How to Order B/M/D Certificates - Contributed by Cindy Wood

Civil registration in Ireland took place in 2 waves.  Beginning April 1845, civil registration of non-Catholic marriages began.  On January 1, 1864, civil registration of births and deaths began and registration of Catholic marriages was added.  The General Registers Office in Dublin maintains country wide indices for the registered births, deaths and marriages.  From 1864 to 1922, these are for all of Ireland, as well as the 1845-1863 indices for non Catholic marriages.  After 1922, they maintain the indices for only the Republic of Ireland.  Records for Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone after 1922 are maintained by Public Records Office of N. Ireland, located in Belfast.  PRONI also has indices for the 1845-63 non Catholic marriages and the pre 1922 indices for the province of Ulster.  Each county also has a Registry office that maintains copies of the birth, marriage death registrations commencing in 1864.  They do not have copies of the non Catholic marriage registrations prior to 1864, which are held in church custody (and may be found in either local church custody or the custody of the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin).  Prior to 1871, births, deaths and marriages were not registered by quarter.  Noting their references for the purpose of ordering will involve only the year, volume number and page number found in the index.  After 1871, all events were registered by quarter and it will be necessary to check each index book for that year by quarter.  Any event occurring in the latter part of the quarter may actually be registered in the following quarter.  References after 1871 will need to include the year, the quarter, the volume and the page number.  It should be noted that a portion of all births, deaths and marriages went unregistered.  It is estimated that this is in the range of 15% for all.  Cross-checking with church parish records is always recommended. 

Birth certificate will contain the name, sex and date of birth of the person, the name of the parents (including the maiden name of the mother), the residence of the family, and the name and address of the informant.   Starting in 1904, in the GRO, the index for births also included the maiden name of the mother.  Registration of a birth was to be done within 6 weeks of the birth, to avoid fines.  You will occasionally find that people "made up" a new birth date for a birth registration to avoid the payment of fines.   Therefore, you may occasionally find that a person's civil birth registration shows a date of birth that came after their christening date!  .As well, you may encounter the listing in a birth registration as Male or Female.  In that case, you may want to consider contacting the county registration office to see if a Christian name for the infant was later added to the registration book. 

Death certificates contain the name of the deceased, date of death, marital status of the deceased at the time of their death, age at death, cause of death,  and the name and address of the informant and their relationship to the deceased.  It will NOT list where the person was buried.  If the person died in a Workhouse, the certificate is supposed to list the townland that the person came from, though it very often does not.  Additionally, both the age and marital status of the decedent can be misleading.  In many cases, the age of the decedent is rounded up, or even guessed at, by the informant.  Use the stated age on a death certificate as a guide only unless you have independent confirmation (a birth certificate or a christening record) of the year of birth.  The most common error on the marital status is that the informant indicated the person was married, when in fact they may be widowed.  In Dublin, the index for deaths also includes the age of the deceased person. 

Marriage certificates show the names of the bride and groom as well as their "marital" status at the time of this marriage (spinster, bachelor, widower, widow).  It will also list their residence at the time of marriage, their occupation if any, names of their fathers, and the occupation and residence of the fathers, names of the 2 witnesses to the marriage, as well as the priest or clergyman who performed the service.  If the bride has been married previously, the name on the marriage certificate in almost all circumstances WILL NOT be her maiden name.  As well, if the bride is a widow, the new marriage certificate will be registered under the surname of her first marriage as opposed to her maiden name.  The entry in the index will also be under her former married name with possibly a further note of her maiden name, i.e., Flanagan, Margaret als Powell.  It will not be listed in the index under her maiden name.  Though it was not required, many clerks made note on the marriage certificate if the father of the bride or groom was deceased at the time of marriage.  The marriage certificate also has a spot for the age of the bride and groom.  Unfortunately, until approximately the start of the 20th century, this generally did not list a chronological age, rather it would state if the bride or groom were of full age to marry or that they were a minor, who would than have required a guardian's consent to marry.  Full age for both a bride and groom was 21 years of age.  While it is generally safe to assume a groom with an age listed as full is at least 21 years old, that is not the case with a bride.  Often, a clerk noted the age as full for a bride if she had merely attained at least 18 years of age. 

Responsibility for providing information for the birth and death certificates lay with someone "present" for the birth or death, or having knowledge of the event.  Most generally this is the mother, father or some other relative.  The responsibility for providing the information for the marriage certificate was with the church, i.e., the person who performed the ceremony.  As a result, information contained on a marriage certificate is more often incorrect in significant ways, such as the Christian names of the fathers of the bride and groom.  On occasion, it can be incorrect in extreme ways, as a friend of mine found when she learned that her name had been inadvertently placed as the bride's name on her sister's marriage certificate (in the mid 1990s) and the bride’s name was placed as the witness to the marriage.

There are other things to consider when using the indices.  Surname spelling did not become standardized until the 20th century.  If your relative had a surname that could be spelled a number of different ways, look under all variations of the spelling.  Even though my family spelled the name Keas, I've found listings under Keays, Keayes, Keys, Keyes, Kayes and Keyse.  As well, prefixes to surnames were often omitted, so O'Connor became Connor and then later in the century reversed and once again was O'Connor.  Like surnames, Christian names present problems, in that people may have been known only by a nickname.  Your great grandmother may have been Delia from the day she was born until the day she died, but if you don't find her birth certificate with that name, look for her as Bridget.  Your grandfather may have been called Edward, Ted or Ned, but his name on his birth certificate may very well have been Edmund. 

Things to consider in searching for a registration can be influenced by whether you are searching in the county offices or in the General Registers Office in Dublin.  In Dublin, the certificates are not registered by county, rather they are registered by Poor Law Union.  Poor Law Unions often crossed a county line, so someone born in Co. Clare could fall into the Limerick Poor Law Union.  In Tipperary, the Poor Law Unions were Borrisokane, Carrick on Suir, Cashel, Clogheen, Clonmel, Nenagh, Roscrea, Thurles and Tipperary.  If you have a surname that could be considered even remotely common, you should know the Poor Law Union that your relative’s residence fell in to have even a chance of locating certificates relevant to your search.  That way, if you know your granny, Bridget Ryan, was born in Newport, you can begin with an assumption that a birth certificate for Bridget Ryan registered in Rathkeale is not your granny.  If you are searching indices at the local county level, these are filed under Registrars Districts, a subdivision of the Poor Law Union.   For example, in the county office, certificates that are listed as Nenagh in Dublin will be filed under the following subdistricts:  Nenagh, Newport, Portroe, Silvermines and Toomyvara.  As well, an index in the local office will cover a number of years as opposed to just one year.

Costs involved in your search will remain the same, whether you are searching in the local office or in Dublin.  Local offices do not generally set aside space for researchers and it is advised that you call ahead to arrange research times at the local office.  While you are in the local office, please be aware that their staff continues to work around you, and you will be asked to forego searching in a particular book if they need it. 

Fees for research

General Search:  This is an all day fee of € 15.24.  It allows unlimited access to all indices in that location.  It does not include the cost of any photocopy.  In the county offices, the index for any particular registration book is found in the back of the registration book.  You will be asked to not look at the actual registration, but rather seek the assistance of a staff member to obtain a photocopy of the registration. 


Limited Search:  A limited search allows access to any 5 year span of birth, marriage or death indices.  The limited search costs € 1.90.  It does not include the cost of any photocopy you may need. 


Photocopies when you are able to supply the reference codes for their location cost € 1.90.  If you cannot supply the references, and need staff assistance to locate the registration, it will cost  € 3.81.  If you are conducting your research from the local office, please make sure to specify that you need only a photocopy of the registration; otherwise you will be given a hand transcribed copy of the long form certificate and charged accordingly.


Long form certificates cost € 6.98.  For citizenship issues, long form certificates are required.  Short form birth certificates are available for social welfare assistance and cost € 4.44.  As a rule, for genealogical purposes, you are better off getting the photocopy of the entry at a cost of € 1.90.  Ordering the actual certificate in long or short form will result in a clerk hand copying the actual entry—if they have trouble with the handwriting of 1864 or whenever, they will write what they think it is. 


Payment of Fees

Local offices are able to accept only cash payments in euros, bank drafts drawn on an Irish bank or international money orders denominated in euro.  They are no longer able to accept personal checks in any other denomination, including American and Australian dollars or pounds sterling, nor do they accept credit or debit cards. 


The General Registers Office in Dublin is able to accept credit card payments for actual certificates ordered.  If you are paying in cash, it must be in euros.  Bank drafts drawn on an Irish bank or an international money order denominated in euros are also permissible.  Please note that the Research Room is only able to accept cash, in euros, not checks, credit or debit cards.  There is a limit of 5 photocopies per day if you are conducting your research in the research room due to staff shortages.  Therefore, if you know you are in need of more than 5 photocopies, it is recommended that you make your request for these photocopies in writing via the post, allowing you to pay by credit card. 


Staff in the General Registers Office ask that if you are making a written request for photocopies, please group requests for marriages together, births together and deaths together.  Though they will not refuse to process a request for more than 30 photocopies, they generally prefer that you request no more than 30 in any one order.  Written requests do not receive expedited services, and processing time is approximately one month from the date you mail your order.

GRO Website - applying for a cert

Hours of Service


The General Registers Office in Dublin is open from 9:30 until 4:30.  They no longer close for the lunch hour, though service time during the lunch hour is slower.  If you are going to be using the research room, please queue to the left side of the main entrance of the building and you will be sent directly to the research room upon opening. 


Local offices are also open from 9:30 until 4:30 and nearly all close for lunch... 




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