Civil Registration include records for births,
marriages and deaths. Irish civil registration records are indexed and cover the
entire population for a given period. They are an excellent source for
Prior to 1864, churches kept all records of births, marriage and deaths in Ireland. As early as 1845, the government began requiring registration of all non-catholic marriages. In 1864, all registration records were recorded by the government.
In Ireland, civil registration is recorded by district. The district office records the information and then forwards a copy to the appropriate General Register office.
For Republic of Ireland records, please contact the General Register Office located at Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street East, Dublin 2, Ireland. For Northern Ireland records contact the General Register Office, Oxford House, 49/55 Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL, Northern Ireland. When requesting a registration by mail make sure to include a check or money order for the search; the full name and sex of the person sought; the names of parents, if known; and the approximate date of the event.
The LDS Church also has microfilmed copies of civil registration in Ireland up to 1958 (Ireland) and 1959 (NIR).
Information Recorded in Civil Registers
registrations typically include the child’s name, sex, birth date, and
birthplace; the parents’ names (including the mother’s maiden name) and the
father’s occupation; and the informant’s signature, residence, and
qualification (often the relationship to the child being registered).
registrations include the marriage date, place, and denomination (for church
marriages); the names of the bride and groom, their ages, occupations, marital
statuses, and residences at the time of marriage; the names and occupations of
their fathers and often whether their fathers were deceased; and the signatures
of the bride, groom, and witnesses. Marriages were usually performed in the
bride’s parish and were registered by the performing minister.
Divorce in Ireland
was almost nonexistent. The few divorces that did take place were granted by the
give only the name, occupation, age at death, and marital status of the
deceased; duration of the illness; date, place, and cause of death; and
signature, qualification, and residence of the informant. A spouse’s name is
sometimes listed. If a child or unmarried female died, the father’s name is
often written in the occupation space.
registrations of deaths are of limited genealogical value because they:
· Do not normally contain parentage or birth information.
· May be inaccurate (the informant may not have known the information requested).
· May not contain enough information to distinguish your ancestor from others with the same name.
death certificate is usually the only civil record for persons born or married
before government registration began in 1864.
Locating Civil Registration Records
records are kept at the superintendent registrars’ offices in the districts.
Duplicates are kept at the General Register offices. The General Register Office
for the Republic of Ireland has birth, marriage, and death indexes and
corresponding records, including registrations of Irish subjects at sea, abroad,
or in the military through 1921 for all of Ireland. The office’s post-1921
records cover Republic of Ireland counties only. The address is:
8-11 Lombard Street East
The General Register Office of Northern Ireland has birth, marriage, and death records, including registrations of Irish at sea, abroad, or in the military from 1922 on for Northern Ireland only. The address is:
49/55 Chichester Street
Belfast BT1 4HL
When requesting a registration certificate by mail from these offices, include:
· A check or money order for the search fee.
· The full name and sex of the person sought.
· The names of the parents, if known (only when requesting a birth record).
· The approximate date and place of the event.
Indexes to Civil Registration Records
Indexes can help
you find a registration entry for your ancestor. Before 1878, registration
indexes were arranged alphabetically by year. Since 1878, indexes have remained
alphabetical but have been divided by quarter. Most registration indexes list
only the name of the individual registered and the district, volume, and page
number of that person’s registration entry. The death indexes also list the
individual’s age at death. Republic of Ireland post-1927 birth indexes include
the mother’s maiden name. In searching for an index entry, knowing the name of
the district and at least an approximate year in which the birth, marriage, or
death occurred will reduce your search time.
Place-names in the
indexes are for districts. In rural areas, many villages and parishes belong to
one district. In urban areas, a city may be divided into several districts.
To identify the
district in which your ancestor lived, use the following sources:
§ Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns of Ireland, (1871 Census) (see p. 28), which lists Irish localities and the districts that served those localities in 1871.
§ Ireland, Census Office, General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns of Ireland, (1901 Census, [London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1901?]; FHL book Ref Q 941.5 X22g 1901; film 865,092 computer number 0650985), which lists Irish localities and the districts that served those localities in 1901.
§ Civil Registration Districts of Ireland, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1983; FHL book Reg 941.5 V2c computer number 0208759), which provides maps and districts’ names as they were in 1871.
If you find an
index entry, you can use that entry to request a copy of the original record
from (1) the General Register Office in Dublin if the event was recorded before
1922 or took place in the Republic of Ireland, or (2) the General Register
Office in Belfast if the event took place in or after 1922 in Northern Ireland.
If you cannot find
an index reference, consider the following reasons:
· There are separate supplemental indexes for births and deaths for 1864-1870.
· Late registrations of births and deaths are indexed separately at the end of each index volume.
· Surnames are often spelled differently than expected.
· Surnames with prefixes, such as O’Bryan or McDonnal, may be listed without their prefixes (Bryan, Donnal).
· Events are filed by the date they were registered, not the date they occurred and may therefore be indexed in a later volume. (For example, a birth on 20 December 1879 which was registered on 6 January 1880 will be listed in the January-March volume of 1880.)
· Indexes were hand-prepared and may contain errors, such as copying mistakes (for example, the interchange of T and F) and missed entries.
· Some people are registered under a different name than they used later in life.
· Some marriages are indexed by the name of only one spouse.
· A woman’s surname in the marriage index is sometimes her surname from a previous marriage and not her maiden surname.
· Vital information provided by the family (particularly age at death) is often incorrect.
· People with common names are sometimes difficult to distinguish in the index.
Many deaths are registered under the name
· Children born before their parents were married may be listed under the mother’s maiden name.
· Some children are simply listed as male or female if they were not named by the time of registration.
· Some events were not registered, though registration of births, marriages, and deaths was required by law.
considering the above factors, you cannot find a civil birth, marriage, or death
certificate for your ancestor, you may want to search church or other records.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History
Library has microfilm copies of the civil registration
of births, marriages, and deaths for Ireland and Northern Ireland through 1958
(through 1959 for Northern Ireland). The Library also has microfilm copies of:
· Pre-1871 marriage and death certificates for both Ireland and Northern Ireland.
· Birth certificates from 1864 through March 1881 and from 1900 through 1913 for both Ireland and Northern Ireland.
· Birth certificates for the Republic of Ireland from 1930 through 1955.
· Birth, marriage, and death certificates for Northern Ireland from 1922 through 1959.
· Some registration certificates of Irish subjects at sea, abroad, and in the military.
by Kyle J. Betit and Dwight A. Radford,
Co-Editors of The Irish At Home and Abroad
The civil registration of births, deaths and Roman Catholic marriages in Ireland
began in 1864. Registration of non-Catholic marriages in Ireland began earlier,
in 1845. The civil registration records are available both in Ireland and on
microfilm abroad. There are yearly indexes to the records beginning in 1845;
from 1878, the indexes are quarterly. In 1922, following the formation of the
Irish Free State, the Free State (later the Republic of Ireland) and Northern
Ireland (which remains part of the United Kingdom) began keeping separate civil
The original records from 1845-1921 for all of Ireland (including the Northern
Ireland counties) are at the General Register Office (GRO) at Joyce House in
Dublin. Those from 1922 onwards for counties in the Republic of Ireland are also
at the General Register Office in Dublin. The records from 1922 onwards for
Northern Ireland are at the General Register Office at Oxford House in Belfast.
Researchers may visit Joyce House and can for a fee conduct research in the
indexes to civil registration, available up to this decade. The staff will make
copies of specific entries for a further fee. The staff will also provide copies
of specific entries through correspondence.
There are plans to move the administration of the GRO to Roscommon town in
County Roscommon. However, a search room with the same or better facilities will
still be maintained in Dublin. In Roscommon town the GRO office (not open to the
public) is in the process of computerizing the civil registration records (from
the original copies sent to Dublin by each district registrar) and the indexes.
Both are being scanned into the computer such that each index entry will be
electronically linked to the entry in the original records.
The LDS Family History Library http://www.familysearch.org
The FHL has microfilm copies of indexes to all Irish civil registration from
1845 through 1921; as well as 1922-1958 for the Republic and 1922-1959 for
Northern Ireland. There are significant gaps in the FHL's collection of the
civil registration certificates. The collection includes the following:
Births: 1864 - March 1881;
Republic of Ireland
in Civil Registration
Civil registration was recorded by local registrars. Each civil registration
form shows the superintendent registrar's district and the registrar's district
for the entry. Registrar's districts were subdivisions of the superintendent
registrar's districts. The civil registration forms also generally note the town
or townland (and sometimes the parish) of the event. The civil registration
indexes provide the name of the superintendent registrar's district (also called
a registration district) for each entry.
The 1851 and 1871 published indexes to townlands and towns in Ireland identify
the poor law union in which each town and townland was located. The registration
districts developed from the poor law unions, and the names are usually the same
for the two jurisdictions. The 1851 index is widely available in libraries as
General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of
Ireland. Based on the Census of Ireland for the Year 1851, reprinted in 1984 by
Genealogical Publishing Company.
What Districts Cover
If a certain area in Ireland (such as a county) is being targeted, the
researcher can identify which registration district(s) covered the area of
interest. The FHL has produced two finding aids that help in identifying a
registration district. Register of Ireland General Registry Office Births,
Marriages, and Deaths 1845-1959 (FHL microfiche #6020383-384) lists which
districts are in each county. Civil Registration Districts of Ireland includes
maps showing the boundaries of the registration districts (superimposed on
Betit and Radford's chapter "Civil Registration" in Ireland: A
Genealogical Guide for North Americans lists the districts located in each
county. Richard Flatman's article "Alphabetical Index to the Superintendent
Registrar Districts/Poor Law Unions" in Irish Family History contains a
list showing what counties are covered by each district. Irish Family History is
the journal of the Irish Family History Society of Naas, County Kildare.
The 1891 Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Ireland. List of
Townlands in Each Poor Law Union (or Superintendent Registrar's District), and
Registrar's District is available on microfilm through the FHL (#1559443).
Birthdates: Were They Wrong? In the nineteenth century many of the Irish living
in Ireland and living abroad did not necessarily keep track of their exact ages
or specific birth dates. When a christening or birth record is found in Ireland,
the year may vary as much as ten years from what was indicated by the person
later in life. "Birthdays" (month and day) are more likely to be
accurate than a specific year of birth.
Names: How Were They Spelled? It is important to remember that an ancestor may
be listed in the civil registers under a different name than expected. Consider
all possible spelling variations for your surname (such as O'Reilly, O'Riley,
Reily, Riley, etc.). Also consider given name variations and nicknames (such as
Biddy or Delia for Bridget). Two articles detailing the subject of name
variations are Judith Eccles Wight's "I Dream of Jeannie, Janey, Jenny,
Netty...The Complexity of Irish Given Names" and "Kilmary's Band...The
Complexity of Irish Surnames," both published in The Irish At Home and
Date Conflicts: Christened Before Born? In some cases the researcher will be in
the peculiar position of finding that the date of christening given in church
records precedes the date of birth given in Irish civil records. It may not be
possible to know which is correct. The informant for the civil birth record may
have given a later date of birth than the actual date; for example, if the time
requirement for filing a record of the birth had been exceeded.
Missing Entries: Never Born? Although it was mandatory, many persons were not
registered during the first decades of civil registration. In some cases the
first name of the child was not recorded in the entry, so be sure to check the
index for "male" or "female" children under the surname of
interest. Also late registrations of births are listed at the back of the birth
If the birth record of an ancestor is not found in civil registration, search
for the birth record of a known or possible sibling. Even if the ancestor's
birth record is found it is valuable to document the births of the siblings in
order to determine the parents' residences in the various years of the
Civil registration records can be used in a variety of ways to help solve
immigrant research problems.
Ancestors in Ireland During Civil Registration: If an Irish ancestor was born,
married, or died in Ireland during the time period of civil registration a
search of the indexed civil registration records may be an easy and direct means
of identifying the family's origins in Ireland.
Ancestors Not in Ireland During Civil Registration: If your ancestors had
already left Ireland prior to the start of civil registration, don't write off
civil registration records as useless to your research. Remember, your immigrant
ancestors may have left relatives behind. If an immigrant ancestor had a known
relative who was born, married or died in the civil registration time period a
search of the records may reveal your family's origin. For example, if you find
the death record for your immigrant's father, then it will pinpoint an exact
origin in Ireland.
Civil Registration as a Surname Distribution Source: If the surname is
relatively uncommon, civil registration can show where persons of that name
lived in Ireland. Even if the ancestral family lived well before the civil
registration time period, this technique can pinpoint the geographical
concentration(s) of the surname. This examination allows other record sources,
such as local church records and taxation records, to be searched.
Civil Registration in the International Genealogical Index (IGI): The FHL has
incorporated birth and marriage entries from Irish civil registration into the
IGI database. The project includes the earliest births and marriages recorded in
civil registration, and the project is on-going. The IGI is available on
computer or microfiche. The extracted information includes the date and parents'
names (for births) or the name of the spouse (for marriages). The IGI does not
show the town or townland, but rather states the registrar's district, county,
and page number. With the computer version of the IGI the microfilm number on
which the entry will be found is given.
The IGI can be used to determine what births or marriages occurred for persons
of a given surname during a given time period. Also, the computer can be
utilized to narrow the search even further, to include only those events
occurring in a particular county, or to list all the births to a particular
couple. This kind of search in the IGI can help in determining surname
distribution or in pinpointing records for a particular family.
General Register Office:
Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street East, Dublin 2, Ireland; Tel: (01) 6711000;
FAX: (01) 6711243.
General Register Office:
Oxford House, Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL, Northern Ireland; Tel: (01232)
252000; FAX: (01232) 252120.
References and Further
Districts of Ireland. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Library, The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1983.
"Alphabetical Index to the Superintendent Registrar Districts/Poor Law
Unions," Irish Family History 31 (1987): 51-58.
Grenham, John. "Civil
Records." In Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide, 1-12.
Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1992.
Hunter, Dean J. "Irish
Civil Registration," The Irish At Home and Abroad 2 (1994/95): 15-19.
McCarthy, Tony. "State
Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages." In The Irish Roots Guide,
22-31. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, Ltd., 1991.
Murphy, Sean. "A
Primer In Irish Genealogy. No. 4 The GRO," Irish Roots 1995 (no. 4): 8-9.
Register of Ireland General
Registry Office Births, Marriages, and Deaths 1854-1959. Salt Lake City:
Genealogical Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978.
Registration of Births,
Deaths and Marriages, Ireland. List of Townlands in Each Poor Law Union (or
Superintendent Registrar's District), and Registrar's District. Dublin: Printed
For Her Majesty's Stationery Office, by Alex. Thom & Co., 1891.
Wight, Judith Eccles. "I Dream of Jeannie, Janey, Jenny, Netty...The Complexity of Irish Given Names," The Irish At Home and Abroad 1 (Spring 1994): 6-7.
Civil Records in Ireland for birth's, death's and marriages commenced in
Date and place of birth.
Father's full name and mother's name including her maiden name.
Date of registry.
Date and place of marriage.
Bride and grooms address.
Name's of their fathers and whether they were alive or not.
Names of witnesses (bridesmaid and best man).
Name of clergyman who preformed wedding.
Date and place of death.
aged of deceased.
Cause of death.
Name of next of kin.
Date of registration.