Skip to main content

Irish Resources for Family Historians: Birth, Death & Marriage

This State Library of South Australia guide highlights resources available at the Library as well as various databases and websites that may assist your search for ancestors in Ireland

Laws for registration of births, deaths and marriages

In 1538 Thomas Cromwell, as Henry VIII's Chancellor, introduced a system obliging the clergy to maintain registers of all baptisms, weddings and funerals. But despite penalties for non-compliance, the system was not as effective as had been hoped.

It was another 300 years before civil registration was introduced by law in England and Wales, commencing in July 1837. It was many years before this was extended to Ireland.

Over time, demand grew for an official Irish registration system for births, deaths and marriages. Laws regulating factory employment, public health and inheritance meant that ordinary Irish citizens now had to prove legitimacy, age and other particulars.

In 1845 provisions were introduced by the government to enable the registration of non-Catholic marriages as well as marriages by civil contract.

But it was not until 1863 that the registration of births and deaths became compulsory in Ireland.  The Act did not include Catholic marriages until later that year. By 1 January 1864 a complete Irish civil registration system was in place.

Ireland was divided into 163 unions or districts, based on the parishes described under the Poor Law (Ireland) Act, 1838, for the registration of births, deaths and marriages. 

In 1922 the civil registration service was restructured to provide separate and independent registration systems for Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

The General Register Office website contains a full History of Registration in Ireland.

Irish genealogy online

Irish Genealogy.ie should be the first point of reference for Irish family research.

This is the website of the National Archives of Ireland and contains the most comprehensive collection of Irish birth, death and marriage records available.

Sir George Strickland Kingston, born in County Cork. Arrived in South Australia 1836. B 5030.

Other websites which might be useful include those listed below:

Irish cemetery websites

Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

Republic of Ireland - birth, death and marriage certificates

General Register Office of Ireland

Search Fees explained

General Register Office,
Government Offices,
Convent Road,
Roscommon,    IRELAND

Email: gro@groireland.ie

Items available from the General Register Office of Ireland:

  • Births 1864 - 1921, and Republic of Ireland (excluding the six counties of Derry, Antrim, Down, Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone known as Northern Ireland) 1922 onwards.
  • Deaths registered between 1864 and 1921 inclusive and Republic of Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland) 1922 onwards.
  • Non-Roman Catholic Marriages 1845 - 1863.
  • Marriages 1864 -1921 Republic of Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland) 1922 onwards.
  • Domestic adoptions registered from 10th July, 1953 onwards.
  • Births at sea of children one of whose parents was born in the Republic of Ireland, 1864 onwards.
  • Deaths at sea of persons born in the Republic of Ireland, 1864 onwards.
  • Births of children of Irish parents, certified by British Consuls abroad, 1864 - 1921.
  • Deaths of Irish-born persons, certified by British Consuls abroad, 1864 - 1921.
  • Marriages celebrated in Dublin by the late Rev. J F G Schulze, Minister of the German Protestant Church, Poolbeg Street , Dublin 1806 - 1837.
  • Births, Deaths and Marriages registered pursuant to the provisions of the (Army) Act, 1879.
  • Births and Deaths registered pursuant to the provisions of the Defence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1960.
  • Certain births and deaths occurring outside the State (pursuant to the provisions of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, 1972, Sec. 4).
  • Certain Lourdes marriages (pursuant to the provisions of the Marriages Act, 1972, Sec.2).
  • Stillbirths registered in Ireland from 1st January 1995 (certified copies available to parents only).
  • Deaths of Irish officers and enlisted persons killed in action or who died while serving abroad 1914 - 1919.
  • Death returns for Irish subjects during the South African War (1899 – 1902).

Northern Ireland - birth, death and marriage certificates

General Register Office - please note you need to buy credits before you are able to search birth, death, marriage, adoption and War War II deaths Indexes online. 

Basic search information

Search fees explained

General Register Office (GRO)
Oxford House
49-55 Chichester Street
Belfast
BT1 4HL

email: gro.nisra@dfpni.gov.uk

Items available from the General Register Office of Northern Ireland:

  • births registered from 1 January 1864 in what is now Northern Ireland
  • adoptions recorded in the Adopted Children Register Northern Ireland from 1 January 1931
  • deaths registered from 1 January 1864 in what is now Northern Ireland
  • registered non-Roman Catholic marriages from 1 April 1845 and all registered marriages from 1 January 1864
  • civil partnerships registered in Northern Ireland from 5 December 2005
  • World War II death indexes from 1939 to 1945

Irish church registers at the State Library

Irish gravestone inscriptions on microfiche

This item is available for use within the State Library of South Australia.

Counties Cork and Kerry

O'Kief, Coshe Mang, Slieve Lougher, and Upper Blackwater in Ireland, by Albert Eugene Casey

If your ancestors came from north-west Cork or east Kerry (Sliabh Luachra) it may be worth investigating this compilation.

O'Kief, Coshe Mang, Slieve Lougher, and Upper Blackwater in Ireland is a 15-volume work containing transcriptions of parish registers, histories of Cork and Kerry, the Annals of the Four Masters, headstone inscriptions, newspaper marriage and death notices the author's rather unusual speculations about the origins of the Celts, and the relationship of of the Irish to other European peoples.

The Cork City Council has compiled this helpful online index to the volumes.

The Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh's distinctive design depicts two hands clasping a heart, usually surmounted by a crown. The rings symbolise the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown). A "Fenian" Claddagh ring, without a crown, is a slightly different take on the design. Claddagh rings are popular among the Irish and those of Irish heritage, as symbols of friendship, and as engagement and wedding rings.

Claddagh rings are most often used as engagement and wedding rings. There are several mottos and wishes associated with the ring, such as: "Let love and friendship reign."  The Claddagh is sometimes handed down mother-to-eldest daughter or grandmother-to-granddaughter.  According to Irish author Colin Murphy, the way in which a Claddagh ring was worn with the intention of conveying the wearer's relationship status:

  1. On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is single and may be looking for love.
  2. On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is in a relationship.
  3. On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is engaged.
  4. On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is married.