Public Records Office Belfast
The Public Records Office in Belfast, is located at:
66 Balmoral Avenue, Belfast BT9 6NY. Telephone 661621.
It is open to the public Monday to Friday 9.15 a. m. to 4.45 p. m. (8.45 p.m. on Thursdays) and is not closed for lunch.
There is a canteen on the complex, which may be used by visitors.
The office closes for two weeks in late November/early December for stock-taking.
This repository was established by the Stormont Government and was opened in March 1924. It houses the most complete collection of genealogical, legal and historical records in relation to Ulster (the records are not confined to the six counties).
Starting from scratch in 1924, it is no exaggeration to say that; there has been accumulated as much genealogical material as is housed in the National Archives and the National Library of Ireland.
The Public Records Office in Belfast is an excellent facility and contrasts very seriously with the state of access to genealogical sources in Dublin. The many records that have been accumulated, are listed and indexed in the Reports of the Deputy Keeper.
In addition this office has published many books and pamphlets to guide one in genealogical research.
On arrival you must fill in your full name and permanent address in the attendance book in the reception hall. You will need a reader's ticket which will be issued to you on completion of a reader's application form stating the subject and purpose of your research. The is no difficulty when required for genealogical purposes. The reader's ticket is valid for one calendar year.
A photocopying service is available. The costs vary according to the size of the document, the complexity of the order and the type of copy required.
Indexes and typescript catalogues
The public search room is very spacious and well laid out, it contains three extensive card indexes and bound typescript catalogues of all the listed collections of documents in the office.
The card indexes are not a direct index to documents. They direct the searcher to the appropriate typescript catalogue.
Personal Names Index : This index contains the names of individuals mentioned in many of the original documents.
Place Names Index : This is arranged alphabetically.
Subject Index : This covers specific subjects, such as the linen industry.
The typescript catalogue enables you to decide which documents will be useful in your search, and worth ordering from the stores. The reference number is obtained from the typescript catalogue.
Sectional lists give a brief summary of certain categories of documents and, like the card index, they give references which direct you to the typescript catalogues.
Such lists are available for :
Textile industry records
Landed estate records
Maps and plans
Coloured bindings are used to distinguish the catalogues of the various categories of records.
Brown : Official records of Government and local authorities
Black : Parish registers
Blue : Original privately deposited papers
Red : Photocopies of privately deposited papers
Green : Microfilm copies
Private collections are referenced as follows :
D : an original document
T : a transcript or photocopy
MIC : a microfilm copy
CR : church records
Getting a document
Fill in a request form, giving the full reference number and a seat number in the reading room. Hand in the form at the issue desk and the document will be brought to you. The length of time that you may have to wait varies and may be up to 45 minutes.
Standard reference books on the search room shelves are also available for use in addition to the catalogues and lists.
Many of the records in the Public Records Office are discussed in other chapters and it is only necessary to make brief reference here. Accordingly among the records that may be consulted are:
Census returns, complete returns for 1901/1911;
Civil registration, index to births registered in the whole of Ireland (1864 -1922), also the original registers of birth and death for the six counties;
Church of Ireland parish registers;
The Primary Valuation;
The Tithe Books;
In addition to these basic records there is:
There is an index to pre-1858 wills: 1536 to 1810 for all Ireland and from 1811 to 1857 for the six counties;
The Yearly Calendars to Wills and Administrations from 1858 are on the open shelves;
There is also a consolidated index for the years 1858-77 which is being completed up to 1900;
Original wills and administration papers lodged in Belfast and Derry and most of those lodged in Armagh which cover Ulster (excluding Cavan) but includes part of Louth;
Will books for Armagh, Belfast and Derry;
Grant books Armagh, Belfast and Derry.
Ordnance survey letters of John O'Donovan;
Hearth Money, Subsidy and Poll Tax Records;
Militia, Yeomanry and Muster Records;
Voters, Poll and Freeholders Records;
Landed Estate Records;
Poor Law Records;
County and Grand Jury Records;
Seventeenth Century Survey Records;
Betham's genealogical abstracts;
Marriage Licence Bonds (1650 to 1845).