Registration of Births in IrelandIt was compulsory to register all births in Ireland from 1864, however, as many of you will know, not all births were registered with the civil authorities. There are many reasons why a birth was not registered, not least human error. In some cases it may have been beyond the family’s means to pay to have a birth registered. If a birth was registered late, the family were fined, so they may have chosen not to register the birth at all. In some cases when the family missed the three month window in which to have their child’s birth registered, they simply changed the date of birth of the child so that it fell within the legitimate time period. This means that you may find Irish birth records for a child who was baptised in October of one year, but whose date of birth on their birth certificate is March of the following year.
Births were registered in the local Registrar’s District, usually at the local dispensary. The books of registrations were then sent to Dublin where they were copied and the originals were returned to the Registrar. In some cases, an entry may not have been copied correctly, or may have been entirely missed. The local registers are the most accurate record of Irish births, rather than the copies held in Dublin. However, the registers that are now available online are the Dublin copies and in many cases the local registers have been stored away, beyond access.
If a child was born in an institution, such as a maternity hospital or workhouse, their birth may have been registered with only their surname. This can make them difficult to locate. A child registered without a first name usually appears as unnamed male or female in the index.
Finding Irish Birth Records OnlineThere are now plenty of resources for locating Irish birth records online. The civil birth indexes were initially digitised by volunteers with the Church of the Latter Day Saints and these indexes, which cover the period from 1864 to 1958 only are freely available online at Familysearch.org
This is the same collection that is also available on Ancestry and Findmypast and the same errors and omissions appear on all three sites. All three sites have also amalgamated collections of baptismal records and the records of civil registration. It is important to try and distinguish between the two when searching these sites.
The search function on the familysearch.org site is quite good and takes into account lots of different variant spellings of a surname, so this is the index that I will most frequently use.
However, the Irish government have also published their own index of Irish births, marriages and deaths online at civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie. The birth index on this website dates from 1864 to 1916 and each birth index entry is linked to an image of the original registration.
The original registration recorded the date and place of birth of the child, the name, occupation and address of the father and the name and maiden name of the mother as well as the name and address of the person who registered the birth. These images are free to view and download.
In 1900 and then from 1903 the Irish Civil Birth Index Books recorded the maiden name of the mother and the given date of birth of the child. This information is not included in the familysearch.org dataset until 1928. This means that if you are searching for a child with a common name, but you know the maiden name of the child’s mother, you will not find a relevant reference on this website prior to 1928.
The civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie website has included the date of birth of the child and mother’s maiden name for entries from 1900 to 1916. If the child you are searching for was born between 1916 and 1928 and you know the mother’s maiden name or you would like to identify the siblings of that child you will have to visit the research room of the General Register Office on Werburgh Street in Dublin or you can commission us to search the index books on your behalf.
If you find an entry in the civil birth index that is not currently available to download and view, you can order copies of the original records from us using our Genealogy Clerk service.
If the birth of your ancestor was not recorded in the civil register, it is possible that the birth of their siblings were recorded. If the mother’s maiden name is known and the children were born after 1903, a search can be carried out to identify the siblings of your ancestor. Their birth certificates should provide you with an address for the family at the time that the child was born.