Exploring Irish Civil Registration Records for Family History Research

Exploring Irish Civil Registration Records for Family History Research

Irish genealogy research can be challenging. But if you’re willing to put in the time, you can find your ancestors with some effort. One key resource for tracking down your Irish ancestors is civil registration records, starting with births, marriages and deaths in 1845 and continuing to the present. These are now available online through indexed collection from the General Register Office.


Irish civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began on 1 January 1864. This system of recording vital events was compulsory, and records have survived to the present day. Each registrar was required to record the details of all the births, marriages and deaths in his area at the end of each quarter of the year. These were sent to the General Register Office in Dublin, where they were compiled into bound volumes and indexes were compiled. Not all births and marriages were recorded, however, and up to 15 percent may have gone unregistered in the system’s early years. Even so, civil registration records can be used for family history research and are the foundation of many historic Irish civil registration records and other genealogical research projects. Several key records are now available online, making it possible to explore Irish history from the perspective of a family tree. These include emigration lists, surname histories and church registers.


Marriages are a wonderful source of family history information. These records can tell who the bride or groom was, where they were married and if there were children. They also can tell you what townland they came from and whether or not they emigrated to another part of Ireland. Although Irish civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1845 for non-Catholics and in 1864 for Catholics, many marriages went unregistered in the early years. This was particularly true in rural areas. Fortunately, most of these mistakes were relatively minor. The Registrar’s Offices transcribed and compiled the local registers they received and then sent them to Dublin for inclusion in the national index. A useful tool in exploring these records is RootsIreland, an island-wide network of county-based genealogy centers that have been transcribing their local registers for many years. They have a subscription website that holds more than 20 million record transcriptions. You can search the index books held by the General Register Office in Dublin for relevant entries from 1845 (for non-Catholics) up to 1878 for births, marriages and deaths. You can also view the full registers in their public research room at Werburgh Street.


Birth, marriage and death records are the building blocks of all family trees. These documents are essential for tracing your Irish roots and providing the information you need to identify relatives, find out about their lives and build a family tree. These documents are available at the General Register Office of Ireland (GROI) and the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI). They contain a range of information, such as the child’s name, date and place of birth; parents’ names, addresses and occupations; and the informant’s details. Unlike church records, civil registrations can be searched by event year, registration district and family members’ names. This allows you to trace your ancestors back in time, generation by generation.

The Civil Registration Indexes are an excellent source of information for tracing your Irish roots. These indexes, compiled since 1845, cover most of the island of Ireland.

While the collection is incomplete, it can be a useful source of family history information. It includes non-Catholic Christian, Jewish and civil marriages that were registered from 1845 onwards; and births, marriages and deaths before the start of civil registration in 1864.


Irish Civil Registration Records has a wealth of information, particularly for those researching their family history since 1845. Using these records to trace your Irish ancestors will allow you to build a picture of their life and their relationships. They are also essential in exploring the lives of your immigrant ancestors who remained in Ireland. While these records are initially difficult to interpret because of their 19th-century handwriting, they are worth a read over time. They will help you develop a strong understanding of the language used at that time and may assist you when translating other documents from English or other languages into Irish.

The burials in these records are extremely useful for tracing Irish ancestors, especially those living in the country’s rural areas. They provide a rich source of information for researchers about the social and cultural conditions in which their ancestors lived, including details of local politics and land ownership.

In addition, these registers provide much more detail than church records about occupation, marital status and address – and sometimes a wealth of other information, such as the birthplace of the informant. They will help you pinpoint where an ancestor was born, married or died, so it is important to know which registration district applies to your family.

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