Records held by PRONI

PRONI holds millions of documents that relate chiefly, but not only, to Northern Ireland.

What 'archives' are

Private organisations, government organisations, families and individuals create and acquire records during their business or personal activities. Archives are those records which no longer have an everyday use, yet have been kept because of their historical value.

Many archives will have been transferred to an archive organisation like PRONI for long term preservation. In essence they are the ‘community memory’ - a unique and irreplaceable source of information about the past extending over many centuries.

Most documents are written on either paper or parchment (which is made from the skin of animals).  However, they may also be in electronic format. 

Archives can come in many different formats, for example:

  • files
  • volumes, sometimes with decorative bindings and gilt lettering
  • individual documents, such as letters
  • e-mails
  • photographs
  • maps and plans
  • word-processed and electronic documents

Why archives are kept

There are various reasons why archives may be preserved:

To learn about the past

If you want to find out about something that happened in the past or about a character in history, then you would have to look at archives, to analyze the evidence and decide what the evidence is telling you.

Without a documented heritage in the form of archives, our knowledge of communities, families and the built environment would be poor.  Archives help us understand who we are and how we come to be the way we are as a community and as individuals.

Archives can also provide a stimulating and exciting learning environment - for schools, universities and for the lifelong learner.   They help to enrich and enhance teaching at all levels.

For evidential reasons

Archives have long been kept as evidence, to be used in a court of law if necessary, as proof of rights and entitlements.  For example:

  • wills are kept as proof of inheritance
  • title deeds as proof of ownership of land or of mineral rights
  • registers of births, marriages and deaths are kept as evidence of our identity and are needed for a whole range of purposes from passports to pensions

For democratic accountability

Citizens have a general right of access to information about the activities carried out by government organisations acting on their behalf.

Government records, whether of central government, local government or of other public bodies, are vital for democratic accountability.  Without archives that document the decisions of government and how those decisions were made, there could be no public scrutiny of government activities.

Records held by PRONI 

The records held in PRONI fall into two main categories:

Public records

PRONI holds public records mainly dating from the formation of Northern Ireland (1921) to the present day. A small number date back to the nineteenth and late eighteenth centuries.  ‘Public record’ generally refers to any document created by ‘official’ sources such as:

  • government departments, such as the Ministry of Agriculture (AG), Cabinet Secretariat (CAB), or the Department of Finance (FIN)
  • non-departmental public organisations such as the courts, schools and hospitals

Private records

PRONI also holds a diverse range of privately deposited records such as letters, journals, diaries, photographs and albums. 

Public records (departmental)

The following is a list of departmental public records held by PRONI, along with their classification reference prefix:

Archive title PRONI reference prefix
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (GB), Ministry of AFF
Agriculture, Ministry of AG
Air Ministry (GB) AM
Assistant Under Secretary's Files AUS
Cabinet Secretariat CAB
Clerk of the Crown CC
Chief Crown Solicitor CCS
Crown Lands CL
Commerce, Department of COM
Committee on Preparation of Legislation (UK) CPL
Central Secretariat CS
Chief Secretary's Office Files CSO
Capital Taxes Office CTO
Customs and Excise CUS
Commissioners of Work and Public Buildings CWPB
Community Relations, Department of DCR
Economic Development, Department of DED
Development, Department of DEV
Finance , Department of Dof
Health and Social Services, Department of DHSS
Manpower Services, Department of DMS
Civil Service, Department of DOCS
Education, Department of ED
Estate Duty Office EDO
Estate Duty Office, London EDOL
Environment, Department of ENV
Finance, Department of FIN
General Prison Board for Ireland GPB
Home affairs, Ministry of HA
Health and Local Government, Ministry of HLG
Housing, Local Government and Planning HLGP
HM Treasury HMT
Home Office HO
Health and social Services, Department of HSS
Information Service INF
Labour, Ministry of LAB
Meteorological Office MET
Ministry of Defence (UK) MOD
Ministry of Public Security MPS
Office of the Executive OE
Office of Manpower Economics OME
Ordnance Survey Records OS
Policy Coordinating Committee PCC
Prime Minister, Department of PM
Public Record Office, London PRO
Registrar General's Records RGO
Registry of Deeds, Belfast RODB
Registry of Deeds, Dublin RODD
Stationery Office, HM (Belfast) SO
Transport (UK), Ministry of TRANS
Title Deeds and Leases TSD
Valuation Division VAL

Public records (non-departmental)

The following is a list of non-departmental public records held by PRONI, along with their classification reference prefix:

Archive title PRONI reference prefix
Air Ministry (GB) AM
Antrim Crown and Peace ANT
Appeal Records, Supreme Court of Judicature APP
Area Education and Library Boards AELB
Area Health and Social Services Boards AHSSB
Armagh Crown and Peace ARM
Armagh District Probate Registry TARM
Armagh Observatory OB
Arts Council of NI AC
Association of Chief Executives, Education and Library Boards ACE
Association of NI Education and Library Boards ASELB
Bankruptcy Records, Supreme Court of Judicature BANK
Belfast College of Technology BCT
Belfast Crown and Peace BELF
Belfast District Probate Registry TBEL
Boards of Guardians BG
Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work in NI CCETSW
Central Office of Information, London COINF
Chancery Division Records, Supreme Court of Judicature CH
Chief Electoral Officer CEO
Civil Aviation Authority AA
Clerk to the Crown CC
Commonwealth War Graves Commission WGC
Community Relations Commission CREL
Community Relations Council CRC
Crown Courts CRCT
Development Commissions DC
District Electoral Areas Commission DEAC
Down Crown and Peace DOW
Electricity Board for NI NIE
Enterprise Ulster EU
Exchequer and Audit Department EXA
Fermanagh Crown and Peace FERM
Fire Authority for NI FA
Fisheries Conservancy Board FCB
Foyle Fisheries Commission FFC
General Consumer Council for NI GCC
General Post Office GPO
Harbour Commissioners’ Records HAR
Health and Safety Agency for NI HSA
Historic Monuments Council HMC
Home Guard (Ulster), Ministry of Defence HG
Hospital Records HOS
Judgments, Supreme Court of Judicature JGT
King’s Bench Division Records, Supreme Court of Judicature KB
Labour Relations Agency LRA
Lands Tribunal for NI LT
Library and Information Services Council (NI) LISC
Livestock Marketing Commission LMC
Local Authority Records LA
Local Enterprise Development Unit LEDU
Local Government Boundary Commissions LGBC
Local Government Staff Commission LGSC
Londonderry Crown and Peace LOND
Londonderry District Probate Registry TDER
Magee University College Presbyterian Trust MPT
Man Made Fibres Producing Industry Training Board (NI) MFTB
Matrimonial Office, Supreme Court of Judicature MAT
Mental Health Commission MHC
Mental Health Review Tribunal MHRT
Milk Marketing Board for NI MMB
Miscellaneous records, Supreme Court of Judicature MISC
NI Agricultural Trust AT
NI Assembly NIA
NI Audit Office AO
NI Central Services Agency CSA
NI Certification Office for the Trade Unions CO
NI Commissioner for Complaints NICC
NI Council for Continuing Education CCE
NI Council for Educational Development / Curriculum Council CURC
NI Council for Educational research NICER
NI Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment CCEA
NI Court Service CS
NI Economic Council ECNI
NI General Health Services Board HSB
NI Health and Social Services Training Council HSTC
NI Health Promotion Agency HPA
NI Housing Council HC
NIHousing Executive HE
NI Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration PCA
NI Seed Potato Marketing Board SPMB
NI Tourist Board TOUR
NI Training Authority NITA
NI Transport Holding Company THC
NI Tuberculosis Authority TBA
NI Youth Council NIYC
NI Youth Employment Service Board YESB
National Assistance Board NAB
National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting NBN
Pigs Marketing Board PMB
Planning Appeals Commission PAPC
Principal Probate Registry, Belfast TPRN
Privacy Council of NI PRI
Rent Officer for NI RO
Road Safety Council RSC
Royal Commission on Civil Liability LCO
Royal Commission on Gambling RC
School Records SCH
Schools Examination Council SEC
Sports Council for NI SCNI
Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards STCE
Testamentary General TG
Testamentary Will Calendars TWC
Tyrone Crown and Peace TYR
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum UFTM
Ulster Museum UM
Ulster Savings Council SAV
Ulster Transport Authority UTA
Unproved Wills TUW
Water Commissioners WAT

Privately deposited records

Privately deposited records originate from a variety of sources such as local political parties, private individuals and organisations, business, churches and landed estates.  Some examples include:

  • business records
  • census records
  • church records
  • emigration records
  • pedigrees and genealogical records
  • landed Estate records
  • newspapers
  • photographs
  • political papers
  • family papers
  • solicitors’ papers
  • wills and testamentary papers
  • sporting association papers

Introductions to some of our most significant private collections have been compiled and are available online.  These introductions generally summarise the contents of the archive and give a wealth of information about the family or organisation who created the archive.

To find out more about how PRONI's archives are organised, visit the eCatalogue section.

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