Today was to be one of the highlights of my trip (spending time on my own family). I had an appointment at the General Register Office in Belfast. Last year I tried to make an appointment about a month in advance and the earliest date they had available was in three months. I didn’t take any chances this year and made my appointment back in February. In reading their website, it appeared like a great set up. The office is computerized, and you make an appointment to work at a terminal. The indexes are available from 1922 to just about the present, as well as for the northern counties back to 1864 (or 1845 for Protestant marriages). The cost is £12 (about $18.25). The office is at 49-55 Chichester Street known as Oxford House, just a few blocks down from the main square and city hall and my reservation was from 9:30 - 3:30.
I arrived, paid my money and was escorted to the first floor (that would be the 2nd floor to Americans) and received a brief orientation. I started right in, pulling names and filling out forms quickly. Each sheet had room for four requests and I wasn’t told to segregate my requests between birth, death and marriage. I handed my sheets off to Richard and discovered the following...pre-1922 marriages are only available for a few registration districts and these have to be put on a different form (that wasn’t a big problem as I now had the references and could obtain these in Dublin). You also need to have the name of the church where the event took place. This information is in the index, but I hadn’t been told, so I needed to go back and recheck each request. For post-1922 Belfast marriages the GRO doesn’t hold the records...you need to fill out a different form which is sent to the Belfast office and they will call you can give you the information over the phone (when they get a chance)...cost £3.
For births, you wait until one of the two desk attendants is free, and sit down with your list. They pull up the information on a computer screen and allow you to transcribe it. If you want a copy I was told the cost is £12 each although in looking back the website says £6 (and I thought the Dublin GRO was expensive €4 for a hard copy!) But at least you get to see the information so you know if it is the correct one.
For deaths and marriages (that are available) they bring the books to you and you can transcribe the information. Once I got the hang of it, things went pretty well and I got quite a bit of information. Mostly I was filling in information on my trees for collateral lines that had remained in Ireland. I finished up at 3:00 and got ready to leave. That’s when I realized that the first four requests, are included in the initial fee and each additional is £3. (This too is stated on the website, but I hadn’t been back there since I made the reservation.) They give you back the forms when you see the records and check them off. When you leave, they count up the checks.
I did get quite a bit of information, but it was a little more expensive than I thought! Next time I’ll be a little more selective <g>. That left me a little more time to spend at the Linen Hall Library.
At 5:00 I headed for a local café. I got a cup of tea, paid an additional £2 for one hour of Internet access, caught up on my emails and did a bit of research before I was rudely cut off. I didn’t get a chance to finish and upload this blog which is why it’s being posted a day late (when I get back to my apartment in Dublin).
Tomorrow I’m back to PRONI and to the Ulster Historical Foundation before getting a train back to Dublin.