Records of birth, marriage & death
Church and Congregational Registers of Baptism, Marriage and Burial
For the period before the commencement of civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in 1864, church records provide the only record of most births, marriages and deaths in the form of registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Jewish marriages have been civilly registered since 1845.
Church of Ireland
Parochial registers pre-dating 1870 are public records and some were on deposit in the Public Record Office of Ireland (PROI, now the National Archives) and were destroyed in 1922. Registers survive for about one third of the parishes throughout the country. Generally, records held at the National Archives do not post-date 1880, although a small number range into the twentieth century. There are microfilm or other copies in the National Archives of the surviving Church of Ireland parish registers for the Dioceses of Ferns, Glendalough, Kildare and Meath, as well as many from other parts of the country. Further information is available in Church of Ireland parish registers on microfilm in the National Archives.
The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) holds copies of all surviving Church of Ireland registers for the Diocese of Armagh, Clogher, Connor, Derry, Dromore, Down, Kilmore and Raphoe. As well as covering all six counties of the present Northern Ireland, these Dioceses also cover Counties Cavan, Donegal, Louth, Monaghan and part of County Leitrim, which are in the Republic. Copies of those parish registers from within the Republic, microfilmed by PRONI, are held by the Representative Church Body Library and Archive (RCB Library).
Further information on alternative sources held in the National Archives is available in Church of Ireland Parish Surrogates.
A list of all Church of Ireland parish registers, indicating whether they survive and where they are held, is available in the National Archives and also on the website of the RCB Library. The names and addresses of the clergy are given in the annual Church of Ireland Directory.
Records of marriage licences provide information concerning some Church of Ireland marriages before 1845. People wishing to obtain a licence to marry without having banns called were required to enter into a bond with the bishop of the diocese. The licences and bonds do not survive (in most cases), but the indexes to the bonds lodged in each Diocesan Court and the Prerogative Court are available on microfilm in the reading room.
Some of the indexes have been published. Betham’s abstracts of Prerogative and Dublin Diocesan marriage licences give further details. Some other records of marriage licences are indexed in the Testamentary card index available in the Reading Room.
The Parish Searches consist of thirteen volumes of searches made in Church of Ireland parochial returns (generally baptisms, but sometimes also marriages). The searches were requested in order to ascertain whether the applicant, in the period c.1908–1922, but mainly c.1915–1922, was entitled to an Old Age Pension based on evidence abstracted from the parochial returns then in existence in the PROI. Sometimes, only one search against a specific individual has been recorded from a given parish. Multiple searches against various individuals in city parishes have been recorded in volume thirteen. These volumes are available on microfilm in the reading room.
Parochial registers of baptisms, marriages and burials of the Church of Ireland (Anglican Church) post-1880 have been deposited in the RCB or remain with the relevant parishes.
Original parochial registers (i.e. baptisms, marriages and burials) of the Roman Catholic Church remain with the relevant parishes. Microfilm copies of original parochial registers are available at the National Library of Ireland (NLI) for most Roman Catholic parishes in Ireland for the years up to 1880, and in some cases up to 1900. These microfilms have now been digitised and are available to view online for free on the NLI’s Catholic Parish Register website. The names and addresses of Roman Catholic clergy are given in the annual Irish Catholic Directory.
Transcripts (and some digitised images) of Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland parochial registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, for the pre-1900 period, are available free of charge on www.irishgenealogy.ie. This site is hosted by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Other records, which are not organised on a parochial basis may also be of interest:
Records of the Jewish community in Ireland, including birth records, may be held in the Irish Jewish Museum in Dublin at 3 Walworth Road, Dublin 8. An Irish Jewish family history database is available at www.irishjewishroots.com.
Records of the Methodist Church in Ireland include registers of baptisms and marriages of the Irish Methodist circuits and chapels. Many are held by the Methodist Historical Society of Ireland in Belfast, which also has a small archive collection in Dublin. Many Methodist records have been microfilmed by PRONI. Researchers should consult Steven C. ffeary-Smyrl, Irish Methodists: where do I start? (Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations, Dublin, 2000) for a guide to Irish Methodist records.
Records of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland comprise registers of baptisms and marriages. Many are held by the Presbyterian Historical Society in Belfast. Most Ulster Presbyterian records have been microfilmed by PRONI.
Records of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Ireland contain transcript registers of births, marriages and deaths from the seventeenth century onwards. These are held by the Religious Society of Friends Historical Library in Dublin or the Religious Society of Friends, Ulster Quarterly Meeting in Lisburn.
Most parochial registers (regardless of denomination) for the northern counties of Ireland are available on microfilm in PRONI.
Useful general introductions to church records include James G. Ryan (editor), Irish Church Records (Dublin, 2001) and by Steven C. Smyrl, Dictionary of Dublin Dissent: Dublin’s Protestant dissenting meeting houses, 1660–1920 (Dublin, 2009).
Civil Registration in the General Register Office (GRO)
All births, marriages and deaths occurring since 1 January 1864 (and Jewish and non-Roman Catholic marriages occurring since 1 April 1845) should be on record in the public research room of the General Register Office, Werburgh Street, Dublin 2. All written communication for the General Register Office should be addressed to the General Register Office, Government Offices, Convent Road, Roscommon, F42 VX53.
Transcripts (and some digitised images) of records of Civil Registration are available free of charge on www.irishgenealogy.ie. This site is hosted by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
National Archives does not hold civil records of births, deaths and marriages.
For the six counties, which comprise Northern Ireland (Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Derry (Londonderry) and Tyrone) from 1922 onwards, records of births, marriages and deaths should be held by General Register Office for Northern Ireland, Colby House, Stranmillis Court, Belfast, BT9 5RR. The General Register Office for Northern Ireland also holds all local register books for Northern Ireland from 1864 (for births and deaths) and from 1922 (for marriages). See www.nidirect.gov.uk.
For a comprehensive guide, researchers should consult Eileen O’Dúill and Steven C. ffeary-Smyrl, Irish Civil Registration: where do I start? (Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations, Dublin, 2000).