GENERAL REGISTER OFFICE Dublin, Ireland. The Research Room at Irish Life Centre Lower Abbey Street Dublin 1 Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9.30a.m.to 4.30 p.m.
By Conor Mac Hale, Irish Heritage Research.
The records in this repository include the following:
The public does NOT have direct access to the records themselves. Researchers must first consult an index to identify a reference number for a record, this is then photocopied or transcribed by the staff in the office.
Personal callers get on the spot service. However, you can write to the Registrar General at the address in Dublin and request a copy of a cert by mail. This can take over three months. You can also hire a researcher to act as a personal caller on your behalf. This can be done by airmail, or by electronic mail. The register entry is itself a certified copy of the original document, made shortly after the event took place. If a legal certificate is required, it is copied out by hand and certified - it takes longer and is also much more expensive. The original document, which may have been signed by your own ancestor, may still be in local custody in the local registrar's office. You can check where that is from the maps at the GRO.
Although there are more than 40 million entries in the records, it is still possible that the one you are looking for is not there ! Sometimes the informant who would have been expected to register the birth or death, etc. simply did not do so. Also, informants sometimes provided inaccurate information - this applies particularly to ages recorded in death registers.
It is estimated that up to 15 per cent of births in particular were not registered (especially in the earlier period), for whatever reasons. This attitude also applied to deaths. Marriages are legal contracts, so you would expect a different attitude to the registration of these. Another point is that the informant who registered the record in the first instance did not supply completely accurate information, it is also not unknown for the data to be wrongly transcribed by a clerk (not much can be done about that now, after 130 years!). There may also be minor significant errors in the indexes, and you should always check for alternative name spellings.
You pay a fee for a 5-year search of the indexes for any one event; you fill in a docket indicating you want to search the birth, marriage or death indexes (same charge for each 5-yr set of indexes) and you will be given the relevant volumes. You can also pay a larger fee for a general search of indexes, and this might be more economic. This allows you to spend up to 6 consecutive hours searching the indexes for births or deaths. The same fee amount allows up to six DAYS search of the marriage indexes. You fill in a docket for this (use any of them - and write 'General Search' on it). Once you've paid for a General Search you can go to the shelves and take down any of the indexes you want to consult yourself. If the index volume you're looking for is not on the shelf, look to see if anyone else in the room is using it. Some of the volumes are getting very dog-eared, and the page with your entry may be so damaged you can't find the entry you are looking for -ask an attendant. There should be a duplicate volume available.
The staff are experienced, and very helpful, but they are heavily overworked; so you need to be patient sometimes! They are also not responsible for any occasional shortcomings of the system or errors in the records or indexes!
The LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City has microfilm copies of the following Irish GRO indexes. The films can be inspected on loan at your local LDS Family History Centre. (Author's note: the following are listed with the first set of dates for the indexes and the second for the actual records themselves.)
Indexes are organized on an annual basis until 1877. After that they are organized on a quarterly basis. This means that you may have to remember to check each quarter of the year in any volume, as well as late registrations, registrations under the Army Act, and those under the Marine Register Act (e.g. births at sea, deaths on active service). Some of the indexes are in half-year volumes, so be sure you have checked the full year!
The index entries can be quite frustrating sometimes. You need to watch that you scan all variant spellings, e.g. if looking for an O'Dowd you should also check the names Dowd, Doud, and O'Dowde! In particular watch for variants with and without the prefix O'. The addition of the mother's maiden name to the indexes from 1903 makes life somewhat easier! The recording in these sources, if not the use of double names is unusual. There also some abbreviations e.g. Pat, Patt and Patk for Patrick. Note that the office of registration is NOT the same as the place of birth (see example of birth record below).
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