A User’s Guide to the General Register Office in Dublin, by Eileen Ó Dúill

The General Register Office (GRO), holds vital records and is generally the first stop for family historians visiting Dublin. To be precise, there are three General Register Offices on the island of Ireland. Since the beginning of civil registration of births, marriages and deaths, the General Register Office of Ireland was located in Dublin. Beginning in 1922, all civil records for the six counties of Northern Ireland are found at the General Register Office in Belfast.

Under a government decentralization programme, the General Register Office was moved from Dublin to Roscommon town in 2005. A campaign, spearheaded by genealogists and family historians, convinced the Irish government to guarantee a full research facility in the city of Dublin. This research facility, the third General Register Office, provides photocopies of records while the GRO in Roscommon issues certificates. So, Dublin is the place to go to research your family history after 1845.

What Am I Looking For?
Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths for the whole population of Ireland began in 1864. Marriages of non-Catholics began on 1 April 1845. Indexes up to 1877 are annual and from 1878 onward they are done on a quarterly basis. From 1903, the index to births includes the maiden name of the mother of the child which is a great help in identifying the correct record. (Remember that after 1921, records for the six counties of Northern Ireland are found in the GRO in Belfast.)

Format of GRO Indices
Indexes to the vital records held at the GRO are compiled on a yearly/quarterly basis in alphabetical order by surname. Some maternity hospitals registered children simply as male or female, while parents provided given names in baptismal registers. Check male and female entries as well as the given name.

Beginning in 1903 in Dublin, the mother’s maiden name is included in the index to births. When searching for a marriage, ensure that the names of the bride and groom cross reference to the same volume, page and quarter. 

The LDS church has filmed the indices to births, marriages, and deaths up to 1958. These are available on microfilm through your local Family History Centre. In addition they have filmed the certificates of birth from 1864 to the first quarter of 1881. Births from 1900 to 1913 have also been filmed. Marriages and deaths up to 1870 are also available. Check the FamilySearch website (www.familysearch.org) for the International Genealogical Index.

While many Irish records have not been microfilmed by the LDS, you can still do preliminary research in your local FHC before you come to Ireland. Become familiar with the area you ancestors came from. The index shows the Superintendent Registrar’s District, not the county or town so identify the correct SRD for you family. A short bibliography has been provided to assist you.  
How To Get There
In November 2007, the General Register Office research room was moved from the cramped often overcrowded location in Lombard Street. The new facility is across the Liffey at the Irish Life Centre on the north side of the city. From O’Connell Street it is a short walk down Abbey Street walking in the direction of the Customs House. When you reach the plaza where you see a large fountain, turn in to the left and walk toward the shopping mall entrance where you will see the door to building 5/6.

Take the elevator to the 3rd floor and you will be pleasantly surprised by the new, spacious and user friendly office. The desks are larger, the room is well ventilated and the best news is that the index volumes are now on open shelves! Gone are the days when we had to queue to be given 5 books at a time. You can help yourself to the books you need saving valuable research time and short tempers.

How Does It Work?
Once you arrive in the General Register Office, you should select a desk and then approach the counter. At this point, your first decision is a choice between a particular search and a general search fee. The fee for a particular search is Euro 2 for 5 consecutive years of births, marriage or deaths. If you plan to search less than 50 years of indexes, this is the search for you. You need to pay for each “set” of books as you proceed by completing a form and approaching the counter.

The general search fee of Euro 20 allows you all-day access to all of the indexes. This means you can switch between births and marriages and take a few books at a time. It saves you the hassle of filling multiple search forms and allows greater freedom for the researcher who plans to spend several hours doing research.

The second fee at the General Register Office is a Euro 4 charge to view the actual record. While searching in the index you should make note of the name, registry district, volume and page number, as well as the year and, where applicable, the quarter of the record you wish to view. Choose wisely as there is a limit of 5 records per person per day. If you bring a friend, they too can have 5 records so plan accordingly.
Researching in Dublin can be challenging but with adequate preparation, patience and perseverance, you will find the experience enjoyable. My husband Sean and I spend a great deal of time in the GRO. When you come, ask Declan, Sheena, Liam, Gary or Jennifer–the very helpful GRO staff–whether the Ó Dúills are there. Mention this article and we’ll see what we can do to help you get started.

Eileen and Sean Ó Dúill
Castelknock, Dublin, Ireland
GRO Addresses and opening hours:

General Register Office        
Irish Life Centre           
Middle Abbey Street            
Dublin 1                          
9:30 AM- 4:30 PM  

General Register Office
Church Street
(No research facility)

General Register Office
Oxford House
49-55 Chicester
(By appointment)
Map: The map accompanying this article shows the location of several major repositories in Dublin. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) Thanks to the National Archives of Ireland and Pamela Bradley for allowing us to reproduce the map. The repositories numbered on the follow:

Dublin map.jpg

1) National Archives of Ireland
Bishop St.
Dublin 8
Tel: (01)407 2300
Fax: (01)407 2333
Mon-Fri: 10:00-17:00

2) National Library of Ireland
Kildare St.
Dublin 2
Tel: (01)603 0200
Fax: (01)676 6690
Mon-Wed: 9:30-21:00
Thurs-Fri: 9:30-17:00
Sat: 9:30-13:00

4) Dublin City Library & Dublin City Archives
Gilbert Library
138-144 Pearse St.
Dublin 2
Tel: (01)674 4999
Fax: (01)674 4881
Mon-Thurs: 10:00-20:00
Fri-Sat: 10:00-17:00

5) General Register Office
Block 7: 3rd Floor
Irish Life Centre
Lower Abbey Street
Dublin 1
Tel: 090 663 2900
Fax: 090 663 999
Locally: 1890 252076
Valuation Office
Irish Life Centre
Lower Abbey St.
Dublin 1
Tel: (01)817 1000
Fax: (01)817 1190
Mon-Fri: 9:15-16:30

6) Registry of Deeds
Henrietta St.
Dublin 1
Tel: (01)804 8410
Fax: (01)804 8406
Mon-Fri: 10:00-16:30

Selected Bibliography:
Ard-Chlaraitheoir (Registrar General), Registering the People, 150 Years of Civil Registration, General Register Office, (Dublin, 1995)

John Grenham, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors (Dublin, Ireland: Gill and Macmillan, third edition, 2006)

George B. Handran, CG, ed., Townlands in Poor Law Unions; a Reprint of Poor Law Union Pamphlets of the General Registrar’s Office, Higginson Book Company, (Salem, Massachusetts, 1997)

Eileen M. Ó Dúill, CGRS and Steven ffeary-Smyrl, Irish Civil Registration-Where Do I Begin? Council of Irish Genealogical Organizations, 2000 (Dublin, Ireland)

James G. Ryan, Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History

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Eileen Ó Dúill, a Dublin-based professional Irish genealogist who specializes in legal and probate research. She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland and serves as a Director of Irish Genealogy Ltd., the Irish government’s advisory body on genealogy. Eileen is the International Trustee for Britain and Ireland of the Association of Professional Genealogists of the U.S.A. She has lectured at National Genealogical Society Conferences and at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conferences since 1999.

10 thoughts on “A User’s Guide to the General Register Office in Dublin, by Eileen Ó Dúill

  1. Well done a very valuable article with lots of good information for Irish Records only wish they were available free on Ancestry for people to check and search through from home.

  2. Clear, concise and knowledgeable. An excellent article. Could we please have a similar one on researching Irish ancestors pre-1845?

  3. Extremely useful and informative. I have had little success over the years in tracing my grtgrandmother and her family who were born in Dublin. I hope to visit one day to pursue my quest.

  4. I love Ancestry.com and use it quite a bit. I have a years subscription but I ‘ve noticed you cover several States and Countries but most of my needs stem from Kentucky and Indiana,& Virginia. Could you sometime add in more about those three States? Mainly Kentucky? Thank you so much for all the work that goes into the Ancestry.com service. I have learned quite a bit from it and hope to learn more. Thank you very much.If I have somehow missed a publication concerning Kentucky please tell me how I might get a reprint of it.

    Venida Louden Brown

  5. Such a great article and information but would like to be able to find records pre-1845 as our earliest known ancestor was born in Ireland in 1804 and was in the U.S. by 1830. Any suggestions for searching those years? Thank you.

  6. Great article Eileen and a huge thank you for giving me the genealogy bug several years ago 🙂


    (Ferry, Heraghty – Donegal)

  7. Thank you for your very nice comments about the article on civil registration in Ireland.

    For those of you with ancestors who were born pre-civil registration, do not despair. We have other resources, mainly church baptismal and marriage registers which pre-date 1845 in Ireland.

    To make full use of extant parish records, you really need to know the county of origin for your Irish ancestor and his or her religious denomination.If you do, consult John Grenham’s book, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors for existing records for that county and where various church records can be found.(referenced in the bibliogaphy).

    Keep searching sources in the USA and Canada for as much identifying information about your ancestor as possible, particularly the names of his or her parents.


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