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Civil Registration include records for births, marriages and deaths. Irish civil registration records are indexed and cover the entire population for a given period. They are an excellent source for researchers.

Prior to 1864, churches kept all records of births, marriage and deaths in Ireland. As early as 1845, the government began requiring registration of all non-catholic marriages. In 1864, all registration records were recorded by the government.


In Ireland, civil registration is recorded by district. The district office records the information and then forwards a copy to the appropriate General Register office.

For Republic of Ireland records, please contact the General Register Office located at Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street East, Dublin 2, Ireland. For Northern Ireland records contact the General Register Office, Oxford House, 49/55 Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL, Northern Ireland. When requesting a registration by mail make sure to include a check or money order for the search; the full name and sex of the person sought; the names of parents, if known; and the approximate date of the event.

The LDS Church also has microfilmed copies of civil registration in Ireland up to 1958 (Ireland) and 1959 (NIR).

Information Recorded in Civil Registers


Birth registrations typically include the child’s name, sex, birth date, and birthplace; the parents’ names (including the mother’s maiden name) and the father’s occupation; and the informant’s signature, residence, and qualification (often the relationship to the child being registered).  



Marriage registrations include the marriage date, place, and denomination (for church marriages); the names of the bride and groom, their ages, occupations, marital statuses, and residences at the time of marriage; the names and occupations of their fathers and often whether their fathers were deceased; and the signatures of the bride, groom, and witnesses. Marriages were usually performed in the bride’s parish and were registered by the performing minister.


Divorce in Ireland was almost nonexistent. The few divorces that did take place were granted by the English government.


Death certificates give only the name, occupation, age at death, and marital status of the deceased; duration of the illness; date, place, and cause of death; and signature, qualification, and residence of the informant. A spouse’s name is sometimes listed. If a child or unmarried female died, the father’s name is often written in the occupation space.

Civil registrations of deaths are of limited genealogical value because they:

·         Do not normally contain parentage or birth information.

·         May be inaccurate (the informant may not have known the information requested).

·         May not contain enough information to distinguish your ancestor from others with the same name.

Nonetheless, a death certificate is usually the only civil record for persons born or married before government registration began in 1864.

Locating Civil Registration Records

Civil registration records are kept at the superintendent registrars’ offices in the districts. Duplicates are kept at the General Register offices. The General Register Office for the Republic of Ireland has birth, marriage, and death indexes and corresponding records, including registrations of Irish subjects at sea, abroad, or in the military through 1921 for all of Ireland. The office’s post-1921 records cover Republic of Ireland counties only. The address is:

General Register Office
Joyce House
8-11 Lombard Street East
Dublin 2

The General Register Office of Northern Ireland has birth, marriage, and death records, including registrations of Irish at sea, abroad, or in the military from 1922 on for Northern Ireland only. The address is:

General Register Office
Oxford House
49/55 Chichester Street
Belfast BT1 4HL

When requesting a registration certificate by mail from these offices, include:

·         A check or money order for the search fee.

·         The full name and sex of the person sought.

·         The names of the parents, if known (only when requesting a birth record).

·         The approximate date and place of the event.

Indexes to Civil Registration Records

Indexes can help you find a registration entry for your ancestor. Before 1878, registration indexes were arranged alphabetically by year. Since 1878, indexes have remained alphabetical but have been divided by quarter. Most registration indexes list only the name of the individual registered and the district, volume, and page number of that person’s registration entry. The death indexes also list the individual’s age at death. Republic of Ireland post-1927 birth indexes include the mother’s maiden name. In searching for an index entry, knowing the name of the district and at least an approximate year in which the birth, marriage, or death occurred will reduce your search time.

Place-names in the indexes are for districts. In rural areas, many villages and parishes belong to one district. In urban areas, a city may be divided into several districts.

To identify the district in which your ancestor lived, use the following sources:

§         Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns of Ireland, (1871 Census) (see p. 28), which lists Irish localities and the districts that served those localities in 1871.

§         Ireland, Census Office, General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns of Ireland, (1901 Census, [London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1901?]; FHL book Ref Q 941.5 X22g 1901; film 865,092 computer number 0650985), which lists Irish localities and the districts that served those localities in 1901.

§         Civil Registration Districts of Ireland, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1983; FHL book Reg 941.5 V2c computer number 0208759), which provides maps and districts’ names as they were in 1871.

If you find an index entry, you can use that entry to request a copy of the original record from (1) the General Register Office in Dublin if the event was recorded before 1922 or took place in the Republic of Ireland, or (2) the General Register Office in Belfast if the event took place in or after 1922 in Northern Ireland.

If you cannot find an index reference, consider the following reasons:

·         There are separate supplemental indexes for births and deaths for 1864-1870.

·         Late registrations of births and deaths are indexed separately at the end of each index volume.

·         Surnames are often spelled differently than expected.

·         Surnames with prefixes, such as O’Bryan or McDonnal, may be listed without their prefixes (Bryan, Donnal).

·         Events are filed by the date they were registered, not the date they occurred and may therefore be indexed in a later volume. (For example, a birth on 20 December 1879 which was registered on 6 January 1880 will be listed in the January-March volume of 1880.)

·         Indexes were hand-prepared and may contain errors, such as copying mistakes (for example, the interchange of T and F) and missed entries.

·         Some people are registered under a different name than they used later in life.

·         Some marriages are indexed by the name of only one spouse.

·         A woman’s surname in the marriage index is sometimes her surname from a previous marriage and not her maiden surname.

·         Vital information provided by the family (particularly age at death) is often incorrect.

·         People with common names are sometimes difficult to distinguish in the index.

·         Many deaths are registered under the name unknown.

·         Children born before their parents were married may be listed under the mother’s maiden name.

·         Some children are simply listed as male or female if they were not named by the time of registration.

·         Some events were not registered, though registration of births, marriages, and deaths was required by law.

If, after considering the above factors, you cannot find a civil birth, marriage, or death certificate for your ancestor, you may want to search church or other records.

Records at the Family History Library

The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the civil registration indexes of births, marriages, and deaths for Ireland and Northern Ireland through 1958 (through 1959 for Northern Ireland). The Library also has microfilm copies of:

·         Pre-1871 marriage and death certificates for both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

·         Birth certificates from 1864 through March 1881 and from 1900 through 1913 for both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

·         Birth certificates for the Republic of Ireland from 1930 through 1955.

·         Birth, marriage, and death certificates for Northern Ireland from 1922 through 1959.

·         Some registration certificates of Irish subjects at sea, abroad, and in the military.

The library’s copies of civil registration records and indexes for Ireland are listed in the Locality Search of the catalog under IRELAND - CIVIL REGISTRATION. Other civil registration records, such as records of births at sea, are listed in the Locality Search of the catalog under GREAT BRITAIN - CIVIL REGISTRATION.


Irish Civil Registration

by Kyle J. Betit and Dwight A. Radford,
Co-Editors of The Irish At Home and Abroad

            The civil registration of births, deaths and Roman Catholic marriages in Ireland began in 1864. Registration of non-Catholic marriages in Ireland began earlier, in 1845. The civil registration records are available both in Ireland and on microfilm abroad. There are yearly indexes to the records beginning in 1845; from 1878, the indexes are quarterly. In 1922, following the formation of the Irish Free State, the Free State (later the Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland (which remains part of the United Kingdom) began keeping separate civil registration.

Record Availability: Ireland

            The original records from 1845-1921 for all of Ireland (including the Northern Ireland counties) are at the General Register Office (GRO) at Joyce House in Dublin. Those from 1922 onwards for counties in the Republic of Ireland are also at the General Register Office in Dublin. The records from 1922 onwards for Northern Ireland are at the General Register Office at Oxford House in Belfast.

            Researchers may visit Joyce House and can for a fee conduct research in the indexes to civil registration, available up to this decade. The staff will make copies of specific entries for a further fee. The staff will also provide copies of specific entries through correspondence.

            There are plans to move the administration of the GRO to Roscommon town in County Roscommon. However, a search room with the same or better facilities will still be maintained in Dublin. In Roscommon town the GRO office (not open to the public) is in the process of computerizing the civil registration records (from the original copies sent to Dublin by each district registrar) and the indexes. Both are being scanned into the computer such that each index entry will be electronically linked to the entry in the original records.

Record Availability:

The LDS Family History Library http://www.familysearch.org  

            The FHL has microfilm copies of indexes to all Irish civil registration from 1845 through 1921; as well as 1922-1958 for the Republic and 1922-1959 for Northern Ireland. There are significant gaps in the FHL's collection of the civil registration certificates. The collection includes the following:

Ireland (Pre-1922)

Births: 1864 - March 1881; 1900-1913
Marriages: 1845-1870
Deaths: 1864-1870

Republic of Ireland

Births: 1930-1955
Marriages: none
Deaths: none

Northern Ireland

Births: 1922-1959
Marriages: 1922-1959
Deaths: 1922-1959

Administrative Divisions in Civil Registration

            Civil registration was recorded by local registrars. Each civil registration form shows the superintendent registrar's district and the registrar's district for the entry. Registrar's districts were subdivisions of the superintendent registrar's districts. The civil registration forms also generally note the town or townland (and sometimes the parish) of the event. The civil registration indexes provide the name of the superintendent registrar's district (also called a registration district) for each entry.

            The 1851 and 1871 published indexes to townlands and towns in Ireland identify the poor law union in which each town and townland was located. The registration districts developed from the poor law unions, and the names are usually the same for the two jurisdictions. The 1851 index is widely available in libraries as General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland. Based on the Census of Ireland for the Year 1851, reprinted in 1984 by Genealogical Publishing Company.

What Districts Cover What Counties?

            If a certain area in Ireland (such as a county) is being targeted, the researcher can identify which registration district(s) covered the area of interest. The FHL has produced two finding aids that help in identifying a registration district. Register of Ireland General Registry Office Births, Marriages, and Deaths 1845-1959 (FHL microfiche #6020383-384) lists which districts are in each county. Civil Registration Districts of Ireland includes maps showing the boundaries of the registration districts (superimposed on county maps).

            Betit and Radford's chapter "Civil Registration" in Ireland: A Genealogical Guide for North Americans lists the districts located in each county. Richard Flatman's article "Alphabetical Index to the Superintendent Registrar Districts/Poor Law Unions" in Irish Family History contains a list showing what counties are covered by each district. Irish Family History is the journal of the Irish Family History Society of Naas, County Kildare.

            The 1891 Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Ireland. List of Townlands in Each Poor Law Union (or Superintendent Registrar's District), and Registrar's District is available on microfilm through the FHL (#1559443).

Potential Problems

            Birthdates: Were They Wrong? In the nineteenth century many of the Irish living in Ireland and living abroad did not necessarily keep track of their exact ages or specific birth dates. When a christening or birth record is found in Ireland, the year may vary as much as ten years from what was indicated by the person later in life. "Birthdays" (month and day) are more likely to be accurate than a specific year of birth.

            Names: How Were They Spelled? It is important to remember that an ancestor may be listed in the civil registers under a different name than expected. Consider all possible spelling variations for your surname (such as O'Reilly, O'Riley, Reily, Riley, etc.). Also consider given name variations and nicknames (such as Biddy or Delia for Bridget). Two articles detailing the subject of name variations are Judith Eccles Wight's "I Dream of Jeannie, Janey, Jenny, Netty...The Complexity of Irish Given Names" and "Kilmary's Band...The Complexity of Irish Surnames," both published in The Irish At Home and Abroad.

            Date Conflicts: Christened Before Born? In some cases the researcher will be in the peculiar position of finding that the date of christening given in church records precedes the date of birth given in Irish civil records. It may not be possible to know which is correct. The informant for the civil birth record may have given a later date of birth than the actual date; for example, if the time requirement for filing a record of the birth had been exceeded.

            Missing Entries: Never Born? Although it was mandatory, many persons were not registered during the first decades of civil registration. In some cases the first name of the child was not recorded in the entry, so be sure to check the index for "male" or "female" children under the surname of interest. Also late registrations of births are listed at the back of the birth indexes.

            If the birth record of an ancestor is not found in civil registration, search for the birth record of a known or possible sibling. Even if the ancestor's birth record is found it is valuable to document the births of the siblings in order to determine the parents' residences in the various years of the children's births.

Strategies for Immigration Research

            Civil registration records can be used in a variety of ways to help solve immigrant research problems.

            Ancestors in Ireland During Civil Registration: If an Irish ancestor was born, married, or died in Ireland during the time period of civil registration a search of the indexed civil registration records may be an easy and direct means of identifying the family's origins in Ireland.

            Ancestors Not in Ireland During Civil Registration: If your ancestors had already left Ireland prior to the start of civil registration, don't write off civil registration records as useless to your research. Remember, your immigrant ancestors may have left relatives behind. If an immigrant ancestor had a known relative who was born, married or died in the civil registration time period a search of the records may reveal your family's origin. For example, if you find the death record for your immigrant's father, then it will pinpoint an exact origin in Ireland.

            Civil Registration as a Surname Distribution Source: If the surname is relatively uncommon, civil registration can show where persons of that name lived in Ireland. Even if the ancestral family lived well before the civil registration time period, this technique can pinpoint the geographical concentration(s) of the surname. This examination allows other record sources, such as local church records and taxation records, to be searched.

            Civil Registration in the International Genealogical Index (IGI): The FHL has incorporated birth and marriage entries from Irish civil registration into the IGI database. The project includes the earliest births and marriages recorded in civil registration, and the project is on-going. The IGI is available on computer or microfiche. The extracted information includes the date and parents' names (for births) or the name of the spouse (for marriages). The IGI does not show the town or townland, but rather states the registrar's district, county, and page number. With the computer version of the IGI the microfilm number on which the entry will be found is given.

            The IGI can be used to determine what births or marriages occurred for persons of a given surname during a given time period. Also, the computer can be utilized to narrow the search even further, to include only those events occurring in a particular county, or to list all the births to a particular couple. This kind of search in the IGI can help in determining surname distribution or in pinpointing records for a particular family.


General Register Office: Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street East, Dublin 2, Ireland; Tel: (01) 6711000; FAX: (01) 6711243.

General Register Office: Oxford House, Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL, Northern Ireland; Tel: (01232) 252000; FAX: (01232) 252120.

References and Further Reading

Civil Registration Districts of Ireland. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1983.

Flatman, Richard. "Alphabetical Index to the Superintendent Registrar Districts/Poor Law Unions," Irish Family History 31 (1987): 51-58.

Grenham, John. "Civil Records." In Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide, 1-12. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1992.

Hunter, Dean J. "Irish Civil Registration," The Irish At Home and Abroad 2 (1994/95): 15-19.

McCarthy, Tony. "State Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages." In The Irish Roots Guide, 22-31. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, Ltd., 1991.

Murphy, Sean. "A Primer In Irish Genealogy. No. 4 The GRO," Irish Roots 1995 (no. 4): 8-9.

Register of Ireland General Registry Office Births, Marriages, and Deaths 1854-1959. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978.

Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Ireland. List of Townlands in Each Poor Law Union (or Superintendent Registrar's District), and Registrar's District. Dublin: Printed For Her Majesty's Stationery Office, by Alex. Thom & Co., 1891.

Wight, Judith Eccles. "I Dream of Jeannie, Janey, Jenny, Netty...The Complexity of Irish Given Names," The Irish At Home and Abroad 1 (Spring 1994): 6-7. 

Wight, Judith Eccles. "Kilmary's Band...The Complexity of Irish Surnames," The Irish At Home and Abroad 2 (1994/95): 11-12. 

Civil Records in Ireland for birth's, death's and marriages commenced in 1864. 

Date and place of birth.
Father's full name and mother's name including her maiden name.
Father's occupation.
Date of registry.

Date and place of marriage.
Bride and grooms address.
Their professions.
Name's of their fathers and whether they were alive or not.
Names of witnesses (bridesmaid and best man).
Name of clergyman who preformed wedding.

Date and place of death.
aged of deceased.
Cause of death.
Name of next of kin.
Date of registration.