GenealogyWhere and How Do I Research in Ireland

There are two main centers for genealogical research in Ireland. They are Dublin, mainly for the 26 counties of the Republic, and Belfast for the 6 counties of Northern Ireland primarily. You should avail of one or both of these before you go to the county of your ancestor's origin. There are local heritage and genealogical centers in each county, with more than one in some counties, which provide a chargeable search facility. These can be contacted by post.

Each large town also has a public library providing local records that are unavailable elsewhere.

All of the repositories will help and guide you to make use of their resources. It would be worthwhile contacting them for full details or checking their websites, before calling to them.

The main record repositories in Dublin are:

  • The General Register Office (GRO), in Lombard Street, Dublin 2. This has records of births, deaths and marriages. Roman Catholic records from 1864 and non-Roman Catholic records from 1845 are held here. Records up to the end of 1921 are held for the whole island of Ireland, and only for the 26 counties of the Republic from 1922 onwards. You can write or call. Facilities are at present quite limited and delays can be expected. Computerization of the vital records is underway, but it is expected to take a couple more years to complete.
  • The National Archives of Ireland (NAI) are located in Bishop Street, Dublin 8. Here you will find the 1901 and 1911 censuses, Griffith's Primary Valuation of land holders and heads of households, including tenant farmers, which was recorded between 1848 and 1864 (post famine), the Tithe Applotment Books, which record landholders in the 1820's. Both Griffith's and the Tithe Applotment Books are seen as substitutes for the missing census records of the 19th century in relation to genealogical research. The Archives also have many other records available for researching.
  • The National Library of Ireland (NLI) is situated in Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Apart from the comprehensive book and manuscript collection, the library contains many other genealogically useful records. There are microfilm copies of the Roman Catholic parish records, which are also held by the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). It is worth noting that there is a restriction placed on the records for Cashel and Emly Diocese. Griffiths and Tithe records are also available, as well as estate records, directories, newspaper archives, and much more.
  • The Valuation Office is based in the Irish Life Complex, in Middle Abbey Street, Dublin1. Here you can discover the changes of holdings and revisions of valuation of properties since the 1850's along with revision maps.
  • The Genealogical Office is located in 2, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, not far from the National Library. The records held here mainly relate to genealogical manuscripts, pedigrees and heraldic coats of arms of various aristocratic and wealthy families and individuals.
  • The Representative Church Body Library (RCB) is located in Braemor Park, Rathgar, Dublin 14. It contains various Church of Ireland parish registers, vestry minute books, testamentary transcripts, as well as the parts of the 1740 Householders' Lists. Appointment necessary.

The main record repositories in Belfast are:

  • The General Registry Office of Northern Ireland is located in Oxford House, 49-55 Chichester Street, Belfast. Their holdings include civil records of births, marriages and deaths for Northern Ireland (six counties) from 1922 to date, as well as the original civil registers of births and deaths from 1864 to 1921 for the six counties also. Appointment required.
  • Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is situated in 66, Balmoral Avenue, Belfast. It contains the 1901 census returns, other surviving census remnants from the 19th century, census search forms, microfilm or trancript copies of many church registers from the province of Ulster (9 counties) and some other parts of Ireland, the 'Householders Index' of surnames, Griffith's Primary Valuation, Tithe Applotment Books for Ulster, testamentary record transcripts and abstracts and many other records.
  • The Linen Hall Library is located in 17, Donegall Square North, Belfast. This is a public library and includes a genealogy reference section as well as a broad range of reference books and manuscripts.

The Genealogy Scene in Ireland

You may at this point have little or no knowledge of the records that are available in Ireland, and the reasons for the absence of so much more. The following points will give you an overview of the situation.

Record Destruction

In 1922, the Public Record Office, which housed many of the genealogical records of Ireland, was destroyed by fire and explosion during the Irish Civil War. The PROI was then situated in the Four Courts in Dublin. (Have a look at the movie "Michael Collins").

The main losses were the census returns for 1821, '31, '41 and '51. But many, many other legal, family history and historical records and archives were lost. It is thought that about 80 to 90% of all archived Irish genealogical records of importance were destroyed.

Many other records were lost due to neglect and ignorance over the centuries. Additionally, the census returns for the years 1861, '71, '81 and '91 were destroyed under British rule, some for paper pulp during the 1st World War and also by the General Register Office in Dublin for reasons of confidentiality or maybe even carelessness. (The jury is still out on this one.)
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