Irish Birth Marriage and Death Records
Civil registration of Irish births, marriages and deaths commenced in 1864. Non-Catholic marriages were registered from 1845. It should be noted that in the early years of civil registration an estimated 15% of births and marriages went unregistered.
Irish Civil Birth Certificates record:
Date and place of birth
Name of the child
Name, occupation and address of the father
Maiden name of the mother
Birth certificates are useful for determining the family address and the mother’s maiden name.
Irish Civil Marriage Certificates record:
The date of the event and the church in which the marriage took place.
The the name, age, occupation and address of the bride and groom
The names and occupations of their fathers
Witnesses to the marriage
Witnesses to the marriage were sometimes siblings of the bride and groom. Addresses recorded on marriage certificates represent the address used the night before the wedding and not always the family home of the bride or groom.
Civil Death Certificates are the least informative, recording:
Occupation of the deceased
Cause of death
Name of the informant
Informants can sometimes be family members. The age recorded on a death certificate can help to establish an approximate year of birth for the deceased, although ages on death certificates were not always accurate.
The indexes for Civil Birth, Marriage and Death registrations in Ireland from 1864 are held by the General Register Office (GRO). You can now search the GRO indexes online at two locations; The Irish Government website www.irishgenealogy.ie or the LDS website www.familysearch.org. Both sites are free. If you don’t find the record you are searching for on one site, try the other, as both databases have errors and omissions.
At www.irishgenealogy.ie you will find the indexes for births (1864-1918), marriages (1864-1943), Non-Catholic marriages (1845-1864) and deaths (1864-1968). The index entries for births (1864-1918), marriages (1864-1943) and deaths (1878-1968) also contain a link to the original registration, which you can download for free. If you are looking for a birth certificate for someone born in Ireland in the 1870s, you should be able to download their original birth registration, which will record their date of birth, place of birth and parents names. From 1900 the mother’s maiden name will also appear in the index, making it easier to locate birth records for a group of siblings.
This database is not perfect and there are missing records as well as index entries missing links to the original records or incorrect links to the wrong record. If you don’t find what you are looking for it doesn’t necessarily mean that the record doesn’t exist. This website can be sensitive to the spelling of surnames and first names. Catherine Molloy may have married using the name Katie Mulloy, so always try different variant spellings of a first name and surname. If you continue to be unsuccessful, you might want to try a different database.
When you are using this site to search for a vital record try to establish the registration district in which the event might have been registered. A civil registration district usually has the same boundaries as a poor law union. There were usually 3-6 registration districts in each county, and some districts crossed county borders. There is an excellent map and guide to registration districts on the Irish Genealogy Toolkit website. If your ancestor married in Kilkenny, they might have married in the registration districts of Callan, Carrick-on-Suir, Castlecomer, Kilkenny, New Ross, Thomastown, Urlingford or Waterford and not just in Kilkenny.
Volunteers from the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) have transcribed the Irish civil registration indexes up 1958 (excluding records from Northern Ireland after 1922) and these are available at Family Search. A copy of the same database is also available at Ancestry and FindMyPast (subscription). This database includes many more variant spellings of names, so will provide you with a much broader list of results, which can often be helpful.
When you arrive at Family Search, enter the details of the individual that you are searching for. Keep your search broad to start with and only enter the name and year of the event. I always recommend searching at least 2 years either side of an approximate date of birth or marriage, as given dates were rarely accurate in the 19th century.
On the left hand side of the results page there are options to filter the results. In the ”Collections” filter you can select Ireland, civil registration indexes, 1845 – 1958. This will narrow the results to this source only. Make a record of the name, registration district, year and quarter, volume and page number for the birth or marriage you are interested in. This information will be necessary if you want to order the original certificates from the GRO.
If you are searching for a marriage, the reference details for the bride and groom should be exactly the same, indicating that they both appear on the same page of the marriage register.
On this database the mother’s maiden name will appear on entries after 1928.
The online indexes of births deaths and marriages for Ireland will provide you with the reference details for the birth, death or marriage certificate, but not the information on the certificate itself. Once you have identified the relevant references you can either search for an image of the record at www.irishgenealogy.ie or visit the GRO research room in Dublin to purchase the record. Alternatively, you can order a copy using our Irish Genealogy Clerk Service and it will be sent out to you by email within five working days.
It should be noted that the index on the Family Search website was compiled by volunteers and as with any transcribed online records there is always the potential for errors and omissions. If you fail to find the entry you require in the online index, I would recommend commissioning a search the original index books in the GRO. In the original books there are amendments and late registrations recorded in the margins and at the back of the books. There are also marine death records and overseas birth records in the hard copy index books that are absent from the online collections and a manual search may be required at the GRO.
The Family Search website also includes some abstracts of birth certificates from the 1860s and 1870s. If you are searching for an ancestor who was born in Ireland in the 1860s or 1870s and you know their parents names, you can search this collection to identify your ancestor or one of their siblings. It is possible that their birth certificate has already been transcribed. The online transcript does not include all of the information from the birth certificate, so the original should still be obtained.
The county genealogy centres run by the Irish Family History Foundation have also indexed a large portion (but not all) of civil records for Ireland. Their indexes were created from the original local registration books. Irish births, deaths and marriages were registered in the office of the local Registrar’s District, usually the same as the dispensary district. This record was then copied to the office in Dublin for inclusion in the national index books. In some cases the copy was lost in transit to Dublin and is thus absent from the centralised national index. The record may still be found in the local indexes, many of which are available online at www.rootsireland.ie (subscription).
Records for Northern Ireland
Between 1845 and 1922 births, marriages and deaths for all counties in Ireland, including what would become Northern Ireland, will be found in the national index described above. After 1922 Northern Ireland maintained its own records for civil registration. These records are now available online for births over 100 years old, marriages over 75 years and deaths over 50 years. You can search and view the original registrations for this period online at the GRONI website. It is necessary to sign up and purchase credits to undertake a search.
Can’t Find a Certificate?
It was necessary to pay a fee to register a birth. This was beyond the means of many poorer families and as such a birth could go unregistered.
You were fined if a birth was registered late. In order to avoid the fine, some parents gave an incorrect date of birth for the child so that it fell within the period of registration. This means that a child that was 6 months old could be given a date of birth making them only 2 months old.
It was the responsibility of the parish priest or minister to register marriages. In some cases the priest failed to register the event.
It is estimated that up to 30% of deaths in Ireland went unregistered, even in the 20th century. It is not uncommon to find a death was not registered with the civil authorities.