To recap: under the original system the local Registrars passed completed copies of their registers to their Superintendent Registrar, who made copies and sent these to the central GRO in Dublin, where master indexes were created from them. This index-to-register system is still the basis of all research in these records.
In the Republic the only legal access to the historical records is to the centralised indexes and copy registers via the research room of the GRO in the Irish Life Centre in Werburgh Street, Dublin 8. Researchers pay €2 to search five years of a single-event index or €20 for a full day's access to all indexes of either births, marriages or deaths. These indexes record surname, forename, registration district, volume and page number. Death indexes also record the reported age at death. From 1903, birth indexes record the mother's maiden name - this is twenty-three years earlier than the online Latter-Day Saints copy (see below). To obtain the complete details in an original register transcript entry, a researcher fills out a request form with the details extracted from the index volume, pays €4 and waits for a member of the counter staff to find the entry in the digitised system, print it out and bring it back to the research area. There is a limit of eight print-outs per researcher per day, though members of staff will post on any requests above that number. Limited research is carried out by the staff in response to postal queries.
Contact details are at www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/GRO_Research.aspx.
This Health Service Executive website operates an online certificates-only service covering births from 1864, marriages from 1920 and deaths from 1924. The system is designed to produce certificates for current use, but it could in theory be used in conjunction with the LDS system (see below) to obtain a full transcript of information in historical birth registrations. Orders are fulfilled from Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street East, Dublin 2.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormons, have microfilm copies of all the indexes to 1958, of the birth registers 1864-81, 1900-1913 and 1933-50, of marriage registers 1845-70 and of death registers 1864-70. They also have microfilm copies of the birth registers 1930-58. These microfilms have long been available for research via the Family History Centres attached to most Mormon temples (see below). Over the past few years they have begun to make transcripts from the microfilms available on their website, www.familysearch.org. Click here for full details of the LDS holdings.
As part of the Irish Genealogical Project it was planned that a network of local heritage centres would transcribe the historical registers still held locally by the Superintendent Registrars. Five centres have completed transcriptions of these registers for their county, generally up to 1920, and six more have very extensive but still incomplete transcripts. These are searchable on a pay-per-view basis at www.rootsireland.ie. No further transcription by the centres will take place.
In Northern Ireland the only official access to the historical records was traditionally via the public search room of GRONI in Chichester Street, Belfast. However, since April 2014, GRONI has made all of its historical records available on-line (births over 100 years, marriages over 75 years and deaths over 50 years). Access is imperfect (as of April 2014), with no variant surnames searched (despite what the site says), a very awkward payment mechanism and limits to the range of years that can be searched at one time. But it is still marvellous.