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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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. 

You can complete and return your PRONI registration form before you arrive.  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)
  • 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.

Under 14s 

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.

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.

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.

When you arrive at PRONI

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

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

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.