Tuesday, 26 June 2012

GRO Northern Ireland to set up genealogy records site

Thanks to Marie Dougan of Ancestral Consultants (@dougangene) for the following tip off.

BIG developments for Northern Ireland!

The GRO in Belfast is to create what appears to be an online ScotlandsPeople type website by January 2014. The following is from the tender document published on the United Kingdom Tenders website on June 8th 2012:

The General Register Office Northern Ireland (the Client), as part of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), is a multi-disciplined service with a complex and diverse range of operational and business needs. It consists of a Central Headquarters based at Oxford House, Belfast and 26 District Offices (DRO) located throughout Northern Ireland. The work of GRONI is mainly statutory or demand led. In addition to service provision to the public, GRONI provides a range of information-based services to a number of other public sector bodies.

The Client is intending to award a contract for the development, hosting, management and support of a website to a Contractor who must:

  • Provide an online genealogical search facility of historical registration index data and images which may be viewed by customers upon payment of the appropriate fee using a PCI DSS v2.0 payment facility,
  • Provide an online facility for customers to apply and pay for certified copies of civil registration records,
  • Provide an internal search facility (which cannot be linked to the external website) hosting both historical and recent registration index data and images which may be viewed by customers upon payment of the appropriate,
  • Ensure that secure mechanisms are in place to allow customers to set up accounts and make payment for their transactions on the website and PSR application. The payment mechanism must be compliant with the current and any future versions of the PCI DSS standard v2.0 for processing payment cards,
  • Ensure that the servers related to the internal search facility are hosted, managed and supported within the server room at GRONI premises, located at Oxford House, Belfast. The servers hosting the historical records must be stored in an external ISO27001 compliant data centre, and
  • Migrate approximately 10 million records and 8 million images and facilitate the on-going migration of new or updated registrations and those historical records that pass the threshold for online access.
  • The contract for development, hosting, management and support of the Authority’s website is expected to be for an initial 5 years with the potential for one 2 year extension and a subsequent one year extension. The system must go-live no later than 1.1.2014.

COMMENT: This has been on the cards for a very long time, with the GRONI having visited Edinburgh in 2006 or 2007 to see the set up there, and I've heard several references to it over the last year or so. What is not clear as yet is whether this will only cover records for the north following Partition, created under the authority of the GRO in Belfast, or also records for the north prior to Partition, which were created under the authority of the GRO in Dublin. It is also unclear how the site will be priced, bearing in mind that the GRO in Belfast charges the highest rates for certificates in the UK at £14 plus p&p per record. At the facility in Belfast it charges £3 per record look up, which would be a marked improvement, though bear in mind that in Scotland an online record costs about £1.30 in total to search and view - albeit with the site having closure periods in operation.

If at the very least a comprehensive index for Northern Irish records past 1922 makes its way online, research into the country's family history will be revolutionised for those not able to get to Belfast easily.

Either way, it looks like we have a Norn Irons People on its way!


Check out my Scotland's Greatest Story research service www.ScotlandsGreatestStory.co.uk
New book: It's Perthshire 1866 - there's been a murder... www.thehistorypress.co.uk/products/The-Mount-Stewart-Murder.aspx (from June 12th 2012)


  1. This is excellent news. Incidentally there already are some civil registration records for Northern Ireland on the FamilySearch website, despite the fact that the website states that these records are excluded:


    A search for Wilson in Belfast, for example, for 1922-1958 yields some hits, but I'm not sure how extensive the post-1922 coverage of Northern Ireland is.

  2. Yes there are some records for the north after 1922, but it is only a handful and I have never been able to establish the criteria - it's worth noting that the source info on some of them is very vague, though obviously helpful if someone is there to know when they died.

    For those living in Scotland, a CD is also available at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh indexing Northern Irish births from 1922 up to about 1990 - no marriage or death records index though. For deaths in Belfast, worth trying the Belfast City Council burial records website at http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/burialrecords/search.asp, as its records are £1.50 each and contain more info than death certs at £14 (including cause of death, date and time of burial etc). A shortened transcription is also available on the site for free, though with incomplete info.


  3. Thanks Chris. I thought that was probably the case. It's certainly worth knowing about the CD at the ScotlandsPeople Centre. I'm surprised it's not more widely available. I've been told that the Northern Ireland BMDs are also on film at the LDS centre in London. Let's hope the LDS put them all online soon.

  4. Some records prior to the 1950s were microfilmed, but not all. Doubt LDS will put them online - when indexes first went online they were accompanied by images, for all but a few days, before they were withdrawn again - suspect GRO kicked up!

  5. Hi Chris this looks like the indexed will only be available. Having seen these at PRONI they are not much use. Family search have more details which means you can order up photocopies for pre 1922 certificates at the GRO in Dublin. It's a good start from GRONI but we will have to wait an see.

  6. This is not before time, they do have search facilities at Oxford house but the charges are ridiculous, you have to pay £14 up front just to see 2 documents and something like £3.50 for each one after that. It used to just be £12 which allowed you to see 4 documents and then £2.50 for each after that. It's now so expensive I begrudge using it.

  7. Yes, I'm in the same boat. Apart from the high costs I objected to someone reading out entries to me and not letting me see the original entries for myself - so much so that I think it has been about seven or eight years since I last used the facility. Most of the research I have needed to do has been adequately dealt with by the GRO in Roscommon since then, which is considerably better for what you get. GRONI's new development is really welcome - my only caveat is that the pricing has not yet been announced. I really hope it follows Scotland's example and doesn't screw it up with outrageous pricing. We'll see soon enough!


  8. Have just visited Oxford House and was appalled at the cost. £14 to research the index plus 2 free verifications, £4 for each subsequent verification. As the index does not give enough information to be sure of the correct record I ended up paying for a number of the wrong verificatiions. Would be prepared to pay more for a research day if it was possible to view the actual certificates so not wasting money on the incorrect ones. At least the GRO Ireland provides photocopies for 4 Euro!

  9. Yup - not used Oxford House in years. Too painful. My new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet has a few alternatives that might be worth looking into, but Roscommon's 4 Euros per record is still by far the best option.