Last week I looked at the first five locations, all in Dublin. This week I’ll expand to places outside of Dublin.
In 2011 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. The majority of the documents date from the 1600s up to the present day. 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 from 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 Down, Antrim, Armagh, Tyrone, Derry and Fermanagh have all gone to PRONI (and just this past year they have digitized them and put them online). PRONI also has church records including microfilms of a large number of Presbyterian registers. 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.
7. The Linen Hall Library - Belfast
Located on Donegall Square, just across from City Hall, the Linen Hall Library is the oldest library in Belfast, having just 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.
8. General Register Office of Northern Ireland - GRONI
This is the office that 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 is available either at the GRO in Dublin or at GRONI in Belfast. You can make an appointment at GRONI and for a fee, use their computer indexes. These indexes are easier to use and your fee includes a limited number of verifications, where you can verbally confirm with a staff member that you have the correct certificate before you purchase it. You can read my blog from last year which explains the process at GRONI. Here’s the really good news! GRONI went live with online indexes in April, which you can read about here. Not only can you use the indexes but you can purchase a digital image of the certificate online. I may have to re-think this location, because I’m not sure you have to go here anymore!
As a backup to GRONI, another repository in Belfast is the Ulster Historical Society. Their library is located a short bus ride from Befast Central at 49 Malone Road. 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.
If you are doing any traveling in Ireland, I highly recommend a visit to Cobh (formerly Queenstown) in Cork. For many of our ancestors, this was their point of departure to America. The Cobh Heritage Center, located in a restored Victorian Railway Station, tells the story of emigration in a multimedia exhibit. It is a moving experience. Here you’ll also find the matching statue to the Ellis Island one of Annie Moore and her brothers.
In addition to the emigration center, this was also the last stop of the Titanic, as well as the location where the passengers (both dead and alive) were brought from the Lusitania, so there is a great deal of history here.
10. Genealogy Centres and County Libraries
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. When visiting your ancestors home county, you should plan a visit to the County Genealogy Centre if it is operating. Most of them 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.
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