Searching Irish Civil BMD Records online

Searching Irish Civil BMD Records online

Historic Civil BMD records consist of two collections, Registers Books and Index books. The National Registers and Indexes for all of Ireland were kept by the General Register Office (GRO), in Dublin. The head office for the Republic of Ireland is now located in Roscommon (town), with Civil BMD Records for Northern Ireland held by the General Register Office – Northern Ireland (GRONI).

The registers contain the details of the births, marriages and deaths copied from returns made to the GRO head office from the regional registration offices. The index books were also compiled from these as a system built to help locate individual records in these register books.

Each type of record, i.e. births marriages and deaths, have a separate set of index books, one for each year, with one for each quarter after 1878. All three sets of Index books list the name of child, bride/groom or name of deceased in alphabetical order by surname and first name, followed by the registration district, volume and page. For marriages there is a double entry in the index, one from the bride and another for the groom. These should both appear in the same index book and section (i.e. Year or Year/Quarter), and have matching volume and page numbers.

1. Indexes

b) The FamilySearch transcripts were based on microfilms made of the GRO National Index books. This index is free to access at FamilySearch and the index details were transcribed and indexed by volunteers and also currently available on Ancestry and FindMyPast.  Each of these websites allows searches by first and surname with or without variations, and include date and registration district filters. All the sites allow for the use of wildcard searches.

Each site has it’s own pros and cons, some systems, e.g. the FamilySearch, appear to cope slightly better with name variations, both first and surnames, but does not cope as well with searches by county, particularly where the name is also used for the name of a registration district, e.g. Cork or Wexford. The Ancestry search only allows entry of a single year rather as an estimate rather than from-to dates, but includes a fuzzy algorithm and ranks results according to relevance.

The FindMyPast search is the only one of the three websites which allows selection of both county and/or registration district as a search filter, and copes well with districts across more than one county. The search also allows selection of a filter based on several registration districts, which can be particularly useful in area searches e.g. Dublin South/Rathdown/Naas. Both the Ancestry and FindMyPast systems have a marriage cross-match function, which show a lists of possible matching brides or grooms based on entries with the same index references.

The FamilySearch Index covers from the start of civil records up to 1958 for counties in the Republic of Ireland, and up to 1921 for counties in Northern Ireland.

c) The GRO ‘index’ system on the free IrishGenealogy website is based on transcripts carried out from the original National GRO Index Books. Recently the GRO started adding further details from the registers to the index system – e.g. date of birth for child & mother’s maiden surnames on births back to c1900, date of marriage and names of bride & groom on marriages back to the early 1880s. The index includes entries from the start of registration for births, marriages and deaths up to a 100/75/50 year cutoff  (1914 for births, 1940 for marriages and 1964 for deaths) and the search system covers copes with some name variation and also wildcards, and allows selection of a single registration district as filter.

The GRO / IrishGenealogy website also includes register images for all birth, i.e. 1964 to 1915, marriages from 1882 to 1940, and deaths from 1891 to 1964 (further records will be added). Many of these records on the use a new ‘Group Registration ID’ as a unique reference in place of the original year, volume and page references on the GRO Index .

The GRO/IrishGenealogy website includes records for counties now in Northern Ireland, up to the end of 1921, or the cut-off which ever applies first.

2. Civil Register Extracts of Births, Marriages & Deaths, formerly included as part of the old IGI system, include extracted partial details for civil record in many areas covering from the start of civil records (1845/1864) up to about 1880. The include some of the key details from the registers, e.g. on birth transcripts the name of the child, date of birth, names of parents, for marriages name of bride and groom, date of marriage, names of fathers. These extracts often include part of the index references, e.g page and/or volume numbers (**). Some of these partial extracted records also appear on Ancestry.

3. Transcripts

a) RootsIreland / Irish Family History Foundation subscription website includes transcripts, but not images, for civil Birth Marriage and Death records for some districts in a number of counties – based on their source list currently include Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry/Londonderry, Donegal, Down, Galway (East), Kilkenny, Leitrim, Limerick, Mayo, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford and Westmeath.

Check the various sources pages for details of which record types and districts are covered. Most include records up to about 1900, some districts up to the 1920s. (The Districts shown in some cases are Registration Sub-Districts, which are part of the overall
Superintendent Registrar’s Districts used on the GRO Index.)

b) EmeraldAncestors subscription website includes transcripts of civil records for counties in Northern Ireland, including some up to the 1920s.

c) Ulster History Foundation / AncestryIreland subscription website includes transcripts or civil records for counties Antrim and Down up to 1900.

d) GRONI / NIDirect includes both transcripts and images of civil Birth Marriage and Death records for Northern Ireland from the beginning of registration with a 100/75/50 year BMD cutoff. Purchase of Credits is required to view transcripts or images, but searches, which show enhanced index information, do not use up credits.

Offline – Research Certs can be ordered from the GRO using the references from the various index details (FamilySearch/Ancestry/FindMyPast or GRO Index). These cost €4, and cover all of Ireland up to 1921 and the Republic of Ireland thereafter. Official certs for legal purposes cost extra and are usually transcripts of the original record rather than copies of the register.

* copies of regional registers may also be available to search in some sub-districts, these do not use the same National Indexing system.

** Some of the captions are incorrect in these extracts, e.g. some dates of birth are shown as Christening date, which is a detail not included on birth records, the should read ‘date of birth’ and others have a field labelled ‘father’s birth place’, which is also not recorded and should read either child’s place of birth or “father’s current place of residence”. Place names shown in these extracts can be a townland, but often the name of a registration district, sub district, or county, and in some case the names of the street where the registration office was located – e.g. High Street, Dublin.


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