Thursday, 22 September 2011

FamilySearch - Irish civil registration indexes

The following is a post made on Scottish GENES in April of this year, but with the current interest in Irish civil records being made available on Ancestry, it's worth re-posting:

Family Search ( has updated its wiki entry on the coverage offered by its online indexes for Irish births, marriages and deaths. The new entry can be read at,_Civil_Registration_Indexes_(FamilySearch_Historical_Records)
The collection is described as Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes, 1845-1958, but in fact this is extremely misleading, particularly with regard to records from Northern Ireland.

Prior to Partition there was one central GRO based in Dublin, but from 1922 a separate GRO was established in Belfast to cater for the six counties of the new statelet of Northern Ireland, with the GRO in Dublin continuing to administer to the rest of the island as before. The Family Search BMD indexes cover the whole of Ireland up to Partition, but afterwards the database contains records predominantly for what became the Irish Free State, and from 1949, the Republic of Ireland.

However - I say predominantly. There are in fact some records for the north included in the database after Partition, but even with the wiki update, there is no indication of the extent of this coverage for Northern Ireland on the site - it simply says "Northern Ireland, 1922–present. Physical description not provided at this time". Most Northern Irish birth entries found in the database have a FamilySearch microfilm number but no volume number or page number, as with pre-Partition events. The northern post-1922 marriage records do have these details, as do the deaths.

At least the records prior to Partition are complete for the whole island, aren't they? Um, no! But the wiki update does show the gaps in all Ireland coverage prior to 1922 - for births, there are omissions in 1867, 1869, 1880 and 1892-93; for marriages no gaps are noted, and for deaths there are a handful of missing entries for the third quarter of 1894.

The indexes have been microfilmed and can be ordered from the Family Search Library. In fact, Family Search has also microfilmed many of the original BMD registers, and these too can be ordered up. John Grenham in his exceptionally useful Tracing Your Irish Ancestors (3rd edition) summarises the coverage in detail with relevant microfilm numbers etc. All registers for Northern Ireland from 1922-1959 have been microfilmed. For all Ireland prior to Partition, and for the south, coverage is unfortunately nothing like as complete:

All Ireland: 1864-1st quarter 1881, and 1900-1913 copied only
Free State / Republic: 1930-1955 copied only

All Ireland: 1845-1870 copied only
Free State / Republic: none copied

All Ireland: 1864-1870 copied only
Free State / Republic: none copied

The registers microfilmed by Family Search can also be ordered up from the Family History Library to consult at your local LDS family history centre (

Northern Ireland shamefully remains the only part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the second decade of the 21st century to not have any comprehensive online provision for indexes to its own citizens' civil records for births, marriages and deaths, the most basic genealogical records there can be. To be a devil's advocate though, this may possibly be to save on Ulster's health budget, as Northern Ireland also shamefully charges an extortionate heart-stopping rate of £14 plus postage and packing for each certificate, the highest rate by a long mile in the UK. (The day that GRONI takes a few lessons from PRONI or the GROS in Edinburgh will not be a day too soon!) However, it may be worth noting that a CD is available at the ScotlandsPeople Centre containing an index to all Northern Irish births from 1922-1993, located in the Dundas Room.

When ordering certificates, bear in mind the following. Certificates for all of Ireland prior to 1922, and for the south afterwards to the present day, can be ordered from the GRO in Roscommon at €10 each but you need to print out the form and fax or post it with your credit card details. However, you can also order a photocopy of an extract for just €6 for genealogical purposes, just a Euro dearer than a transcript on RootsIreland at (though RootsIreland now offers discounts on multiple births in a family unit to the same parents). If you have northern ancestry, just to clarify, you can order records for the north prior to 1922 from the Republic's GRO, and you won't go bankrupt in the process - €6 inclusive of p&p, as opposed to £14 plus p&p.

Records can also be ordered and paid for online through Ireland's Health Service Executive website at - however, formal certificates can only be ordered at €10, not photocopies of extracts - and this site charges an extra €1 p&p per record.

(UPDATE: I've recently been made aware, thanks to Ozzie gene genie Shauna Hicks, that not all records can be ordered from the HSE site: for births 1864-present day can be obtained, but for marriages from 1920 only, and deaths from 1924)

For the north, records from 1922 onwards can only be ordered from the GRO in Belfast at at £14 each plus p&p. You can order records prior to 1922 from Belfast, again at £14 each. But you'd honestly need to be mad to do so.


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