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HOW TO RESEARCH IN IRELAND< br> by Cara Links
Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland Civil registration of non-Catholic marriages began in Ireland on 1 April 1845, but full statutory registration of all births, deaths and marriages did not start throughout the whole of Ireland until 1 January 1864.
It is known that some events after 1864, particularly births and marriages, went unrecorded in Ireland. Some estimates suggest as many as 15 per cent of Irish births and marriages were never registered, especially in the early years. The Irish system of state registration was based on the catchment areas of public health districts that in turn were divisions within the old Poor Law Unions with a communal workhouse. These districts were known as 'Registration Districts', each in the control of a superintendent registrar.
Registration districts were subdivided into smaller areas known as 'Registrar's Districts' (or 'Dispensary Districts') where local registrars, responsible to their superintendent registrars, collected the registrations of events within each district. Until 1922 these were collated and indexed and details passed on to the Registrar General for Ireland, at the General Register Office in Dublin, where national master indexes and registers for the entire country were produced.
Two Systems In 1922 Ireland was divided into Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. Northern Ireland comprised the six north-eastern counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone. The Irish Free State comprised the remaining 26 counties of Ireland being Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Offaly, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow. The Irish Free State adopted the name of Eire under its 1937 constitution and did not become the Republic of Ireland until 1949, at which point it left the (British) Commonwealth. This division of Ireland in 1922 means that separate systems of civil registration have been conducted from that date in both Northern Ireland and in what is now the Republic of Ireland.
RESEARCHING IRELAND - IRISH NAMES
In the early years of Irish civil registration there can be many variations in surname spellings and researchers are advised to prepare for possible alternative spellings. The popular Irish surname prefix of 'O' was regarded by some registrars as optional until the end of the 19th century so, for example, an event for an O'KELLY may have been registered under KELLY. Similarly surnames beginning with 'Mac' may easily appear under 'Mc'.
There can be problems, too, with the forenames as sometimes people with two or more forenames were only registered with one, which was most often their first forename. With common surnames this can present real problems in identifying one individual from a number of possibilities. If the precise location where an event took place is known it is sometimes worth considering an approach to the local register office where the event should have been registered and seeking to obtain a copy certificate there.
Register office staff can sometimes be very helpful and addresses of local Irish register offices can be found in Irish regional telephone directories under 'Health Board'.
RESEARCHING IRELAND - REGISTERS AND INDEXES
All Ireland pre-1922 and post-1922 Republic of Ireland It is important to establish in which part of Ireland your ancestors lived. The Registrar General, General Register Office, Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street East, Dublin 2, Republic of Ireland http://www.groireland.ie/ has custody of indexes and copy registers relating to births and deaths in any part of Ireland from 1 January 1864 to 31 December 1921 and in the Irish Free State, Eire or the Republic of Ireland from 1 January 1922 to date.
General Register Office, Dublin, also has the indexes and registers to the non-Catholic marriages of all denominations from 1 April 1845 to 31 December 1863, all Irish marriages from 1 January 1864 to 31 December 1921 and marriages in the Irish Free State, Eire or Republic of Ireland from 1 January 1922 to date.
If your ancestors lived in one of the six counties making up Northern Ireland then some of the registers of interest will be in the custody of the Registrar General for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency, General Register House, Oxford House, 49-55 . Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL, Northern Ireland (http://www.groni.gov.uk/) which is now processing Certificates online also. Held here are birth and death registration records for the Northern Ireland counties from 1 January 1864 to date, but registrations of marriages in Northern Ireland go back only to 1 January 1922 Oxford House has indexes to the Northern Ireland birth registrations since 1864 but only has indexes to Northern Ireland death and marriage registrations since 1 January 1922. If you seek a marriage in Northern Ireland before 1922, then the best place to locate it is in the all-Ireland marriage registrations and indexes held in Dublin at Joyce House (see above) or in the marriage registrations from 1845 to 1921 held by registrars in local district register offices (see section below From Resister Offices under 'Obtaining Irish Certificates'). To trace death entries between 1864 and 1921 at Oxford House the registration district must be known. .
To sum up, if you need to locate an event in Northern Ireland since 1922 (or a birth from 1864) then the easiest method is to approach Oxford House in Belfast. For events before 1922 in Northern Ireland (except births) and in any part of the rest of Ireland since 1864 (or since 1845 for non-Catholic marriages) then the easiest method is to approach Joyce House in Dublin.
For further information of these go to http://scripts.ireland.com/ancestor/browse/addresses/major.htm
RESEARCHING IRELAND - INDEX VOLUMES
Irish indexes are in annual alphabetical volumes by category of events from 1864 to 1877 and in four quarterly volumes for each year from 1878 to 1973 From 1903 to 1927 inclusive the births indexes (only) revert back to one annual volume and from this year also show the maiden surname of the mother against each birth registration. Births indexes from 1903 also include the actual date of birth until 1921 in Northern Ireland and until 1928 in the Republic of Ireland. Marriages are indexed twice under the names of the bride and groom. Deaths indexes also contain the age of the deceased which may be inaccurate. Within each alphabetical index volume events are listed by surname, forename(s), the registration district-where it took place and the volume and page number of the register in which it was recorded. Retrospective or late registrations were possible in Ireland because of the numbers of events that slipped through the administrative net. They do not appear in the indexes in the year in which the event was late-registered, but are to be found in the year in which the event originally took place. In the case of births and deaths late registrations are listed separately at the back of the appropriate births or deaths index volume. Late registrations for marriages are added to the main marriages indexes in the appropriate year and alphabetical place, together with the normal marriage entries.
RESEARCHING IRELAND - OBTAINING IRISH CERTIFICATES
The general public has a right of access to the various Irish national indexes, but NO right to see the Irish registers, at both Dublin and Belfast. To discover details of an entry in the registers copy certificates must be bought. From Dublin.
The General Register Office at Joyce House in Dublin is open to the public on normal weekdays Monday to Friday 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and 2.15 pm to 4.30 pm, but closed at weekends and on public holidays. Appointments are not really necessary and casual visitors can usually be accommodated. There are two daily fee-paying searches available to visitors that must be prepaid. A relatively inexpensive 'Particular Search' allows access to any five years of the indexes for one particular event only. Thus researchers looking for two separate events like a marriage followed by a birth, would be required to make two separate searches and pay two 'Particular Search' fees. The more expensive 'General Search' allows unlimited access to the birth and death indexes during a period not exceeding six hours, or unlimited access to the marriage indexes on any number of successive days not exceeding six. The cost of copy certificates when an event is found, whether the less expensive uncertified ! printouts or the more costly certified copies (if authentification of a register entry is required), is additional in both forms of search. This service is only available to visitors to Joyce House.
RESEARCHING IRELAND - CERTIFICATES
Certificates can be ordered by post for fees if the year and full index reference is known. If these details are not known and researchers require staff to carry out a search in the indexes for an event there is an increased fee for the certificate. Index-searches by Joyce House staff cannot cover more than five years and are usually the suggested year and the two preceding and two following years. Postal applications should include as many known facts as possible about an event. All applications for certificates must be prepaid and cheques or money orders made payable to 'The Registrar General'. Sterling and other currencies are not legal tender in the Republic of Ireland, but sterling cheques drawn on UK banks are acceptable as are USA dollar payments. International Reply Coupons (available from post offices) should be enclosed to cover return postage from Dublin, unless you live in the Republic of Ireland.
From Belfast The indexes held by the Registrar General for Northern Ireland, at Oxford House in Belfast are also open for inspection by the general public. Oxford House is open on normal weekdays from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm, but is closed at weekends and on public holidays. Visitors should be aged 16 or over. Admission is by reservation (booking is advisable and necessary for 'Assisted Searches', see below) and on payment of different fees. For a modest fee per person a search, not exceeding five years, can be made in the indexes for one nominated event. A more expensive daily fee per person allows for searches not exceeding six hours in duration with access to all the indexes for all three events. This service includes four verifications from the registers with an option to others on payment of a further fee per verification. Finally there is a rather more costly hourly fee for an 'Assisted Search' by a member of the GRO staff. This service also includes verifications being read out from the actual registers and it is advisable to book this latter service at least six months in advance, unless cancellations have occurred. Occasionally unbooked daily visitors can be accommodated for unassisted searches, but it is always advisable to book all research places in advance. Costs of certificates are additional to the fees paid for searches in the indexes. Oxford House can also handle pre-paid postal requests for certificates that can include a five-year search in the indexes, but they are more expensive than postal requests when the year and full reference from the indexes are known. Cheques, etc, should be made payable to 'The Registrar General' and crossed. Payments may also be made by certain credit cards. Self-addressed stamped envelopes or two International Reply coupons should be included with all postal requests for return postage. Certificates ordered on visits are usually processed in three working days and those by post within eight workings ! days of receipt. NB Cheaper printouts of certificates (as in Dublin) are not available in Belfast, only full certified copies. From Register Offices Copies of Irish certificates can also be bought for fees from superintendent registrars at local, or 'District', register offices in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. However researchers need to know the district where an event took place to approach the correct office. But beware; in Northern Ireland whilst register offices can supply historic copy marriage certificates, they can only supply copy birth and death certificates for events registered there within the LAST THREE YEARS. Postal applications must include the appropriate fee and a self-addressed stamped envelope from mainland Britain or two International Reply Coupons for return postage if from elsewhere.
The Belfast Registry, City Hall, Belfast- http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/ should be able to supply details of specific register offices throughout Northern Ireland. Local register offices in Northern Ireland. And in the Republic of Ireland although register offices can meet requests for historic birth and death certificates, they can only produce historic copy certificates for Catholic marriages.
Postal applications from outside the Republic must include the appropriate fee and include two International Reply Coupons for return postage. A detailed listing of Superintendent Registrars' Offices in the Republic of Ireland appears in 'Appendix B' of. Civil Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Ireland: A Practical Approach, by Catherine Blumson (Ulster Historical Foundation). A listing of registrars offices or County Superintendent Registrars Offices in the Republic of Ireland is on the Internet at: http://www.groireland.ie/fees.htm
RESEARCHING IRELAND - COPIES OF THE IRISH INDEXES AND SOME EARLY IRISH REGISTERS
Copies of the Irish births, deaths and marriages indexes, and sometimes 19th century filmed copies of the actual registers (though far from all), are available in some Family History Centres attached to Churches of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see Appendix II). For example Hyde Park (London) Family History Centre has filmed indexes for births and deaths from 1864 until 1949 and marriages from 1845 until 1949, whilst Belfast FHC, in addition to copies of the indexes, has filmed copies of the actual registers for births from 1864 to 1880 and 1900 to 1913, marriages from 1845 to 1870 and deaths from 1864 to 1870.
The Family Records Centre, 1 Myddelton Street, London EC1R 1UW has computerised indexes of births in Northern Ireland from 1922-1993. It is free to use and must be booked at the 'Scottish Link' desk in half-hour blocks. Telephone for advance bookings http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/ind/en/home/applying/british_nationality/advice_about_nationality/bn16_-_where_to_get.html Also do not forget to check out the International Genealogical Index (IGI) for Ireland. http://www.gmcro.co.uk/family_history/igi.htm www.familysearch.org
RESEARCHING IRELAND - OTHER RECORDS HELD IN DUBLIN AND BELFAST
Both Registrars General in Dublin and Belfast have other records and registers about Irish people that may be of interest to family historians. At Joyce House, Dublin, there are registers of births and deaths at sea from 1864-1921 for all Ireland and from 1922 for the Republic of Ireland. There are registers of births and deaths of Irish people abroad certified by British Consuls from 1864-1921 and marriages at the German Protestant Church, Dublin from 1806 to 1837 (known as 'The Schulze Register').
There are various Army births, deaths and marriages recorded under the Army Act of 1879, an Adopted Children Register since 1953 and other registers which relate to Irish people outside Ireland, including a register of certain Irish people with Lourdes Marriages since 1972. A full list of these records is available from Joyce House on an information sheet.
With the authorities in Northern Ireland at Oxford House, Belfast, are an 'Adopted Children Register' from 1931, Births and Deaths at Sea from 1922, Consular and High Commissioners' records of Births, Deaths and Marriages of Northern Ireland people abroad since 1922, Service Department Registers from 1927, World War II Armed Forces Deaths (1939-1948), etc.
RESEARCHING IRELAND - IRISH CERTIFICATES
Irish civil registration certificates contain similar information to those for England and Wales. Copy certificates from the General Register Offices in Dublin or Belfast do not contain any original signatures. Irish birth certificates show the date and place of birth, the name(s) of the child and its sex, the names of the father and his address and occupation, the names of the mother including her maiden surname, the date the birth was registered and particulars of the informant together with their signature and the signature of the registrar.
IRISH MARRIAGE CERTIFICATES list the place and type of ceremony, together with the registration district or Poor Law Union and county where it took place and the date of the marriage and whether by banns or licence.
Particulars recorded about the bride and groom include their full names, their marital status (bachelor, spinster, widower or widow), their ages (although sometimes only shown as 'of full age', meaning over 21), their addresses, and the names of their respective fathers and their occupations. The occupation of the groom is shown though seldom one for the bride until fairly recent times. Marriage certificates also show how the couple signed the register and include the name, signature of the official who carried out the ceremony and the names and signatures of at least two witnesses - often close relatives or friends.
Although death certificates generally do not contain much helpful genealogical information, they should not be ignored as sometimes details given (like an age) can be used to locate other events.
THE IRISH DEATH CERTIFICATE shows the date and place of death, the name and age of the deceased, their sex and 'condition' (marital status), occupation (if any), the certified cause of death, the duration of any final illness and usually the name of a medical practitioner who certified the death. The date the death was registered and the name of the informant is shown, and this was usually a relation, together with their signature and that of the registrar who recorded the death.
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