Finding ancestry records from Northern Ireland can be a bit difficult at times due to the division of the Emerald Isle that took place in 1922. Many people don’t realize that the North’s six counties were already part of the UK from as early as 1801. These six counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Londonderry still are part Northern Ireland, but at one point in history the North’s counties also included Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan, which are now part of the Republic of Ireland in the South. As you can see, it is possible that some ancestry records from the North may now be kept in the Republic, or vice versa. In this article I’ll attempt to remove any confusion about the country’s division and direct you to where you can find Northern Ireland ancestry records.
This is an often asked question, and a reputable one, as many ancestry records can be found online these days. The administration centre for Northern Ireland, and hence where all vital records are kept, is Belfast. Here is located the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI). Their website does have an online ordering facility, but it doesn’t yet have an online indexing system for ancestry records. They are planning to offer this in the future, but as to what it will contain and how accessible it will be has not yet been decided.Try Ancestry.com and get 14 Days FREE!
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The GRONI is the caretaker of all records for the Northern Counties from 1922 to present, but before 1922, the situation is slightly complicated. They hold copies of all BDM ancestry records from 1864 to 1921, but no marriage records for the period covering 1845 to 1921. These certificates are held by local supervisory registrars, and although you can order them online at the GRONI website, they have to be physically searched for which in turn makes them quite expensive – about $20 each. A cheaper way to get this type of record is to order copies through the General register Office (GRO) in the Republic.
On the website of the GRO, you can order the ancestry records that cost $20 each in the North for half that price. Although neither the GRO nor the GRONI have online indexes, there is a place that you can find them – FamilySearch.org. The Family Search website’s Records Search Pilot offers copies of the indexes in an online format. Here you can browse ancestry records from Northern Ireland, and if you find ancestors, can order a copy of their certificate or record from the GRO. This can save you a bundle if you’re searching multiple ancestors.
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There are other websites that are useful in searching ancestor records from Northern Ireland, especially vital or BMD (Birth, Death, and Marriage) records. Transcripts of many civil and parish records are accessible for the Northern counties at the Irish Family History Foundation. Copies of original documents her cost £5, which is around $8. Another valuable website for Irish ancestry records in general is Emerald Ancestors. Although this is a subscription site, they have a wealth of indexes available to search, and membership is reasonable at £9.99 ($16.00). It is an especially valuable site if you’re searching Northern Ireland ancestry records from before the partition of Ireland.
The National Archives of the Republic of Ireland also holds the 1911 Census Report for Northern Ireland, which is actually closed to public access in England. The Census has been digitized and can be found on their website. They also plan to digitize the 1901 Census and add it to their catalogue, so bookmark this site and check back with it regularly if you’re looking to find Northern Ireland ancestry records.
Hopefully this information will prove useful to you when searching ancestors from Northern Ireland. Although there are other sites where you may find Northern Ireland ancestry records, these are the major ones, and will hopefully point you in the right direction to find ancestors from the six northern counties.
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