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Day 13 - National Archives of Ireland

National Archives of Ireland

   According to their website, the mission of the  National Archives of Ireland is:

To secure the preservation of records relating to Ireland which warrant preservation as archives

To ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for public access to archives

   Pretty general!  The Archives are usually associated with documents created by the government, although, because of the 1922 fire and extensive loss of records, some efforts have been made to obtain surrogate documents to replace those lost.  

   When I began to research at the National Archives back in the 1990s, I was primarily using original records: the 1901 and 1911 censuses, Griffith’s Valuation, the Field and House Books, and the Tithe Applotments.  Some records, primarily the Church of Ireland records, were on microfilm.   Things have changed greatly, as most of the records listed above, are now available online and you can search these records from the comfort of your home.  So why would you want to visit the National Archives?

   Once you’ve used all of the general and online resources for Ireland you start looking for anything that might name or provide information on your ancestors.  You need to think about how your ancestor might have interacted with the government and therefore what kind of records they might be named in.   If your ancestor was more than a small farmer, perhaps a merchant or large tenant you might find them in some of the records.  Although all of the original wills prior to 1900 were destroyed in the fire, there were genealogists who created abstracts of these wills before they were destroyed.  You can obtain copies of wills and administrations after 1900.  There are index books by year which abstract the information about the will or administration and you can request a copy of the actual will.  These records are kept offsite however, so you have to go back the next day to see the material.  I requested one today and will review it on Thursday.

   Another category which might make your ancestor visible is if he/she came in contact with the legal system.  Troublemakers tend to be in records as opposed to law abiding citizens.  One of the record sets held by the National Archives are the records of prisons, but in the past, unless you knew the specific date and court, you have no way of finding the records as there are no indexes.  This is where the partnerships with companies like Eneclann and FindMyPast come in.  Now I’m sure your relatives, as well as mine would never have been in prison…or were they?  I’ve discovered that two Moughtys are listed in the FindMyPast database of prison records.  On Thursday, I’m going to see what additional information I can find on them.  There are also the Petty Session Records, again indexed by FindMyPast.  These are records of minor offenses and complains in which you are very likely to find an ancestor.  They cover everything from drunk and disorderly to someones cow or sheep getting into the garden.  Fascinating reading!  The last number I saw indicated that there were more than 21 million of these records online!

   Here’s something I learned today.  The Transportation Database (Convicts to Australia) was one of the first databases put online by the National Archives.  But there are a number of other documents regarding Transportation to Australia that are at the Archives (not online) including Prisoners’ Petitions and Cases, 1788-1836 and Convict Reference Files up to 1868.  A member of the convicts family might have petitioned the courts to lessen the sentence because of hardship or for some other reason.  Also, not everyone in the database actually was transported…some served out their sentence in prisons in Ireland.

     So to answer the question of what you might find on your ancestor at the National Archives…you don’t know until you look.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2017