Registration of births, deaths and marriages came relatively late to Great Britain and Ireland.
After the Reformation in England, the established church was required to keep registers of baptisms, weddings and funerals. There were penalties for non-compliance but compliance standards were not high.
The first comprehensive civil registration act was enacted after a number of failed attempts in 1836. It applied to England and Wales only.
Before 1864, church records provide the only record of most births, marriages and deaths in the form of registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Jewish marriages have been civilly registered since 1845.
Registration of Marriages
The Marriages (Ireland) Act 1844 provided for the registration of marriages in Ireland. The established church (then the United Church of England and Ireland, the Church of Ireland after 1879) registered marriages.
Marriages in other churches were to be registered by a civil registrar. The legislation created the office of the Registrar General of Marriages.
The Marriage Law, Ireland Amendment Act 1863, provided for civil registration of churches’ marriages celebrated in accordance with the rites of the Roman Catholic Church. The legislation became operative in 1864. The 1863 Act dispensed with the need for registrars to attend marriages in protestant dissenting churches and other Christian denominations and provided for registration by the celebrant.
Births and Deaths
The Registration of Births, Deaths (Ireland) Act 1863 provided for the civil registration of births and deaths in Ireland for the first time.
1879 Legislation provided for registration of births and deaths outside the United Kingdom of Irish-born officers and soldiers in foreign military service and their dependents.
Births, marriages and deaths occurring since 1 January 1864 are held on record in the public research room of the General Register Office, Werburgh Street, Dublin 2.
Upon establishment of the Irish Free State, a separate Registrar General office was established. The functions of the Lord Lieutenant were passed to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health and ultimately to the Department of Health in 1947.
The records for Northern Ireland are held by the General Register Office for Northern Ireland, Colby House, Stranmillis Court, Belfast, BT9 5RR.
The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1972 assigned responsibility for the registration system to the regional Health Boards established under the Health Act, 1970.
Electronic capture of archived material and the development of online systems started in the late 1990s and 2000s and were recognised in the Social Welfare Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2002.
The Civil Registration Act 2004 was enacted as part of a comprehensive modernisation program. It rationalised the procedures for registration of births, stillbirths and death.
The Registrar General was given responsibility for the policy of the civil registration service. Responsibility for the management of the service at the local level was assigned to the HSE.
New registers were established for divorce and civil nullity. The procedures in relation to the registration of marriages were streamlined and reformed.
The 2014 Act provides for the issue of certificates at a reduced cost should these certificates be required to prove age, civil status or death of a person in dealings with Government Departments.
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht may keep electronic records of certain registers. The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht may consent to searches of the electronic registers.
The 2014 Act provides for the addition of the Road Safety Authority as a body with which information may be shared for the purposes of issuing learner permits and driver licences.
The Minister for Social Protection may set the fee for the issue of a certificate at a lesser amount than that prescribed.
Where an t-Ard Chláratheoir has directed that an entry be registered or re-registered without the register being signed by a qualified informant the entry shall be deemed to be valid.
A person who fails to furnish evidence when requested to do so by a registrar shall be guilty of an offence.