The information you should gather
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.
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:
- passenger lists
- naturalisation records
- cemetery records and gravestone inscriptions (to find out where the family came from in Ireland)
- surviving family papers
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 place like 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 enough to identify a property, as the Land Registry archive deposited in PRONI pre-dates their current folio numbering system.
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.
First time visitors must register
If you are visiting PRONI to carry out research for the first time, you need to register as a visitor.
For the time being PRONI is unable to register new visitors. This is a temporary measure and we hope to resume registration for new visitors soon.
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)
- an electoral ID card
- A Translink Senior Smartpass
- A Translink 60+ Smartpass
- A Translink War Disabled Smartpass
- A Translink Blind Person’s Smartpass
Over 14 but under 18 years old
If the customer is a minor (over 14 years of age but before their eighteenth birthday) and they do not have any of the above photographic identification, the following process should be followed.
- a minor without photographic identification should be accompanied during the registration process by a parent or legal guardian, as guarantor who is either an active PRONI visitor, or registering as such
- the registered guarantor will assume responsibility for document security and must countersign the registration form
- a minor should present a copy of their birth certificate to associate with their visitor record
- a minor must re-register on their first visit after their 18th birthday
This option is strictly limited to those under 18 years old and is not available for visitors over 18 years old.
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.
Infants and children under the age of 14 may accompany a registered visitor. Carry cots and detachable car seats may be brought into the reading room but prams, buggies and pushchairs should be left on the ground floor where they can be securely stored by reception staff. As with all visitors, no pre-packaged food or drink can be brought into the Search Room or Reading Room. High chairs are available in the PRONI cafe and baby changing facilities are available on the ground floor.
PRONI is a participant in the Breastfeeding Welcome Here scheme and breastfeeding is permitted in all public areas within the building.
We would remind visitors bringing young children into research areas, particularly where original documents are produced, that they are responsible for the safe handling of original records issued to them for consultation and should be mindful of PRONI’s preservation requirements. See PRONI Code of Conduct for further information.
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.
Your Visitor Pass is your unique electronic access pass, and will be validated each time you order and are issued original records. It will be valid for ten years from the date of registration.
You must bring your visitor pass each time you come to PRONI to do research.
There is a £10 fee to replace lost, forgotten 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 about 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 meet departmental safeguarding guidelines, under 16 year olds are required to bring a letter of consent from a parent or guardian to allow PRONI to take a photograph for their visitor pass.