Research Methods — visiting the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)

One of the fun, and difficult, challenges of studying here is a rather new lingo experience. Take for instance ‘PRONI’. When I first heard professors talking about ‘PRONI’ I had no idea what they were talking about. Should you find yourself in a similar situation, I’ll save you the learning curve. In short, it is the national archives of Northern Ireland, and stands for ‘Public Records Office of Northern Ireland’. You can visit their website here. In addition to the online catelogue, the website also has some material avaliable online–great for someone researching family history!

Lingo and language difficulties aside, one of the things I really like about the MA programme at Queens is the practical experience we gain. This class was no exception. We were given a guided tour of PRONI. Located in the Titanic Quarter [1. As the name implies, the Titanic Quarter is home to the dock where the Titanic was built, and where it launched][2. Hmm, just had a thought, perhaps I should write some about the geography of Belfast?], it is in a brand-new building, which just opened in the past couple of years. The records themselves, however, date back to the 1600s. As a repository, PRONI holds both public records, as you might have guessed, but also holds records from individuals and corporations–some of which are public-accessable. All members of the public have access to PRONI and public records. [3. Though some documents have restrictions, often they must be over 30 years old to be open and public-accessible without prior government approval] One must register first, however, and get a card to access the facilities. Requesting documents is done via computer, and records are delivered to a reading room for researchers. This process, supposedly, takes around 15-20 minutes.

I will undoubtedly spend many hours at PRONI conducting research. For research in Northern Ireland, it is pretty much inescapable. Not that I have any complaints, it looks like a pretty decent resource and place to spend time.

This is a part of my History at Queens series. I am writing on what I’m learning in my modules and as a part of my own research. Hope you enjoy!


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