Preparing for a visit and registration

Find out what information to look for before you visit PRONI. You will need to register to view original records at PRONI, so remember to bring photographic identification on your first visit. Once you have registered you must bring your Visitor Pass each time you visit PRONI for research.

What information should I gather before my visit?

The more information you have before you visit PRONI the more successful you are likely to be in your research. 

Before beginning your research at PRONI, you should try to discover as much as possible about your subject from other sources - this will help you get basic information together.

Family history

If you are interested in tracing your family tree, start by asking relatives what they know about the family, and check if they have any family documents and photographs.  Ask about dates of births, marriages and deaths.  Note down all the names, dates and places you find.  Where the family came from (town land or parish) is vital unless you have an uncommon surname.

A civil register can provide useful information.  The General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) holds:

  • marriage certificates for non-Roman Catholic families after 1845 and all marriages from 1864 onwards
  • birth and death certificates from 1864 onwards

If you live overseas you should check for emigration records or other evidence in the country the Irish emigrants moved to, such as:

  1. passenger lists
  2. naturalisation records
  3. cemetery records and gravestone inscriptions (to find out where the family came from in Ireland)
  4. surviving family papers

Local history

If you want to discover the history of a particular area, can you talk to local people who may know something that isn't written down?  Walk around the area and look out for clues about the past.

Become familiar with the administrative divisions used in Ireland.  This is essential if you want to access the archives for a particular area.

You need to decide your method of approach.  You might:

  • take a locality - a townland, a parish, a village or a town and tell the story of the changes that have occurred in that area over a period of time
  • take a particular theme - for example industry, transport or education, and research the history of that subject within a certain geographical area
  • take a feature in the local landscape - a church, a school or a mill and trace its history over time

For a property related query, you should bring a full address for the property (including townland).

Folio numbers alone (as provided by Land Registry) are not sufficient to identify a property as the Land Registry archive deposited in PRONI pre-dates their current folio numbering system.

Public history

You may enjoy history in general.  Libraries can be a good place to start as well as articles on the internet.  Has anyone already carried out research, or written a book, magazine or newspaper article on the subject?  Are there any gaps in the published record?

Bear in mind that what you will uncover at PRONI will also depend on what documents have survived.

What do I need to bring for registration?

If you are visiting PRONI to carry out research for the first time, you need to register as a visitor. You can complete and return your PRONI registration form in advance.  Completed registration forms can be emailed to: proni@communities-ni.gov.uk.  Alternatively, you can post a printed copy of your registration form to:
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)
2 Titanic Boulevard
BELFAST
BT3 9HQ

Photographic identification

To register, you should provide your name, a permanent address, and produce photographic identification to a member of staff at reception – for example:

  • a full passport
  • a driving licence or provisional driving licence (providing it shows a photograph)
  • a student photo-card
  • If you are still at school or college and are over 14 years of age, you can provide a letter from your tutor or guardian with confirmation of your name and age

Admission is free of charge and copies of most documents can be provided for a fee. A self service digital camera is available for copying on a pay per image basis.  Images must be saved onto a USB stick which can be purchased at PRONI or customers can bring along their own.

Visitor pass

A member of staff will take your photograph, create your visitor record, and give you a Visitor Pass which you swipe to allow access to the public research areas. You MUST bring your Visitor Pass each time you come to PRONI.  This is your unique pass which will be validated each time you order and consult original records.  There is a fee to replace lost or stolen Visitor Passes.  Faulty Visitor Passes will be replaced by PRONI free of charge. 

By registering for a PRONI Visitor Pass, you agree to abide by PRONI's  Statutory Rule and associated Code of Conduct relating to admission to the Office and use of the records. The current Statutory Rule 'The Public Use of the Records (Management and Fees) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2016'  and Code of Conduct came into effect on the 15 December 2016.

To comply with Departmental safeguarding guidelines, under 16 year olds are required to bring a letter of consent from a parent or guardian to enable PRONI to take a photograph for their visitor pass.

For security reasons, we request that you place your belongings (other than pencils, notebooks and a laptop or tablet) in a locker.

New visitors should go to the Help Desk in the Public Search Room where a member of staff will discuss your research needs and help you get started. Staff will show you how to:

  1. use the eCatalogue
  2. order a document, and
  3. use the self-service microfilm facility.

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