Family History FAQ

Listed below are some frequently asked questions about Family History at the National Library of Ireland.

Do you have census records?

Surviving census records are in the custody of the National Archives of Ireland. The earliest complete surviving census is that of 1901. The census of 1911 is also available for public consultation.


Why are there no census records available before 1901?

Full government censuses were taken of the whole island in 1821, 1831, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 1901, and 1911. The first four, for 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851, were largely destroyed in 1922, in the fire at the Public Record Office (now the National Archives of Ireland). Those for 1861 1871 1881 and 1891 were completely destroyed earlier, by order of the government.

This means that the earliest surviving comprehensive returns are for 1901 and 1911. The normal rule that census returns should not be available to the public for 100 years has been suspended in Ireland.

The 1901 and the 1911 Census records for the whole of Ireland are now available online at www.nationalarchives.ie


Are there census substitutes?

There are a number of records which may be used as Census Substitutes, many of which are held here in the Library. Lists of the most important of these census substitutes can be found in John Grenham’s book Tracing Your Irish Ancestors and in James Ryan’s Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History.


How can I obtain a copy of a birth / marriage / death certificate for my ancestor?

The Civil or State registration of marriages, other than Catholic marriages, commenced in Ireland in 1845. In 1864 civil registration of all births, marriages and deaths began in Ireland . Copies of birth, deaths and marriage certificates can be obtained from the General Register Office.


My ancestor was born/married/died before 1864, how do I find records for him/her?

Before civil registration began in Ireland, baptisms, marriages and deaths were recorded in the parish registers. The National Library has microfilm copies – usually up to the year 1880 – of most surviving Roman Catholic parish registers. These are available for consultation in the Reading Room in the Library. See the Parish Registers section of this site for more information.


Do I need a Reader’s Ticket to consult the parish registers on microfilm?

No, you just need a Microfilm/Newspaper pass which can be obtained from our staff at the Information/Ticket Desk. See the Readers' Tickets section for more information on access to the Library's various collections.


Can I order copies from the Catholic parish registers on microfilm?

The National Library does not provide copies of, or transcriptions from, registers. However researchers are permitted to copy relevant entries themselves using our self-service reader scanner.  

Original and post-1880 registers are generally in the custody of the local Parish Priest. Up-to-date parish contact detail addresses can be obtained from the annual Irish Catholic Directory.

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My ancestor was not Catholic, where would I find parish records for him / her?

Church of Ireland: Unfortunately many original church records were destroyed in the 1922 Public Record Office fire. Some original registers are held in the National Archives of Ireland, others are in the Representative Church Body Library while some are retained in the parish. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland also holds many original and copy registers.

Presbyterian: Enquiries regarding Presbyterian records can be addressed to the Presbyterian Historical Society.

Methodist: Prior to the 1810’s, records of Methodist births, marriages and deaths are found in Church of Ireland registers. For details of surviving registers after that date, contact the Methodist church in the area closest to your area of research. For addresses of Methodist churches in Ireland, please consult the Methodist Church in Ireland website. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland holds a county-by-county listing of surviving registers and their locations for the Ulster Counties.

Quaker: For Quaker records, contact the Historical Library of the Religious Society of Friends.

Jewish: For information on Jewish records, contact the Irish Jewish Museum, 3-4 Walworth Street (off Victoria St.), South Circular Road, Dublin 8. Tel/Fax: +353 1 490 1857.

Do you have the Tithes Applotment Books and Griffith’s Valuation?

There are copies of both of these records in the Library, together with the county by county Index of Surnames, an alphabetical listing of the surnames recorded in both records, broken down by County, Barony, and Civil Parish. More information about these records is available in our Family History What We Have section.

Griffith’s Valuation is available online at http://www.irishorigins.com/ on a pay per view basis. It can be consulted free of charge in the Reading Room of the Library.


Do you have the original manuscript records for Griffith’s Valuation such as the field books,

No, the manuscript records of the survey such as the ‘field books’, ‘house books’ and ‘tenure books’ (which contain information additional to that given in the published valuation) are held in the National Archives of Ireland.


Are there any other original valuation records available?

Yes, the “Cancelled Land Books” and “Current Land Books” are held in the Valuation Office which was set up to administer the Primary Valuation. These books give details of all changes in holdings, from the time of the original valuation, up to the present day.

The Valuation Office also holds the Ordnance Survey maps annotated/coloured to accompany the Valuation.


How can I look after my Family Papers?

Please consult our Caring for Family Papers FAQ page.

NLI Reference: WIL9[12]
NLI Reference: WIL9[12]
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