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Public Records Office of Northern Ireland 

   If you have ancestors from the six counties of Northern Ireland, or even from some of the border counties, you’re probably already familiar with PRONI. Created in 1923 and currently located in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast, PRONI’s mission is to collect records of historical significance, both governmental and private.   Because of the loss of records at the Public Records Office in 1922 in Dublin, PRONI has added the mission of collecting private records that can be used to substitute for some of the lost records.  Records accessioned from the private sector include church records, business records, landed estate archives and solicitor records.

   PRONI’s website contains a number of online record sets which you can search by name or location.  Before doing so, make sure that you understand the purpose and content of these databases.  None of these records covered everyone in Northern Ireland, and some record sets, such as the Freeholder’s database, had specific requirements.  Prior to 1797 only Protestants with a freehold worth at least 40 shillings could vote.  Here’s where the Information Leaflets  and Online Guides can be helpful.  The Online Guide on Church Records, lists all of the church records by location, then by denomination which are held at PRONI.  (Admittedly, this is a bit out of date as it was published in 2010, however, most church records were accessioned before that date.)  

   One of my favorite resources is the Valuation Revision Books.  They only cover the six northern counties, but are a goldmine.  PRONI did it right, and we can only hope that the Valuation Office in Dublin is taking notes!

   And don’t forget to check out PRONI’s YouTube channel.  Many of the lectures conducted at PRONI are filmed and cover a broad range of topics.  In addition there is Your Family Tree Lecture Series to help you along. 

   The vast majority of the collections of PRONI, however, are not online (which is why you want to visit).  To find out what they might have of interest, you need to use their Online Catalog.  Typically, you will not be typing in your ancestor’s name, although with an unusual name something might come up such as a lease in one of the major estate collections.  It’s more helpful to type in a location, a parish, or even a townland and then determine which records might include your ancestor or family.  Although Leitrim is not one of the six northern counties, PRONI has a number of documents that cover the parish of Rossinver.  

    I only get 8 results, but one is the church records for the parish church that I need to search.  Notice that the baptisms and burials don’t start until 1876…the earlier records, which went back to 1827 were lost in the Public Records Office fire in 1922.

   If I search the parish of Anahilt in County Down, one of the northern counties, I get 129 results.

   And, if I search for Downshire (the Marquis of Downshire was the landlord in Anahilt) I get too many results (more than 5000).  A search for Downshire Estate turns up 595 records.

   As I mentioned, you usually won’t be searching for your ancestor’s name in the catalog, but if you do, you may turn up a few records.  A search on Moag gives me two Coroner’s Reports.  One is open (and I have a copy of it) but the later one is still closed.

   Even though it’s PRONI, don’t forget to check for interesting records on your ancestors in the Republic.  A search on Waterford returns over 3500 documents.  PRONI didn’t limit their accession of private records just to the northern counties.  

  So if you have ancestors from Northern Ireland you definitely want to put PRONI on your list of to do’s.  If your ancestors were in the Republic, don’t forget to check the locality in the PRONI catalog to see if a visit is appropriate.

   Happy Hunting!

If you’d like to visit PRONI next October, let me know.  If there is enough interest I’ll plan a trip to Belfast as well as to Dublin.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018