Every family story is unique and each story is worth telling and although researching your family history is a rewarding commitment and can lead to some fascinating discoveries, it can also be frustrating and every researcher will encounter a different research experience.

To help you get started with your research, the Foundation has included a list below of some commonly asked questions relating to Irish family history research, as well as offering some useful information advice and guidance.

Some Useful Abbreviations

  • GRO - General Register Office
  • LC - Local Custody
  • M - Methodist
  • NAI - National Archives of Ireland
  • NLI - National Library of Ireland
  • P - Presbyterian
  • PRONI - Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
  • RC - Roman Catholic
  • UHF - Ulster Historical Foundation

All references, unless otherwise stated, are for documents held by PRONI.

What are the different religious denominations in Ireland?

Prior to the commencement of civil registration the main sources of family history information are church registers. PRONI has a vast collection of microfilms and photostat copies of church records, as well as some original material, relating to nearly all denominations in Ulster. Family historians should consult the Guide to Church Records available on NIDirect. This lists, parish by parish, all the church records held by PRONI. Copies of the Guide are also available in the Public Search Room in PRONI.

What records can be used when researching pre-1800 ancestors?

When searching for ancestors prior to the 19th century, the best single work of reference is Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors. The essential genealogical guide to early modern Ulster by Dr William Roulston and published by the Ulster Historical Foundation. This provides a detailed guide to records from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the more important ‘census substitutes’ from this period are set out below.

How can I find out if one of my ancestors left a will?

Once the date of death of an ancestor has been discovered, it is worth finding out whether they left a will. Wills contain not only the name, address and occupation of the testator, but can also include details of the larger family network. Many wills also include the addresses and occupations of the beneficiaries, witnesses and executors. It must be borne in mind, however, that the vast majority of people did not make a will.

Are there any printed sources that might help me?

Printed sources come in various forms, from academic histories to single page descriptions of buildings or families. Many family histories have been compiled, while there are numerous genealogical guides in print. The Linen Hall Library in Belfast has an excellent collection of published local and family histories. Some printed sources are clearly more useful than others. The more important ones include:

Useful Addresses

Belfast Central Library

Royal Avenue
Belfast, BT1 1EA
Telephone: (028) 9050 9150
E-mail: belfast.central@librariesni.org.uk
Website: www.librariesni.org.uk

General Register Office

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency

Colby House
Stranmillis Court
Belfast, BT9 5RR
Telephone: (0300) 200 7890
E-mail: gro.nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk
Website: www.nidirect.gov.uk/gro

Linen Hall Library

17 Donegall Square North
Belfast, BT1 5GD
Telephone: (028) 9032 1707
E-mail: info@linenhall.com
Website: www.linenhall.com

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

2 Titanic Boulevard
Titanic Quarter
Belfast, BT3 9HQ
Telephone: (028) 9053 4800
E-mail: proni@communities-ni.gov.uk
Website: www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni

General Register Office

Government Offices,
Convent Road,
Tel: +353 (0) 90 6632900
Email: gro@groireland.ie
Website: https://www2.hse.ie/births-deaths-and-marriages/

National Archives of Ireland

Bishop Street
Dublin 8
Telephone: +353 (01) 407 2300
E-mail: mail@nationalarchives.ie
Website: www.nationalarchives.ie

National Library of Ireland

Kildare Street
Dublin 2
Telephone: +353 (01) 603 0200
E-mail: info@nli.ie
Website: www.nli.ie

Registry of Deeds

Henrietta Street
Dublin 1
Telephone: 0761 001610 or 051 303000
E-mail: registryofdeeds@prai.ie
Website: www.prai.ie/registry-of-deeds-services/

Mellon Centre for Migration Studies

Ulster-American Folk Park
2 Mellon Road
Omagh, Co. Tyrone, BT78 5QY
Telephone: (028) 8225 6315
E-mail: mcms@librariesni.org.uk
Website: https://mellonmigrationcentre.com/

Valuation Office of Ireland

Irish Life Centre
Lower Abbey Street
Dublin 1
Telephone: +353 (01) 817 1035
E-mail: archive_mail@valoff.ie
Website: www.valoff.ie