Planning a Genealogy Research Trip to Ireland – Belfast

Flying into Dublin
Flying into Dublin

In October 2015 I had the opportunity to go back to Ireland for a couple of weeks and visit family. Of course you can guess that family history research was also scheduled into this trip. We flew into Dublin and then went straight to Belfast for a few days. We left Toronto at 6pm and arrived in Belfast at 9 am Toronto time the next day. No sleep. After settling things in the hotel I went to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) to start my research. I had a full research plan and only a couple of days to complete it. You can read more about how I organized my research plan here.

That first day I got the readers ticket and started my research. Since I had little to no sleep the night before my reader’s ticket picture looks a little blurry eyed. I was quite surprised how much I was able to get done in the few hours I had at PRONI on that first day. My plan made the process fairly easy. I was only allowed to order five documents at a time. The catalogue entries that were flagged for my research meant that the documents had to be read to make sure they were connected to my family. Once that was done they were handed back with the form for copies. The first day ended when I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open.

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland - PRONI
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland – PRONI

The next day was a little later start because we had to go and book our train tickets for the trip to Dublin the next day. Then it was off to PRONI while my mother went to visit the Titanic Exhibit. I had three hours at PRONI and was very pleased that I completed my research plan.  It turns out one of the documents I ordered had been microfilmed so the copy had to be done from the microfilm. The microfilms that were on my plan were self serve so that eliminated a lot of wait time. When I left PRONI I had a plastic bag filled with copies and a memory stick with some digital images of pages that were so large they didn’t really allow for copying.


My documents from PRONI
My documents from PRONI


This visit to PRONI allowed me to go back another generation on my Moon family in Dungannon County Tyrone and gather some more information on my Bourne family from Dublin. When you do research in Ireland you need to visit repositories in Dublin, Belfast and London.

One document I got for my Bourne family must have measured 4 feet by 4 feet. It was written with calligraphy and illuminated letters.

When you arrive at PRONI you have to apply for your reader’s ticket. You will fill in the form, then they take your picture and print off the card. You wear it around your neck while you are in the building. You need it to order documents and enter any of the rooms upstairs. There are security people in each area. The people are so nice and friendly and were extremely helpful. They made the day more enjoyable.

You can’t take much upstairs with you and are handed a clear plastic bag to take what items you can take. You must put everything into a locker that you lock with the key. The slug to get the key out is in a holder on the inside of the locker door. The plastic bag came in very handy when I was taking all my copies home.

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I hadn’t been in Belfast since the 1970s and it has changed a lot. The waterfront is beautiful and on a warm day a nice place to sit and watch the world go by. There are cafes around so you can enjoy a drink and a light meal.

We took a taxi to and from PRONI and the service was great. They were well dressed and had the gift of the gab which leaned towards the history of the city so you learned something during your taxi ride. My Mum was saying that the last time she had been in Belfast was when the newly crowned Queen had come for a visit in 1953. She was attending ceremonies at Belfast City Hall. Mum and her Mum had gone to Belfast to stay with a friend and see the spectacle. She remembers going into a red brick building that had windows where you could sit on the window sills and look right over the City Hall. We were in a taxi on our way to Marks and Spencer and when we stopped it was a red brick building with windows sills that overlooked City Hall. The driver said it was the only one in the area. It brought back lovely memories to her. She told me that my Dad had been a cadet at this event so they were in the same place at the same time four years before they met. I hadn’t heard that story before and it was a great family history moment.


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