Wednesday 14 October 2020

State of play: Covid restrictions for Irish researchers

With both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland having revised their responses to the Covid-19 pandemic with increased restrictions in the last week, I thought a quick run through of the potential impact on Irish family historians – wherever they live in the world – may be of use to researchers needing more than access to online records.

Northern Ireland

This morning, a special sitting of the Stormont assembly announced a partial lockdown of Northern Ireland to try to contain exploding rates of Covid-19 infections.

From the published summary guidelines so far provided, I don't think the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), branch and specialist libraries or genealogy and heritage centres will be required to close, provided masks are worn and social distancing rules are in place.

Visitor arrangements at the Linen Hall Library and the General Register Office of Northern Ireland should be checked before travelling to their premises, and take a new look at PRONI's newly updated booking process and details of the additional resources that will be available from Monday 19 October.

Libraries that, like the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland, had not reopened since the first Lockdown, are likely to remain closed but may be offering email assistance.

Taking the main force of the new beyond-the-home restrictions are schools, hospitality and most sport/leisure services, all closed. These revised rules will take effect from Friday 16 October. They will, with the exception of schools which may reopen after a fortnight, be in place for four weeks.

The Derry City & Strabane District additionally has strict social and household restrictions (see), in place since the beginning of the month.

UPDATE, 16 October: Further guidance has been issued today and will see PRONI and all libraries, specialist, general and public, closed for four weeks. Remote working by some staff will allow you to get some assistance via email.


Republic of Ireland

All 26 counties have been placed on Level 3 under the Government's Plan for Living with Covid-19 in response to the deteriorating situation with the virus across the country. They will remain so until at least 27 October, when the status of the pandemic and resulting public health advice will be reviewed by the Government.

As a result, the National Archives of Ireland, National Library of Ireland, local archives and libraries, indoor museums, genealogy centres and cultural attractions are physically closed. However, some are available by phone and most, if not all, should be are able to respond to email queries.

People movement is also restricted. Individuals must remain in their own county, with the exception of those who need to travel for work, education and other essential purposes.

UPDATE, 15 October: Counties Cavan, Donagal and Monaghan will move up a tier to Level 4 restrictions from midnight tonight. There is unlikely to be any additional impact on family historians, as most 'genealogy venues' are already closed. However, there are more severe social and travel restrictions, and most retail, leisure and work places will be closed. has a tidy explainer of Level 4 impact.