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Researching Outside of Dublin

  If you have ancestors who lived in Ulster (or the bordering counties), then you’ll want to visit Belfast.  Here are some of their repositories.


  In 2011, the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) relocated from it’s location on Balmoral Avenue in South Belfast to the Titanic Quarter.  It’s new modern building provides an excellent environment for research.  This is the place to go if you’re researching your Northern Ireland ancestors.  PRONI was created in 1923, just after the partition, to house public documents including both government and privately deposited archives.  Their documents date from the 1600s up to the present day, although like all of Ireland anything before the beginning of civil registration is incomplete.  You’ll find records, not just of the current six counties of Northern Ireland, but also from traditional Ulster, including Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan.   Many records for the six counties after partition have been sent from Dublin to Belfast, so, for example, the Revision Books, housed at the Valuation Office in Dublin for the Republic, for Down, Antrim, Armagh, Tyrone, Derry and Fermanagh have all gone to PRONI (they are online at the PRONI website).  PRONI also has a large collection of church registers on microfilm for Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian denominations.  They also have an extensive collection of estate records that cover many estates in the Republic as well as in Northern Ireland.  For example they hold the the Villiers-Stuart records from Waterford.

   Prior to your visit, make sure you check out their holdings, and even if you’re not visiting Belfast, you can take advantage of their online records and indexes.

   Located on Donegall Square, just across from City Hall, the Linen Hall Library is the oldest library in Belfast, having recently celebrated its 225th birthday.  It is best known for its Irish and Local Studies Collection.  Here you’ll find histories of counties, parishes and churches, as well as newspaper collections and the original six inch Ordnance Survey Maps for the six northern counties.


   The General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI)holds the civil registration certificates of births, deaths and marriages for Northern Ireland.  Civil registration began in 1864 for all births, deaths and marriages, and in 1845 for Protestant marriages.  When Ireland was partitioned in 1922, copies of all of the earlier registrations for the six counties were provided to GRONI, so anything prior to 1922 for Northern Ireland is available either at the GRO in Dublin or at GRONI in Belfast.   GRONI has put the indexes online including the exact date of the events and for births, the mother’s maiden name and you can purchase a digital image of the certificate using credits on their site.  If only the GRO in Dublin would take a lesson!

   As a backup to GRONI, another repository in Belfast is the Ulster Historical Society.  They have recently moved from their location at 49 Malone Road and are now at 31 Gordon Street in downtown Belfast.  If you are researching Northern Irish ancestors, you may already be a member of the Society and have access to their large collection of databases.  They also have a library with over 2500 titles, with many published and unpublished genealogies and gravestone inscriptions.  

   About an hour from Belfast in Omagh is the Ulster American Folk Park.  If you’re in the area, don’t miss it!  It’s the Plimouth Platation of Ireland, developed by the Mellon family.  You enter the Folk Park through the Museum, and wonder through mid-18th century Ireland including cottages, farms and churches, with characters explaining their life and work at the time.  You eventually come upon the Quay where a ship is waiting to take you to America.  You board theship and walk through the living conditions onboard, and when you leave the ship, you’re in America with farms, houses, etc. Also located here is the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, an excellent library with a large collection of books, as well as an emigration database of over 33,000 primary source documents.  

   When traveling outside of Dublin to the area where your ancestors lived, make sure you visit the local Genealogy or Heritage Centre as well as the County Library.  Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Heritage Centres (now County Genealogy Centres) were set up in each county to provide visitors with information about the ancestors.  Because of the high unemployment, they were used to train young people on computer skills by having them create a database of church and other local records.  You cannot do your own research in these centers, but for a fee, they will search their records and provide information.  Some of the Centres have closed and today, the computerized records have been compiled by the Irish Family History Foundation in a pay-per-view database.   Most of the Centres have publications about the area (to purchase) but they also have a great deal of local knowledge.  You may not want them to do research for you, but they can point you to local resources that could be helpful.  

   The same is true for the local studies librarian in the County Library (just Google County Library with the name of the county).  You never know what you’ll find until you look (my mantra).  In the Leitrim County Library they had an entire wall with card indexes from the local newspapers.

   So if you planning to visit Ireland, I hope this top ten list for genealogists is helpful to you.  But even if you’re going to research, don’t forget to take time to see the beautiful country.  Check out the Top Ten Places to Visit in Ireland.  

   Happy Hunting!

Would you like to research in Ireland?  A great way to go is with a research group.  Check out my Dublin Research Trip for October of 2016.  I’m still willing to take a group to Belfast if there is enough interest.  Email me.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018