order a birth, marriage or death certificate from the GRO if you know the exact date or index reference and the address.

1. National Library
Kildare Street
Open 09:30-21:00 Mon - Wed 09:30 to 17:00 Thu, Fri and 09:30 - 13:00 Sat

Ragan Family Crest Go through the security and follow the arrows to the Genealogy room on the right. They have a free genealogy service there to point you in the right direction. It can get busy so remember to sign in at the door and they see you in the order you arrive.
The National Library has most catholic parish records on microfilm from as early as they start until around 1880 when state registration was well underway. Note that burial registers are rare in catholic parishes. The diocese of Kerry requires written permission from the bishop. Just call up the office and they'll send you a letter. The dioceses of Cashel and Emly and now Clones are closed to public viewing. They prefer you to use the commissioned research centre in Tipperary and the Mallow Heritage Centre. See the extensive National library website for details. To find the film number of the records you require you need to know the catholic parish and diocese. The List of Parish Registers on Microfilm includes a list of parishes by diocese, the covering dates of the baptismal, marriage and burial registers in each parish, and the National Library Call Number or film number. This number is available online.
When you have the film number you need, get a badge from the genealogist or the front desk, hand in your bag and coat to the guard who puts them in a locker and take your papers to the fabulous reading room on the first floor as described in James Joyce's Ullysses. Sign in at the desk by the door. Park your papers by your chosen microfilm reader in the room off to the left and fill in the form with the reader number, film number, your desk number and your name and hand in at the desk by the door. They bring the film to you at your desk. No pens are allowed, only pencils.
The information on the parish registers varies over time but may include the godparents for baptisms. The records can be very difficult to read depending on the hand writing of the priest, how much ink he used and how well preserved the original document was. The earlier records can be in Latin. Note also that most catholic records didn't start until an average of 1820 so if you are looking before then, you may be disappointed. They also have the Griffiths valuation, the Tithe books, old commercial directories, newspapers and parliamentary papers.
The National Library website has lots of useful information on what they have to prepare you for a visit.

2. General Registry Office
The GRO has moved as of December 2007. It is now in a lovely new room in the Irish Life centre, block 7 3rd floor. This is probably 15 minutes walk from the National Library. The holdings and research access is unchanged. No computers as yet.
Open Mon-Fri 9:30 to 16:30.

O'Brien Family Crest They hold the birth, marriages and death indexes and the volume and page references from these can be used to order a photocopy of the register entry or a certificate from the central office in Roscommon.

Non-Catholic marriages ONLY started being registered 1-Apr-1845. Catholic marriages and all births and deaths started only from 1-Jan-1864. Records for the whole are Ireland are up until 31-Dec-1921 then itís just the 26 counties. For the other 6 counties you have to go to GRONI in Belfast. In the early years, there was a good degree of non-compliance on registration, estimated at 20% or more. Sometimes you'll see people get their birth and marriage certificate almost together as a late birth registration. In fact the mother of a friend of mine recently applied for a new passport having let her last one lapse years ago. It turned out her birth was never registered more than 60 years ago, although she'd managed to get married and have a pension!

Note there is usually an addendum at the end of each index for entries registered late which you should also check for completeness.
To access 5 volumes (so 5 years) of an index, fill in the form and pay 2 Euro. It is very useful to know the civil registration district you are looking for. There should be maps on the wall. Marriages traditionally took place in the parish of the bride. Many surnames (and first names) have alternate spellings including adding or dropping the Oí.
A photocopy of a register entry can be ordered with another form and now costs 4 Euro . It can take between 15 and 30 minutes before they call your name to collect it. The information on the copy varies over the years but can include parents names, mother's maiden name, marital status and address for births, father's names, witnesses and addresses for marriages and witness, age, marital status, address and cause of death for deaths. "Of full age" means over 21, a minor could be as young as 14 for boys and 12 or girls.
The full versions of the certificates can be ordered online from Roscommon. Details required are full name, date, place, fatherís and motherís names (births). This can take three weeks or longer.
Note that certain of these indexes and certificate entries can be viewed for free at the Family History Centre at the Church of the Latter Day Saints and the Dublin City Archives (indexes only), details below except the indexes for 1902 to 1927 do not include the extra information described above.
The GRO Website describes this in detail and has forms for postal applications.

3. National Archives
The National Archives are in Bishop Street. This is a long (but interesting) walk, maybe 20 minutes from the GRO.
Open Mon-Fri 10:00 - 17:00. Call 01 407 2300.

Dad Register for a readers ticket (all free) with photo id and put your bag and coat in a locker and up to the fifth floor. There is another free genealogist service there to point you in the right direction. Take out the microfilm in the room to the side, registering it with your readers ticket at the desk. Again only pencils allowed here.
The most important documents they hold for family history research are the census records. The earliest surviving census for the whole of Ireland is 1901. Nearly all Irish census returns for 1821 to 1851 were destroyed in the Dublin Four Courts fire of 1922. There are fragments surviving held in the National Archives - parts of 1821 for Cavan, Fermanagh, Galway, Meath and Offaly, 1831 for parts of Derry, 1841 for Killeshandara Co Cavan and 1851 for parishes in Antrim. The returns for 1861 to 1871 were pulped in World War I after the statistical information was compiled for reasons unknown and the 1881 or 1891 were destroyed 'for security reasons' allegedly. The census shows everybody in the household with age, religion, literacy, marital status, occupation, whether Irish speaking and county of birth. The 1911 census shows the number of years married, the number of children and the number still surviving which can be useful for indicating older children who have left home. The 1911 census for Dublin is now available online.
You can get 5 printouts for 2 Euro on the microfilm readers by the window with a ticket you buy at the desk.
They also have some of the surviving Church of Ireland parish records, wills and other legal documents.
The National Archives website describes what other documents they hold. They also have an online searchable database of Ireland to Australia transportation records and petitions from 1791 to 1868.

4. Church of the Latter Day Saints Family History Centre

Irish Great Grandmother The Church of the Latter Day Saints is in their Dublin Temple on the Finglas Road, Glasnevin.
Now open
11:00 - 15:00 Tuesday,
10:00 - 14:00 and 15:00 to 19:00 Thursday,
19:30 - 21:30 Friday
10:00 - 12:00 Saturday.
They have the birth, marriage and death indexes for the island of Ireland from 1864 to 1958. Non catholic marriages from 1-Apr-1845 on. They also hold the birth register entries from 1864 to Mar 1881 and Mar 1900 to Dec 1913 plus most of 1930, 31, 32 and 39. The marriage register entries are from (most of) 1845 to 1859 and all of 1864 to 1870, all on microfilm and the death entries from 1864 to 1870. They have other records such as birth records from the Rotunda, Cemetary records from Mount Jerome, RIC records, Registry of Deeds Indexes, and the 1901 census. Copying is not possible. Itís all free and there's always someone there who can help.
There are also centres in Sarsfield Road, Wilton, Cork (Tuesday 10-12 and Wednesday 7-9pm,) Doradoyle Road, Limerick (Friday 7-9pm) and Holywood Road, Belfast (Wednesday evenings)
The Family Search Website has addresses for all Family History centres around the world.

5. Dublin City Archives
Dublin and Irish Collections 138 - 144 Pearse Street.
Open Mon - Thurs 10am - 8pm Friday and Saturday 10am - 5pm.
Go up to the first floor. You can register for a free library card with a photo id. The microfilm and microfiche room is off to the side.
They hold the same CLS indexes as above with a couple of exceptions and also the Griffiths Valuation for Dublin. Also the very old Ordnance Survey maps from the first survey around 1838 and some Griffith Valution maps. Telephone directories 1915 to present and Shipping Indexes. They have a lot of Dublin specific data such as the 1901 and 1911 censuses with street indexes, Thoms Commercial Directories from the mid 19th century on and the Dublin Electorial Rolls. Indexes to persons who left Ireland for America during the nineteenth century have been compiled in book form in America, The Famine Immigrants 1846-1851 cover those arriving at the port of New York during the great Famine.
This website describes the holdings in detail.

6. Valuation Office
Donegal Irish Life Centre, Abbey Street Lower. 01 817 1000.
Open Mon-Fri 9:15 - 4:30.
They have documents on the valuation and ownership and lessees of land and property. Once the land is registered, the information at the valuation office is no longer valid but it is useful for historical purposes as land registration is a relatively recent thing. The staff are very helpful to visitors. There are books for each district and the name of the registered owner and occupier of land is recorded and updated in different coloured inks. Costs are by book or by the hour and with photocopies, it can become quite costly.
The Valuation Office Website can be used to search for land in particular townlands.

7. Representative Church Body Library
Braemor Road, Churchtown, Dublin 14. 01 492 3979.
Open Mon-Fri 9:30 am - 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Following feedback of someone on my site (keep it coming) I visited this library in Churchtown. They are the principle repository for the Church Of Ireland's archives and manuscripts and hold about records from around 830 parishes from all over Ireland. They have a load of information and will let you examine the original records in the library. There is more information on their Website.

The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland is in Belfast. My intrepid reporter Geoffrey was kind enough to file this report.

PRONI is situated on Balmoral Avenue off the Lisburn road. You can get there on a No. 9 bus from the City centre, get off at Kingís Hall and walk about 400yds. You can get there by car but there is no car parking for visitors, you have to park in a side road opposite. After passing through security you go to the main reception where as a first time visitor you have to have an ID card made with photo, quite painless. There are free lockers to leave all your bags and coats as these are not allowed in the search rooms. Entry is free.

The room to the right of the reception area contains electoral rolls, street lists of Belfast with names of residents, Government papers and private collections. The street lists and electoral rolls are most useful as the Census data is by street. If you do not know the address this is the place to look. The room to the left of reception contains the micro-film readers and indexes. The micro-films are of 1901 Census data only and Protestant church records (you need to know the name of the church). First find the index of the film you want to look at, fill in a form, present this at the desk and obtain the film. Having found what you want copies can be obtained by purchasing a copy card from the lady in the other room and then using the reader connected to the copier.

The staff are most helpful. If you have a clear idea what it is that you want before you start then the system works well. There is even a restaurant on site that may be used by visitors, very useful for that refreshing cup of coffee.

The General Records Office of Northern Ireland is in Belfast. Geoffrey also visited here and reported back.

GRONI is situated in Chichester Street just along from City Hall. A word of caution here, they have limited facilities for research so it is wise to book ahead.

When you enter from the street you turn right into the first room where they will ask for £9.00 for your session in the research room, this can be all day or part of the day. Having paid you then proceed via security (sign in) to the first floor and the research room. Here they have eight terminals where you can view lists of birth, death and marriage from 1864. If you find something that might be what you want you fill in the details on a form and for births and deaths the research room assistant will go and bring the register for you to check the entry. Remember that although they have lists for all Ireland they can only check those entries that occurred in Northern Ireland, if it is south of the border then you will have to go to Dublin. If that is OK then you fill in the certificate request form to obtain the certificate, as it has been checked this will cost only half price. For marriages these have to be sent to the Town Hall in the district where the marriage took place. You get the first four checks free with your entry fee after that each reference checked costs £2.00. The staff are helpful but very busy so one needs to be a quick learner.

A certificate where they do the research and checking costs £10.00; they will only check +/- two years. If you have done the research and it has been checked by the research room staff it will cost £5.00. The same applies to marriage certificates that are obtained from the Town/City Halls. Remember one can only get certificates for events in Ulster.

If the event was not registered we were pointed in the direction of the Ulster Historical Foundation situated in College Square East. They have several terminals for the researcher and have in their data base the RC Church records. When you have found what you want you can have a print for £15.00. However they are most helpful and do not charge for the time they give you.

10. Registry Of Deeds
Opening Hours Mon-Fri 10:30 to 16:30. The Register of Deeds is related to the Land Registry. For genealogical purposes, it's useful when the family had land in the 18th or 19th century and registered deeds, agreements, wills, marriage settlements, leases, conveyances and the like. The information is usually to do with rents, transfer of lands, wills and debts but some interesting genealogical information can be gleaned.

The information starts in 1708 but not all land transactions, wills etc were registered.

The whole set up is in the King's Inn in Henrietta Street and is like a scene from Dickens. Huge volumes of memorials on high shelves and clerks, admittedly with laptops, pouring over volumes. You can imagine the clerks scratching in the transcriptions here two hundred years ago.

Sign in at the desk, go up to the public research room and tell the helper what you want. They're very helpful. A day's research costs 6 Euro. Copies of older memorials cost 12 Euro. Note that the surname index and index of townlands is available on microfilm at the family history centre and in the National Library. This is a good link from from-ireland for explaining the difference between wills and administrations or this one.

If you would like to make a donation, however large or small, to pay for the costs in keeping this website up to date with the most recent information and tips, please click here. You can choose the amount. Credit cards can be accepted using Paypal.

Click here for online resources, all Ireland and by county.


Do you need a woman on the ground in Ireland? I can search the archives for you. If you send me an email with your family details I'll send you a free assessment of where to look next. See homepage for more details.

K Dempsey

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