The General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) is night and day from the GRO in Dublin. There are no indexes available for the time period after 1922 that cover Northern Ireland, so you need to visit this office to do your research in civil registration records. Remember that the GRO in Dublin has all of Ireland up to 1922 and that the indexes are online at FamilySearch. The first thing you need to know is that you must make an appointment to work at GRONI and will be sent a confirmation to bring with you. The cost is £14 for six hours.
When you arrive, you will be escorted to the search room and instructed on how to use the computer system. It's pretty straight forward and not diffiult if you're used to using databases. The system contains all births, deaths and marriages for Northern Ireland from 1864 and Protestant marriages from 1845. You select the type of record, then type in the name and date if you know it and the registration district, and are presented with a list of possible matches. There is a limit of 10 years on a search, so if you know know the year, you might need to search with the years 1920 to 1930 and 1930 to 1940. When you find the record (or group of possible records, you write down the registration number and name on the sheet provided. Once you have four requests, you take them to the desk where one of the staff will display the information on a screen for you to view. You can determine if this is the correct person, and if so, you need to transcribe the record.
Here's the catch…your initial £14 gets you two free verifications, and after that you pay £4 for each additional one. You get no hard copy of the certificate. If you wish to have a copy you need to purchase a certified copy for £8. As you can see, this can quickly add up to a lot of money…£4 = $6.42 and £8 = $12.84.
So how is this a better system than the GRO in Dublin? First, the people are friendly…they frequently check back with you to see if you have any questions. Second, there is more information in the index than what you get at the GRO or on the indexes in FamilySearch. The birth indexes include the mother's maiden name. That's great if there are 10 Michael Dalys born in a two year period and you're trying to determine which one is yours. You might end up purchasing 3 or 4 certificates at €4 each in Dublin before you get the the correct one, and of course you'll have to make multiple trips because you can only get five certificates a day. So even if you ended up purchasing a certified copy in Belfast, you'd still be ahead of the game. Marriage indexes provide the name of the spouse so you don't have to go through all of the Michael Dalys and Mary Smiths to match up the volume and page numbers. It also provides the name of the parish where the marriage took place. And remember, this includes the pre-1922 indexes as well, but only for Northern Ireland. There's not too much difference in death records, you get the name, registration district and age. There was some benefit of looking at all of the names in a 10 year period and being able to throw out those who were to old or too young to be the person I was looking for.
I had a very successful trip today. I spent from 9:30 until 12:30 working primarily on the Moag family. This is an unusual name, so I can be pretty sure that all of the ones I found are somehow related. My great grandfather, David Moag emigrated about 1875 as did his five brothers and in the 1890 his mother and three sisters. Two brothers, John and Joseph remained in Ireland and I want to find their descendants.
In my notebook I wrote down the information from each index entry. I searched for Moag children with a specific mother's maiden name to find all of the children of a couple. I then looked to see if I could find the likely marriage of the children and repeated the process. I then looked for a death. I came away with pages of information that allowed me to create family groups and follow the lines down. I did not ask for any verifications as I got the name of the church for each of the marriages which will allow me to look at the records at PRONI on my next visit. Remember though, that an index entry is not a source, but only a pointer to another record. I have the registration number written down so if I decide to purchase a certificate or ask for a verification (on my next visit to GRONI) I have what I need.
I did use my two free verifications on another family…yes, the Mackeys again. My previous research in the Revision Books showed that when James Mackey died in 1902, the land passed to his son James. In 1927 the land passed to another son, George and it was sold out of the family in 1933. What happened to James and George…I had no idea. Did they emigrate or die? A few years ago I got a hint when I visited Wilma Anscombe in Chippenham, England. She remembered her Uncle George living with her Aunt Emma in County Down when she was very young and that he was "crippled." According to the index, two George Mackeys died in Down and their ages at the time of death were within the ±5 years I usually use with the Irish. One was in the registration district of Lisburn, the other in Newtonards. Based on previous research, I knew that Emma had died in Lisburn, so that was my first verification and it was the correct one, confirmed by the informant named as T J Walker, his brother-in-law (and Wilma's father). George died of a stroke which was possibily what Wilma remembered. I wasn't so lucky with my second verification. I have not found a candidate for James in the GRO indexes (the family farm was in Leitrim) but I found a James Mackey who died in 1928 in Belfast. Unfortunately, nothing in the index hinted that this was the correct person. The informant was his son, and I am not aware that my James ever married…that's why his brother got the farm.
So all in all, I was doing the happy dance when I left GRONI, to meet cousin Andrew Moag for lunch. That is one of the best parts of visiting Ireland…finding and visiting with the cousins and sharing stories. Andrew has inherited the Family Bible…remember what I always say…find the cousins because they got the good stuff! He also has a scrapbook similar to mine (with few pictures identified). I didn't have time to get pictures or scan any of the documents, but Andrew and I will definitely be meeting again next year.
Now I'm on the train to Dublin to handle final preparations for the 2013 Dublin Research Trip. It's not too early to let me know if you're interested in next year's trip, either to Dublin, Belfast or both. Email me!
If you missed the earlier blogs: