Irish Genealogy: Finding Birth, Marriage, and Death Records

February 19, 2021  - by 
an irish family looks through a window.

When you are exploring the lives of your Irish ancestors, a top priority is finding records of their births, marriages, and deaths, also called BMDs or vital records. These kinds of records help you confirm your relatives’ identities, where and when they lived, and the identities of their nearest kin.

The most important source of your Irish ancestors’ BMDs for the past 150 years or more are civil registrations. Fortunately, civil registration information for millions of people is available online—much of it for free. Here’s where to look for Irish civil registration records and what you’re likely to find. 

Irish Civil Registration: BMDs since 1864

Ireland has kept civil registration records of all births, marriages, and deaths since 1864. (Some marriages were recorded prior to that.) Regional registration districts logged information about these vital events in surrounding villages. When the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland became separate nations in 1922, they began maintaining separate civil registrations too.

Begin your search for civil registration records with FamilySearch’s free collection, Ireland Civil Registration Indexes, 1845–1958, which has more than 23 million entries. Then access original records through government websites. The Republic of Ireland’s IrishGenealogy.ie database offers free images of many civil registrations; you can order copies of some others. The General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) has databases for all of what is now Northern Ireland. Run a basic search for free; pay a modest fee to view detailed results and original record images. For both countries, privacy limitations apply.

an irish baby with her mother, an event that would be recorded in irish records.

The following are details about each type of registration.

Irish Birth Registrations

Civil birth registrations typically include the following information:

  • The child’s name
  • The child’s sex
  • Birth date and place
  • Both parents’ names, including the mother’s birth surname
  • The father’s occupation and residence
  • The name and residence of the informant (the person providing the information)
  • Often, the informant’s relationship to the child

The free FamilySearch index includes births for all of Ireland (1864–1922) and the Republic of Ireland (1922–1958). IrishGenealogy.ie has original register images of births up to 1919. GRONI allows access to birth records older than 100 years.

Irish Marriage Registrations

Civil registration began for non-Catholic weddings in 1845 and for all marriages in 1864. In marriage registrations, you’ll find the following information:

  • The name of the bride and groom
  • The marriage date and place (including the denomination if it was a church wedding)
  • The bride’s and groom’s ages
  • The residences, occupations, and marital statuses of the bride and groom at the time of the wedding
  • Fathers’ names and occupations (and sometimes whether he was still living)

Marriage registers were typically signed by the bride, groom, and witnesses.

Marriages for the Republic of Ireland (through 1958) and Northern Ireland (through 1922) appear in FamilySearch’s free index. For Northern Ireland, GRONI makes marriage records available that are older than 75 years; these marriage records go back to 1845. For the Republic of Ireland, IrishGenealogy.ie has images of original marriage register from 1845 to 1944.

a historic irish building.

Irish Death Registrations

Civil registrations of deaths offer another glimpse into an Irish relative’s identity. These records include the following information:

  • The deceased’s name
  • The deceased’s age and marital status
  • His or her occupation
  • The date and place of death
  • Details surrounding the death

When a child died, parents’ names may be included in the record; so might the spouse’s name of a married or widowed woman. In what is now Northern Ireland, the death registration of an unmarried woman might give the name of her father.

Again, look to the free FamilySearch index for deaths across all of Ireland (1864–1922) and for the Republic of Ireland until 1958. GRONI’s death registration databases include deaths that occurred more than 50 years ago; the site also has an index dedicated to World War II deaths (1939–1945). At IrishGenealogy.ie, you’ll find register images from 1871 to 1969. (Records back to 1864 will eventually be added.)

The Irish flag.

Beyond Irish Civil Registrations: More BMDs

Civil registrations aren’t the only resource for learning about your relatives’ vital life events. Clues about births, marriages, and deaths may also appear in old newspapers. The British Newspaper Archive has over 750,000 digitized newspaper images for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Records date back to the 1700s, but the bulk of these are for the 1800s and 1900s. If a branch of a family emigrated, don’t forget to consult overseas newspaper collections too. Here’s how one researcher discovered unique details about an Irish family wedding in newspapers.

As you dig further back in time for Irish BMDs—before civil registrations and even before surviving newspaper coverage—you’ll eventually find yourself turning to church records. Your ancestors in today’s Republic of Ireland were most likely Catholic, though wealthy Anglo-Irish families often belonged to the Church of Ireland. In what is now Northern Ireland, your ancestors were most likely Catholic, Church of Ireland, or Presbyterian. Depending on the time and place, they may have belonged to another church. Learn more about Irish church records.

Search for Irish Ancestors

Start your search for your Irish ancestors in FamilySearch’s free collections.

Sunny Morton

Sunny Morton teaches personal and family history to worldwide audiences. She's a Contributing Editor at Family Tree Magazine, past Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems, and the author of How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records (co-authored with Harold Henderson, CG); Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy; "Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites," and hundreds of articles. She has degrees in history and humanities from Brigham Young University. Read her work at sunnymorton.com.

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  1. I think my dad was buried in Ireland A place called Antrim has he was a catholic also trying to find who his father was and if l have any more brothers and sisters

  2. Do you have records from the 1700’s? My ancestor Hugh Cooper, born about 1720 in County Armagh, Ulster, Northern Ireland, came to the U.S. in about 1757 with other family members.

  3. I found an article in a magazine that showed Irish linen crocheting. My grandmother crocheted many items like that and I was curious to find out if she was Irish by birth. There is one entry that speaks of an Irish wedding in the English line. I really would like to know more about that line. She has made many doilies in that unique type of
    crocheting using fabric as a start. I remember a jabot on a neck piece. Her name now is Hannah Ringrose, married to Octave Frederik Ursenbach, who came from …Geneva Switzerland, who speaks French so he could be French, as his line quits in Switzerland with his Father’