Registration and preparing for a visit

PRONI is currently closed to the public. When PRONI reopens to the public, research will be by appointment only. You must be a registered PRONI Visitor to request a research appointment and view original records.

Registering as a PRONI Visitor

In line with measures implemented by the NI Executive to curb the spread of Covid-19, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland is currently closed to the public.  See getting to PRONI and opening hours for further details.

When PRONI reopens to the public, research will be by appointment only.  You must be a registered PRONI Visitor to request a research appointment and view original records. 

To register, complete the  PRONI Visitor Registration Form and return by email to proni@communities-ni.gov.uk, or print out and return to PRONI by post.

PRONI will acknowledge receipt of your Registration Form.  Once your details have been added to our Visitor Management system, PRONI will then contact you with a Temporary Visitor Number.

When PRONI reopens to the public, you will need your Temporary Visitor Number to request a research appointment.  Once your research appointment is confirmed, registration will be completed on the day of your visit.  Details on completing the registration process will be included in our correpondence. 

PRONI Visitor Pass

Your Visitor Pass is your unique electronic access card, and you must bring it on every research visit to PRONIIt provides electronic swipe access to the public research areas, and will be validated each time you order and are issued original records.

Your Visitor Pass will be valid for ten years from the date of registration.  

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'(external link opens in a new window / tab) and Code of Conduct came into effect on 15 December 2016. 

PRONI is part of the Department for Communities.  To meet Departmental safeguarding guidelines, anyone under the age of 16 is required to bring a letter of consent from a parent or guardian to allow PRONI to take a photograph for their visitor pass.  

You must bring your Visitor Pass to each research appointment at PRONI. If you have lost your Visitor Pass, you must request a replacement before requesting a research appointment. There is a £10 fee to replace lost visitor passes. Faulty visitor passes will be replaced by PRONI free of charge. 

Requesting a replacement PRONI Visitor Pass

You will need your PRONI Visitor Number to request a research appointment, and you will need to bring your PRONI Visitor Pass when you attend your research appointment.  If you have previously registered at PRONI in our Titanic Quarter office and have lost your Visitor Pass, you will need to request a replacement. 

It is essential you request a replacement Visitor Pass before requesting a research appointment, even if you remember your Visitor Number, as your replacement Pass will have a new Visitor Number.  PRONI staff pre-order records listed on your appointment request form in advance of your visit using the Visitor Number you provide on your form.  It is essential that the Visitor Number used to pre-order records is the same as the one displayed on your Visitor Pass when you visit, otherwise you will not be able to access records.

Email proni@communities-ni.gov.uk or write to PRONI and request a replacement Visitor Pass.  PRONI will acknowledge receipt of your request.  Once your details have been confirmed on our Visitor Management system, PRONI will contact you with your replacement Visitor Number.  You will be issued with your replacement Visitor Pass on the day of your visit, upon payment of the replacement fee of £10 (credit/debit card payment only at present).

Accepted photographic identification/documents

You will be required to 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 visitor is 14 years of age or over and under 18 years  of age, and they do not have any of the above forms of photographic identification, the following requirements apply to permit registration:

  • the vistor 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  
  • the visitor should present a copy of their birth certificate to associate with their visitor record
  • the visitor 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 of 18 years and over. 

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.

Gathering information in advance of a 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 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.

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